distillery: Lucas Bols
origin: Amersterdam, Holland
distilled from: rye, wheat, and corn
history: Established in 1575, Lucas Bols is one of the world’s oldest distilled spirits brands, and the first registered company in Holland. In 1664, Lucas Bols began distilling genever – a whisky-like triple distillate of rye, wheat and corn (what the Dutch call malt wine), which is then blended with a botanical and juniper berry distillate. The original Bols Genever recipe was an immediate success and was quickly transported throughout the world by the sailors of the Dutch East India Trading Company; however, in 1820 Bols introduced a revolutionary new genever recipe with a better balance of malt wine, neutral grain alcohol and botanicals, and it resulted in a smoother, more subtle spirit that gained immense popularity during the rising cocktail craze in the US. By 1875, the import of genever into the US was six times larger than that of gin. Many classic cocktails called for genever in their original incarnations, and while Bols’ interpretation is weighty enough to please the palate straight, it’s still extremely cocktail-friendly (as long as you’re not using it as a substitution for gin in a martini).
genever vs gin and whiskey: Just because it is juniper-dominated, don’t go thinking of genever as Dutch gin, and do not use it as a substitute for gin. The malty flavors of genever are more reminiscent of whisky than gin, so refrain from using genever to mix a Vesper or a Gin & Tonic. Well, first off genever is the ancestor of gin. And although they are both spirits accented by juniper, they are very different animals. Gin is created by mixing a neutral spirit base with a blend of botanicals, predominantly juniper. Genever has a completely different base– malt wine (distillate of rye, corn, and wheat), which is more representative of a blended bourbon or light scotch. The base is whiskey-like but Bols has a unique fermentation process that distinguishes if from whiskey: Bols Genever ferments for two days longer than most whiskies, which is important for producing a distinctly flavored malt wine. The malt wine is then blended with a neutral spirit and a botanical mix to craft a spirit that tastes like the love child of gin and whiskey.
details: Bols makes both an aged genever and an unaged genever.
Bols Genever (Unaged): A jonge ( “young”) style of genever. The spirit is created with a recipe that dates back to 1820, and is an authentic representation of how a genever should taste: powerful, interesting, and delicious. This spirit is great for those looking to learn more about the history of spirits and who want to try something “new.” For those learning more about classic cocktails, genever is included as one of four main spirits (the others being whiskey, rum, and brandy) in Professor Jerry Thomas’ world-famous cocktail book, the “Bar-Tender’s Guide,” published in 1862. It’s an intriguing bottle that seems to spark the curiosity of everyone who sees it. Use it in classic recipes that call for genever or as an alternative for un-aged whiskeys. The average price of Bols Genever is $39 for 750 mL. 42% abv.
Barrel Aged Bols Genever: An oude (“old”) style genever. Made with the same 1820 recipe as the jonge Bols, but then aged for 18 months in French oak. Much more whiskey-like in character. In fact, mix it like you would a bourbon, or simply enjoy it neat. We were pleasantly surprised by the versatility of this spirit. Try it in your next Old Fashioned for a taste of how the Dutch enjoy the classics. Average price of Barrel Aged Bols Genever: $49 for 750 mL.
law: In 2008 the Dutch Government and EU created an official AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) for genever which defines exactly what genever is and where it can be made. Just as Champagne or Cognac, Genever is now protected by law, which means it can be produced only in certain regions: Holland, Belgium, and very specific areas of France and Germany. The AOC divided genever into two distinct categories: jonge or “young genever,” which can contain no more than 15% malt wine and 10 grams of sugar per liter, and oude or “old genever,” which must contain at least 15% malt wine and no more than 20 grams of sugar per liter. The terms ‘young’ and ‘old’ don’t refer to any aging of the spirit, but rather the new or old style of making genever.