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Genever, a typical Dutch drink

Genever, does it taste as corny as it sounds? In recent years, several labels have done their best to make the drink a bit more popular again and to promote it as an ingredient for cocktails. But what exactly is genever?

How is genever made?

First of all, it is important to know that the raw material you choose to distill alcohol from, determines the drink you get. Products containing sugar can be used to ferment. During this process alcohol is created which you can extract by distillation. Cereal products are also used for this. The starch contained in this, is first converted into sugar and then into alcohol. Cognac is made from sugars from grapes, calvados from sugars from apples and kirsch from sugars from cherries. The starch from grains is used for genever and they also do the same for whisky.

The basic ingredient for genever and whiskey is malt wine. For genever, they flavor this malt wine with a mixture of mainly juniper berries and other herbs, and for whiskey, they allow the malt wine to age in wooden barrels for at least three years. The malt wine they use for whiskey is made only from barley.

Malt wine for genever is made from barley, rye and corn. The barley is processed into malt in the distillery, which releases enzymes that convert starch into sugars. The malt is then mixed with water and the starchy ingredients corn and rye. The resulting mixture is then mixed with yeast. The malt enzymes convert starch into sugars and the yeast converts the sugars into alcohol. You can then distill the alcohol-rich substance that is created in this way.

After the roastery, the process continues in the distillery. Here the genever gets its own taste and character. The malt wine is processed here by the distiller according to its own recipe. By mixing malt wine, juniper berries and herbs such as caraway, coriander and St. John’s wort during the distillation, different genevers are created. Optionally, the genever can also mature for a number of months or years in wooden barrels.

Young jenever or old jenever

When you talk about young or old genever, you don’t talk about the age of the drink. This concerns genever according to an old or new recipe. At the end of the 19th century, it became possible to obtain pure ethyl alcohol (ethanol) by column distillation. From that moment on, this neutral alcohol was increasingly used instead of malt wine for the production of genever. Although this is cheaper, it does not contribute to the taste.

The difference between young and old genever lies in the amount of malt wine that is used. Young genever may contain a maximum of 15% malt wine. For old genever this is at least 15%. If it contains at least 51% malt wine, you call it grain wine.

If you are talking about jenever that has been aged in oak barrels for several years, then you are talking about aged genever. The genever is in barrel for at least 2 years and can remain for up to 21 years. The older the aged genever, the more aromatic and softer the taste. The wood tones influence both the color and the taste. The longer it lies, the darker brown the color of the genever gets.

Aged genever can best be compared to whiskey or cognac. You also drink this straight, without ice. The aromas are best at room temperature.

The young genever and old genever that has not been stored in barrels can best be compared with gin. It is transparent or light in color and has a fresh taste because of the juniper berry. You drink it pure or process it in a cocktail.

How did genever originate?

Genever – in Dutch formerly known as genever, but now as jenever – was initially used as a medicine, but soon became popular as a drink.

Genever is an ancient Dutch product. During the Golden Age, Amsterdam was an important European transit port and there was an abundance of herbs and spices. This made the city of Amsterdam a paradise for distillers. Amsterdam distillers were the first to produce malt wines from grain. With new ingredients – such as the juniper berry – they made this strong drink more and more delicious. The result; genever grew into a popular drink in the 17th century.

Liquor store de Vreng and genever

Before the Second World War, a lot of genever was distilled and drunk. Production came to a standstill during the war. When everything started again, mainly young jenever was produced. This became very popular because it was cheap. The quality was not good though. It got worse and worse and was more like alcohol with water.

At Liquor store de Vreng, they got an idea end of the 70s. They bought some wooden barrels – about 6 or so – which they placed in the basement of the liquor store. They had whiskey and cognac barrels and 2 more from new oak. They filled this with real malt wine genever and let it mature for a number of years. This is how the aged genevers were created. Sales went pretty well. Until a genever test was done by a newspaper in 1980. The genevers of the Vreng came out on top in the test and this ensured that the genevers became extremely popular and sales increased enormously.


Also curious about the aged genevers? We sell different types, the choice is up to you!