It is human nature to look back at our forebears for a number of reasons: for wisdom, for inspiration, for guidance, for answers to who we are and from whence we came. It is why we keep family photo albums from as far back as we have photographs. It is why we inevitably look back to spirits like genever, the forebear of modern gin and a singular creature in its own right.
Let us start briefly with what a genever is: it is a long-fermented malt wine (more on that in a moment) that is flavored with an array of botanicals that include juniper but which does not resemble the juniper-intense London Dry style with which you might be familiar. The key difference is in the “malt wine”—a grain-based spirit distilled at a relatively low proof (generally 50-55% ABV off of the still, but only 47% ABV in the case of Bols Genever) that is then infused with botanicals. Other modern gins typically distill that malt wine spirit to a higher proof, losing some of the essential characteristics of the grains. Of course, there are many variations on this process, but a genever will almost always be initially distilled at a low proof to retain those grain flavors.
With the Bols Genever, the nose discloses this immediately—it carries a corn-meal tone that gives solid foundation to the lighter juniper and floral botanicals to follow. The palate does not contain any surprises, opting instead to dial up the intensity of those aromas to a perfectly pleasant level that tapers off to a grain-heavy but still breezy finish. It is a revelation when compared to modern gins and an enlightening look at the potential of gin-based cocktails.
Its complexity is still approachable, its delicate balance still accessible, and its unique charm efforttless alone in a glass. It is a spirit for gin aficionados, connoisseurs, and neophytes alike. It is a spirit for drinkers of unaged whiskeys looking for something grander. Genevers are, put simply, in a league of their own. And for being the same old recipe from 1820, the Bols Genever can still play one impressive game. As an added bonus, if you are already a fan of Norwegian aquavit, then this is an easy transition and vice-versa.