A while ago I had the pleasure of visiting Amsterdam where I tried several types of genever (pronounce zhen-AY-ver and also written as “Jenever”). Genever is considered to be the forefather of modern gin. It is an interesting drink in that, unlike scotches and tequilas and many other types of spirits, genevers actually get a bit harsher as they age, instead of mellowing.

Well, that’s not entirely true, as it turns out. I started out with the Bols Genever Jonge (Young) which is a clear liquid with a clean crisp taste and was surprisingly smooth. I then tried the Bols Oude (Old) which had a yellowish tint to the liqueur. The oude was definitely a bit harsher, with a slight burn but also a bit more flavor. I talked with the bartender about it and he laughed, acknowledging that genever was odd in this regard.

It was only later I learned that the Old and the Young are produced by different techniques, and that aging is not really the difference between them. Even my Dutch bartender thought that aging was the difference between the two! Wikipedia has a good article on Jenever.

Aging, as it turns out, really does make genever smoother. The next evening I got the chance to go to a genever house in Amsterdam (really a bar that served only genever is all of its various forms). I was able to try one that had been aged for 8 years (about the oldest I could afford) and the flavor was rich and the drink went down smooth with no discernible “burn”.

Genever may be the forefather of modern gin, and share similarities with modern gins, but genever is not gin. It is a unique product in its own right. You can buy genever in the US and Canada and throughout Europe. I suggest, as always, getting a taste of it before you go out and spend your hard earned money on it, but I liked it well enough to bring a bottle home from Europe.

– The Drinkler