I’m a bit of a history nerd, and as you’ve probably guessed I’ve grown rather fond of drink. I’m the kind of guy that constantly finds himself researching (read: searching Wikipedia) things that I’m interested in. That usually means that sometime around 1 a.m. I find myself wondering how the hell I ended up reading about uses of gentian root in folk medicine. I’m rather sure this is how I came upon genever. Genever is a spirit produced in the Low Countries (Holland and Belgium) from distilled grains infused with botanicals (herbs and stuff). While there is some debate as to when genever was first produced it seems its popularity grew in the 16th century, meaning this is some pretty old school hooch. When I first came upon it I was struck by the whole botanicals thing and the idea that this was the predecessor to gin. Genever, gin—pretty solid connection linguistically. The whole botanical infusion thing, which supposedly started to cover its crude distillation, also totally gin. In fact they both are characterized by their use of the juniper berry. Also present in the botanic bill of tonight’s genever are orange peel, thistle, carob, nutmeg, grains of paradise, angelica root, cinnamon and coriander. Also, I’ll make one more distinction: apparently there are two kinds, jonge and oude—young and old, referring to age. Tonight, I drink the old.
Diep 9 Oude Genever only recently showed up on the shelves of the New Hampshire State Stores. At around $30 and in a cool ceramic bottle it seemed like a decent deal and the geek in me wanted it from the moment I saw it. When I landed me a new high paying job I decided I’d reward my longings, and hence I bought this. I’ve had it for a while, sitting at the bar for the occasional sip and curiosities sake. The cool bottle makes it nice décor, too. So what is my impression of this age old legacy? I’m still not quite sure actually. The flavors to me are predominantly similar to a very young whiskey. The slightest tinge of mellowing oak and a heaping of soft and sweet malty flavors give this drink a rather full body while remaining very light on the palate. What continues to surprise me is how subtle the botanicals are. For the predecessor of gin I expected to be knocked out by juniper and spice, instead I found myself searching for the flavors, finding the juniper more present on the nose than the tongue and the botanicals represented more in an underlying earthy flavor that lingers nicely. Overall it’s more like Jim Beam’s Jacob’s Ghost than Beefeaters. But more refined than the former. The word that keeps coming to mind is subtle, everything about this is there in just the gentlest dose. That’s a good thing, and rather pleasant—though it requires a dedication to drinking it. If you don’t invest yourself in finding flavors you’ll find none. Maybe the Belgians are trying to say something about the way we drink, that perhaps we should take more time savoring our drinks, rather than pounding back martinis like Churchill or Jaeger like some frat-hole. I like the idea of that, but I’ll continue to treat this the way I have, the occasional glass for curiosity when I’m trying to engage my senses a bit more. It’s perfect for that—and they say it’s great in cocktails too.