Review: Diep 9 Oude Genever

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.

Image

Apparently the traditional way to drink it is to sip it slowly from a shot glass filled to the very brim. The first sip is taken while the glass is on the bar.

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.

Review: James E. Pepper 1776 Rye

Over the long weekend I paid a visit over to Cooperstown, NY to see my girl and dig the town.  I know what you’re thinking—and I don’t really blame you for it—baseball.  Well in spite of my All-American appetite for liquor, I’m not much of a fan of America’s pastime  I’ll play it, but that’s as far as my interest goes, so I avoided the museum and all that bat and ball capitalism and made my first stop a liquor store.  Actually, two of them.  It was 10 am and the girl was in a meeting, what’s a boy to do?  Anyways, this is where I met the star of this show—James E. Pepper and his 100 proof and thoroughly patriotic 1776 Rye Whiskey.  I may not like baseball much but damn do I love rye.  I’ll admit this bottle reached out to the historian in me with its “aged” label and an evocation of the American Revolution I was only too willing to buy into in a town that once served as a camp for the Clinton-Sullivan Campaign during the war.  So I dropped the hammer at around $27 bucks, and now I imagine you’re wondering—do I regret it?

No, of course not, because money may not always buy happiness but it can always buy tastiness, and friends, James E. Pepper is that.  Apparently the Pepper family started making rye in 1776 and continued doing so until around prohibition, and supposedly this whiskey is the result of the extensive study of studies of the original Pepper Rye.  The odds of me getting my hands on pre-prohibition Pepper are pretty low, so I can only tell you what I taste here.  First off this whiskey is pretty hot, which is no surprise at 100 proof, and fortunately I find it’s that sweet spot of bold heat that doesn’t over-power the underlying flavors.  This is particularly good because there are some great flavors in here.  Of course there’s the obligatory rye spice and, dare I say, pepper—but there’s also some sweet honey that plays in both taste and consistency on my palate.  There’s something else here, something I find a bit unusual…is that peppermint?  Damn, another pepper pun: but there really is some soft and almost refreshing peppermint that lingers oh so sweetly near the end of a good quaff.  This is quite pleasant, easy sippin’ rye, perfect for a crisp autumn day on Lake Otsego reading with a lovely lady at your side.  So, while the history nerd in me may have bought this because of a likely exaggerated history based marketing scheme, the drinker in me has quite enjoyed this reigniting of the Pepper family brand and wishes them many more years of history making hooch.

Image

Also note: I am drinking this out of an unusual choice of glassware—perhaps that portends a coming article on a visit to Ommegang brewery?