Zuidam Zeer Oude Genever 5 Year Old 38% abv
Dutch Genever - Single Barrel
circa £28.00 50cl
Last night I tried my first ever Genever thanks to lovely friends Ansgar and Thomas from Dutch whisky blog Whisky Speller
Whilst I am familiar with Dutch distillers Zuidam, famed for their Millstone range of single malts, I'd never tasted a Genever before. The Zuidam family have over fifty years of distilling experience and all of their products are hand crafted, so I was already expecting good things!
Genever is the juniper-flavored national and traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium, from which Gin is said to have evolved. Traditional jenever is still very popular in the Netherlands and Belgium and European Union regulations specify that only liquor made in these two countries, two French provinces and two German federal states can use the name jenever/genever/genièvre.
Zuidam Genever is distilled from the finest selection of Malted Barley, Rye and Corn. The grains used for the Zuidam Genevers are milled by traditional windmills. In using windmills for milling their malted barley the distillery helps preserve the important Dutch heritage of the world famous windmills. Even more importantly the traditional millstones of the windmills slowly grind the malted barley into flour. This traditional way of milling causes almost no increase in the temperature of the grain and thus helps preserve the wonderful aroma’s.
After the milling the mashing begins by adding hot water to the corn, rye and malted barley. The hot water triggers the enzymes to convert the starch from the grain into sugars. The process takes about 8 hours per batch and afterwards the resulting Mash is cooled to 20° Celsius and pumped to the fermentation tank.
In the fermentation tank the fermentation takes place in small batches at a very low temperature to give these genevers its fruity flavours. The fermentation takes about 5 days. This is much longer than is customary but is Zuidam say it's essential to allow for the delicate flavours to form.
At the end of this 5 day fermentation the resulting mash is distilled three times in handcrafted copper pot stills before the distillate is clean and fruity enough for their Genevers. Part of this new spirit is then distilled again over a secret mixture of botanicals (among others, Juniper, Liquorice root, Aniseed). Then everything is blended together before putting it into the barrels.
After the careful distillation the Genever is aged in small barrels. Zuidam use new barrels of American White Oak as well as barrels that have previously held Bourbon or Olorosso Sherry. The reason why their Genever ages rather quickly is that they use new or young barrels and they are stored in a warm and dry warehouse. The downside is that the evaporation losses are rather high and typically the “Angels Share” is between 4% and 5% per year.
This 'Old' Genever is a 5 Year Old Single Barrel chosen from casks that have been aged for a minimum of 60 months, and each release is bottled from one carefully selected cask and it is not blended with other casks.
So What Did I Think?
This immediately reminded me of Canadian Whisky, it was the rye I'm sure (and I have developed a real love of rye whisky). I was expecting to find the botanicals to be too over powering for me, but it wasn't like that at all, the five year maturation in quality wood has ensure a remarkable balance of flavours with rich vanilla and toffee flavours complementing the rye spiciness. This is eminently quaffable!
More good news as I've seen it's available at The Whisky Exchange (thanks for the main photo!)