Jenever

Or Genever, as it is also spelled. And the expensive variety called Korenwijn, not to be confused with Barley Wine, which is a kind of beer. I like my glass of whisky or whiskey just as much as the next thirty-something, but being Dutch, I prefer to delve into the depths of jenever and korenwijn — Dutch gin.

It all started when we had visitors from Australia — Adrian Morgan and his family. When trying to figure out what to give them that was really, really Dutch, we issued a call to arms to our slijter — that is, the proprietor of our local off-license.

He argued that we should offer our guests a drink distilled from malted grain flavoured with juniper berries and other rare herbs and spices. Genever, in short. Which I knew already all about, because my parents used to drink Jonge and Ouwe — that is, unsweetened and  sweetened Dutch factory gin. So I started shaking the bean in a deprecating gesture. I’d never drunk the crap, but it was liquor for old fogies, completely out of character for me, wasn’t it.

Hans, from the Poort van Kleef, advised us to buy half a bottle (or rather, a jar, because it’s made of stoneware) of Wenneker Korenwijn. Respecting his judgment (he knows a lot about spirits, and also provides us with respectable Madeira, nice portwine and very nice vinho verde), I made the purchase. Our guests liked the stuff, comparing it to some of the peatier Irish whiskeys, and we liked the stuff. Since then we have tried: Wenneker (excellent), Bols (close, but no cigar), Rutte (excellent, but very refined) and Rembrandt (not so good at all). All korenwijn, mind, which means it’s really distilled and aged, and not mixed together from alcohol, caramel and artificial flavourings.

Then, when we came across an assortment of little bottles of everything Rutte has to offer, we tried genevers, and discovered they can be good too. One thing led to another, and when my father brought a bottle of Zuidam Zeer Oude Jenever. This was excellent, almost as excellent as the Loyaal genever we shared with my father before.

So when Hans turned to have a box with four Zuidam jenevers in stock, we bought one. The jonge was nice, the oude was good — and we know the zeer oude to be great. But the Korenwijn… It reeks. It reeks of the old white glue we used to use at primary school. It’s sharp, harsh and leaves a nasty clinging, cloying after-taste. Not good at all…