Preview: Bols Barrel Aged Genever

25 08 2011

“Gives you a taste appreciated not only by man, but by woman too.” – Piet Van Leijenhorst, Master Distiller

Something may have been lost in translation, but Piet’s sentiments at The Vault last Monday were clear: Bols Barrel Aged Genever is dangerously drinkable. Nevermind that most of the women there could drink me under the table …

This is a grown-up version of the clear bottled Bols Genever that first came to the U.S. market a few years ago and has since spread just about everywhere. They are both Oude Genevers*, but the new one is aged a minimum of 18 months in new-ish Oak in a nod to the American Whiskey tradition. I’ve gone this far assuming you know what Genever is, but for the initiates, it is a traditional Dutch liquor made from distilled Malt Wine and neutral grain spirits flavored with herbs, most notably Juniper.

*Oude literally means old in Dutch, but in the context of Genever it refers to the style of production and not the age. Oude Genever is the “old style” and has >15% Malt Wine (the remainder is water and neutral grain spirits), while Jonge Genever is the “young style” and has <15%. Corenwyn is a different beast altogether …

Left to right: Jonge (Dutch market only), Oude Barrel Aged, Oude Unaged

In addition to being oaked, the new/old Barrel Aged Genever uses a slightly different recipe for its Malt Wine base than the currently available Genever. I snapped a shot of the Master Distiller’s secret recipe book, but I can’t quite make out all the details. Or read Dutch.

The secret ingredient is ... cough syrup?! No, that can't be right

Regardless, the most important difference is of course taste. Starting with the unaged Bols as a reference, the Barrel Aged bottle comes out sweeter, maltier and more complex. It has, basically, the same flavors of Juniper, Vanilla and Cinnamon. But at the same time, the aging marries them together and, unexpectedly, makes them easier to single out because they aren’t all trying to push each other aside. Whereas the unaged is fantastic for mixing in just about anything because of its distinct contrasts, the Barrel Aged is much better on its own or in cocktails that keep it simple.

Frank stirring an Aged Bols Manhattan

Think classics with only a few ingredients like the Old Fashioned, the Martinez, the Manhattan and the Julep. For the drinks with vermouth though, a little caution is warranted. The Barrel Aged does best with herbal, fruity spirits that compliment its flavor profile. The standard Noilly Pratt or Dolin isn’t going to taste quite right. Substitute Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc for dry vermouth and Carpano Antica or Cocchi Torino for sweet vermouth to get a more balanced drink.

Scary good Mint Julep

In the Netherlands you’d be far more likely to find this alone in a glass, scarcely sharing space with ice. Something to be sipped and savored like a good scotch or bourbon. Here’s the problem: in the U.S. Market there will only be four Genevers available when this is released and two of them aren’t all that interesting (Boomsma Jonge and Boomsma Oude). With whiskey though, you have an incredible number of choices across brands and styles and grains and ages, making it downright fun to try them all and discover where your tastes lie. I happen to love Bols, but it’s not necessarily for everyone and there’s nothing to directly compare their Genever to. I’ve got a smuggled bottle of Jonge (tastes like a good, lightly distilled wheat vodka) to have another style for comparison, but that’s it. Until we start seeing more Genevers coming into the U.S., the perception of Genever as a niche product is unlikely to change. That said, it does make a damn fine cocktail. Here are my favorites so far

Genever Julep

  • 2oz Bols Barrel Aged Genever
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 8-ish mint leaves
  • mint sprig for garnish

Place sugar cube in a Julep cup and muddle with a 1/2oz water. Simple syrup can be used instead, but you won’t get the crunchy bits of sugar that are essential to a classic Julep. Add mint leaves and gently muddle to release the oils. Cover with crushed ice and pour in Genever. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Oude Martinez

  • 1 1/2oz Bols Barrel Aged Genever
  • 3/4oz Cocchi Torino or Carpano Antica Vermouth
  • 1/4oz Maraschino Liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Lemon twist

Add the Genever, Vermouth, Maraschino and bitters to a mixing glass and stir with ice to chill. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a twist of lemon, making sure to get the oils on top of the drink and around the rim.

Manhattan (New Amsterdam?) / Perfect

  • 2oz Bols Barrel Aged Genever
  • 1/2oz Cocchi Americano
  • 1/2oz Cocchi Torino
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Maraschino cherry

Add the Genever, Angostura, Cocchi Americano and Torino to a mixing glass and stir with ice to chill. Strain into a coupe and drop cherry to the bottom of the glass.

Bols Barrel Aged is scheduled for a September release with a suggested retail price of $49.99 / 1 Liter.

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