Dutch Jenever Week – Day 6: Zuidam Korenwijn 14yo 1999/2013 Oloroso Sherry (38%, Special #3, Cask #1649 & 1650, 491 bottles)

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On the sixth day, God created… This actually is the last review I’m writing for this series of Dutch Jenevers. To be honest, I almost never write reviews in the order of publication. Especially with the Master Quill Weeks. At some point in time, I find a “logical” progression in which to order the seven days of the Master Quill Week, not necessarily by ascending scores, mind you.

This is the fourth (!) offering by Zuidam in this week, another Korenwijn, and I promise you, it’s the last in this series. Tomorrow we’ll see another offering from Rutte (again). Now don’t start thinking now that Rutte and Zuidam are the only distilleries in The Netherlands producing Jenever. There actually is a long list of companies around, many of which are several centuries old.

The history of Jenever started in the Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, both port towns. Other cities like Groningen and Leeuwarden (in the north) also have a Jenever history. Making Jenever turned out to be a smelly business, so with time the production of Jenever moved into neighbouring cities with some more room. Weesp (near Amsterdam) and Schiedam (near Rotterdam).

From Amsterdam I’d like to mention Lucas Bols (1575), Wynand Fockink (1679) and Van Wees (1782). From Rotterdam I’d like to mention Onder De Boompjes (1658), Nolet (1691), De Kuyper (1695), Wenneker (1693), Herman Jansen (1777) and Dirkzwager (1879). Most of them produce Jenever under different brand names.

Rutte was never located in Rotterdam itself. Rutte has always been from Dordrecht. Finally Zuidam itself is more recent. It started doing business since 1975 in the town of Baarle-Nassau near the Belgian border.

Zuidam Korenwijn 1999Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Closed at first. Some wine related notes, fruity. Needs to move around in my glass some more. Yeah development commences quickly. A deep thick aroma, countered by sharp woody dry notes. Some ground white pepper and clear glue which dissipates quickly never to return again. Also a slightly burnt and tarry cask note. Sawdust and toffee for short. The whole smells rather laid-back and calm. Subdued yet big. Happy about itself. Sawdust and pencil shavings and underneath some hints of new wood. All very spicy but well in check. It has a very specific fresh and fruity acidity to it, I also got from tomorrows offering, although not in such a big way, and way more balanced as well. Here it must be from the Sherry cask. The nose is an amalgamation of Jenever, the Sherry cask and oak, and I must say the Sherry cask really did its work here.

Taste: Creamy, buttery and very fruity. Very nice and very appealing. It starts out sweet. Toffee, mocha and runny caramel. When that subsides, and it does that quite quickly, it makes room for a very nice fruity aroma. You could almost call it a “special effect”. Nice wood as well, sometimes bordering on cardboard and old paper, but it works quite well. However, I feel it is hardly recognizable as a Korenwijn. At least when I compare it to it younger Brother, the Korenwijn 5yo I reviewed earlier. it almost seems like a hybrid with Whisky, Cognac and other distillates. Taste this blind and try to find out what this is. Again an entirely different product from Zuidam. Nice. The finish has medium length and finishes with the warmth of the Toffee/Caramel and some sharpness of wood. Chewy. This is definitely after dinner. It’s a dessert all by itself. Nicely soft and lively, even though the basis is quite sweet, as all Zuidams seem to have. Likable and dangerously drinkable.

Quite a small outturn, considering this came from two Sherry casks ánd the Korenwijn being reduced to 38% ABV. Nice expression from Zuidam though, and its clear to me why it was chosen as a special release. This one is quite expensive. Its more than twice the price of the Korenwijn 5yo, but when compared to the Korenwijn 10yo and 20yo, Zuidam also produces, the price seems to fit right in.

Points: 85

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 5: Zuidam Korenwijn 5yo 2008/2013 (38%, Single Hogshead #761, The Netherlands)

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We’ll continue our journey with this Zuidam Korenwijn 5yo, the brother of the Zuidam Oude Genever 5yo. Korenwijn (grain wine) is a Jenever, very similar to the 18th century style Jenever, and is often matured for a few years in an oak cask. It is made from grain only and  contains a minimum of 51% Malt Wine and up to 20 g/l of sugar. Caramel can be added for coloring and added sweetness. Caramel that is, not E150 which is used in coloring Whisky and doesn’t add sweetness. If the Korenwijn is distilled from Malt Wine only, it can be called a Malt Wine Jenever (Moutwijnjenever).

In the case of Zuidam, The Zeer Oude Genever 5yo was distilled three times without spices, and this Korenwijn 5yo was distilled four times, before the fifth distillation with the added spices is carried out. According to Zuidam this raises the fruitiness and makes for a more delicate Jenever. The ingredients here are the same as in the Zeer Oude Genever, so rye, corn and malted barley. Spices are also the same, juniper berries, licorice root and anise seeds. According to the Zuidam website, newer bottlings of the Zeer Oude Genever and Korenwijn are matured solely in virgin oak barrels, which is obviously not the case with this older bottle from 2013 which contains Korenwijn matured in a (Whisky) Hogshead. The Zeer Oude Genever 5yo I reviewed by the way, was aged in a used Bourbon barrel.

Zuidam Korenwijn 5Color: Full gold, slightly orange.

Nose: Much, much more aromatics than its little brother. Loads of soft spices and some (dry) green notes. Mocha, vanilla and toffee. Wax and wood. Oak and cedar. The occasional whiff of an unlit Cuban Cigar. Nice. Thick and chewy. Almost like a candy store or grocers shop from a hundred years ago. (Indian) Spices, old sweets and cookie dough. Cinnamon, cloves and crushed beetle. If you’ve experienced that smell, you’ll know what I mean, if not, don’t go out hurting animals now. Old wet wood and burlap. Sweet mud and some fermenting clay. Animalesk. The fruitiness moves into the realm of sugared citrus skins, but also some warm apple pie. Orange zest (not lemon, since it lacks the freshness and the sharp acidity). For me this is definitely a step up from the 5yo Zeer Oude Genever. Much more happening, wonderful interaction with the wood, and way bigger. Maybe a tad too big for lovers of Jenevers? Wonderful.

Taste: Sweet on entry but also plenty of wood and wax again. Sawdust and freshly cut wood. Sugar-water and creamy latex paint. More green leaves and garden waste. Believe me it smells better than it might sound right now. Again, just like the nose, much more aromatics going on, compared to it little brother. Small hints of nuts and coffee, and also lots of fudge. Toffee and caramel happening again. Not of the added kind of course, mind you! This is definitely sweeter, bigger and more chewy compared to its twin from another egg. So not really delicate as Zuidam puts it. Light milk chocolate and to liven things up, a nice acidic note is present as well. The finish is reasonable for something that has a an ABV of only 38%, which is quite common in the Jenever business. It sure would be nice for once, to try a higher strength version of this, and I don’t mean 40%. What do you say Patrick? By the way, this is labeled as a “Single Barrel” (although note every cask found in this series yielded from a Barrel). This Korenwijn, for example, came from a Hogshead that previously held Whisky). Since different types of casks were used in this series, the outcome is different every time, so you’ll never get the same if you buy another bottle.

By now you know I prefer the Korenwijn version of Jenever over the Zeer Oude Jenever. Or do I? When I had the chance to talk with a lot of the Dutch Jenever drinking public, some told me they found the Korenwijn too sweet. Some even preferred the 3yo version over the 5yo version. The Zeer Oude Genever is lighter and a tad simpler and more towards vanilla than to the sweetness itself. Both can coexist very well next to each other. They are quite different. I’m not sure anymore if I prefer the Korenwijn over the Zeer Oude Genever. It is a welcome distraction when I try it right after the Korenwijn and does holds it own, even when lighter in style. It’s a breath of fresh air. There are enough moments I want the Zeer Oude Genever more. In a direct H2H, it is the bigger taste and the quality that makes me score the Korenwijn higher, but I really like the Zeer Oude Genever as well, no question about it. I’m more than happy to have both bottles open on my lectern.

Points: 83

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 3: Zuidam Zeer Oude Genever 5yo 2008/2013 (38%, Single Barrel #178, The Netherlands)

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Since the previous review was about the Rye Jenever from Zuidam, for this Zeer Oude Genever we can stay in beautiful Baarle-Nassau, because here is another Zuidam Jenever. This one classifies as an “Oude Jenever”. So no funny business with a single grain version or the addition of an unusual spice. By the way, the word “Genever” is sometimes used as a synonym for Oude Jenever.

Oude Jenever must contain at least 15% Malt Wine, and no more than 20 g of sugar per litre. Yes sugar. It is not uncommon to add caramel to Jenever to enhance the color and to sweeten it up a bit. Oude Jenever must have a minimum ABV of 35%. Compared to Jonge Jenever, Oude Jenever has a smoother, more aromatic taste with malty flavours. Oude Jenever is often aged in wood. Some others are finding that its malty, woody and smoky flavours resemble whisky a bit, but personally I would say that it is a distant relative at best. Different grains can be used in the production process, such as barley, wheat, corn, spelt and rye.

For This Zeer Oude Genever Zuidam uses the same amounts of rye (spicy), corn (giving sweetness) and malted barley. The Jenever is distilled three times. In the fourth distillation run the spices are added. Juniper berries, licorice root and anise seeds. In general it is possible however that the spices are distilled separately and blended together in the final product or some or all spices are redistilled with the Malt Wine. Finally, the spirit is reduced to 45% before entering the cask. Casks are newly made American oak barrels. a.k.a. Virgin oak.

As I already mentioned in the first review of this week, old doesn’t mean the Jenever has aged for a long time, rather means it is made in the old style. This doesn’t mean the Jenever is not aged for a prolonged amount of time, since a lot of Jenevers in this style get (long) ageing in oak.

Zuidam Zeer Oude Genever 5yoColor: Light gold.

Nose: Grainy, floral and fruity, so all is here. Silky soft and somewhat sweet. Smells like an old well made grain distillate. Old as in, not modern. Like the combination of a dusty alley and a slightly damp alley. Clean alleys from the past, that is. Quite romantic. Old parcels come to mind next, those with the brown paper held together by a piece of string. Brought to you by way of steam train. That’s the kind of romantic feel I get from this. Yellow fruits and somewhat waxy. Hay and dry wild grass. Distant apricots and hints of lavender and jasmine. Perfumy. Crispy citrus is present as well. Well balanced stuff, all fits together well. Hints of wood, soft and silky. Fresh oak and some tree sap. Vanilla, so no doubt this being from an American oak barrel, also helped by the fact that the label mentions this particular Genever was aged in a 190 litre cask. Overall quite light and friendly and a very nice distillate to smell.

Taste: Light, sweet and a bit thin. Starts out with some oaky bitterness, but also some spices are noticeable right away. Sugar water with lots of toffee and caramel. Fruity, warming and well-balanced. Both the nose and the taste fit together very well. Creamy vanilla with hints of added anise. Almond like nuttiness. Fits the warming quality this Genever has. Even after 5 years, the wood didn’t leave an overly woody taste behind. Overly? It’s hard to detect any wood at all! Hardly any bitterness whatsoever. However, after 5 years I expected a bit more complexity to be honest, but then again this is not a Whisky and its bottled at 38% ABV. Not very complex, but very likeable nevertheless.

First of all, with this you get a nice, light and well made Genever. Your first dram of the day. Enjoyable. Second, if you can find it where you live, this comes at quite a nice price, especially when compared to today’s Whisky, and you’ll get a whole litre to boot. Other sizes like 0.5 and 0.7 litre bottles are in existence as well.

Points: 82

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 2: Zuidam Rogge Genever (35%, The Netherlands)

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Day two and we’ll continue with another Jenever from the “Specials” category. This particular example from Zuidam was distilled three times in copper stills, using only Rye as a flavour grain, which makes it a speciality in the Jenever world. Only half of the Rye was malted. The distillate was aged for 5 years (!) in new American oak barrels. Rye itself is already quite a spicy grain, but nevertheless juniper berry, licorice root and aniseed were added. Here the spices weren’t distilled with the Rye, but only added prior to bottling. So again a special kind of Jenever, but I may have said that already…

Zuidam Rogge GeneverColor: Straw.

Nose: Dull, very grainy and recognizable as rye spirit. Fresh new make spirit. Grain and grassy. Very much from the cereal corner of the ring. Sour bread and cookie dough. Extremely vegetal, lacking freshness and fruitiness. When nosed more vigorously, the hidden wood is noticeable. Give it some time and the wood becomes more creamy and spicy even. Vanilla and toffee. It does need to breathe for a while to compose itself. It becomes friendlier and softer that way. Butter and butter getting warm on the frying pan. (at the start of the process, before it starts to become brown). Spicy and grassy throughout. Hints of cinnamon and some anise. Nice fatty rye aroma’s. Soft. Sometimes I get whiffs of licorice and summer flowers in a field. The tiny hint of florality goes rather well with rye based spirits. This time it is elegant and delicate as opposed to the heavy and raw spirits that can be made with rye as well. Achieves great balance if you manage to be patient with it.

Taste: Sweetish and behind the sugar-water and the creamy, chewy vanilla, it is quite vibrant simple and likeable. Second sip: surprisingly sweet and soft, hardly warming though. Well, 35% ABV isn’t much where I’m coming from. It doesn’t have the taste of new make spirit. Its more sweet and creamy. Not very complex though, surprisingly simple actually. Fatty vanilla ice-cream in a bottle. The nose gives us some tension from wood and some spiciness, in the taste all that is absent.The first time I tried this I tasted it blind and from that occasion I remember I never would have guessed the rye distillate has aged for 5 years, before the spices were added.

Although this isn’t a Gin, I would most definitely experiment using this in a Gin & Tonic. First try would be with Fentiman’s. I guess, It somehow wants to be a summer drink. Excellent stuff and definitely worth your time as a sipper as well. Very accessible and friendly. Dare I just say that I find it a bit too sweet and simple? Especially since this has aged (without the spices) for five years. Lacks a bit of complexity. It comes across as everybody’s friend. If you can respect that, and don’t want it to be a 5yo Zeer Oude Genever or a 5yo Korenwijn even, than you are in for a treat. Zuidam plans to release true aged versions of Rogge Genever in the near future, meaning the spices are distilled with the spirit. I welcome that. This kind of Jenever can do with some more influence from the cask (first fill, second fill), maybe even from European oak that once held Sherry!

Points: 76