Dutch Jenever Week – Day 1: Rutte Zeeuwier Jenever (35%, The Netherlands)

Jenever Week Logo

Time to introduce another distillate on Master Quill. This time, we’ll have a look at Dutch Jenever (or Genever) and even dedicate a whole week to it. Jenever is a distillate common to The Netherlands and Belgium, but also to the North of France (Genièvre) and the West of Germany (Korngenever). Jenever is sometimes (wrongly) known as Dutch Gin, since Jenever is the forefather of Gin, although different in taste and smell. Both are made with juniper berries, but with Jenever that’s not so obvious as in Gin. So Dutch Gin is Gin made in The Netherlands and not Jenever.

Jenever came into existence, by distilling malt wine. Malt wine is produced by distilling a fermented grain mash in a (pot) still from barley and other grains. In the old days it was not particularly nice to drink, so spices were used to mask the not-so-nice flavour. Primary spice was the juniper berry (jeneverbes) which was chosen for its medicinal properties, hence the name Jenever. True Jenever was first distilled in the thirteenth century in Flanders, Belgium. Jenevers can be classified into three groups. Although officially only two groups exist, I feel Korenwijn is more than just a variant of Oude Jenever. Today, as with Gin, distillers experiment a lot and come up with variants to the theme. Unusual herbs and spices are added, or their product is finished in casks not common to traditional Jenever production or only a single grain is used. So for the time being, I will add even a fourth category called “Specials”.

  1. Jonge Jenever,
  2. Oude Jenever,
  3. Korenwijn.
  4. Specials.

We’ll start our journey with a special Jenever, since a very unusual spice was used in the production of this Jenever. In this particular case, Kombu was used to get a subtle briny aroma. Kombu is an edible kelp common throughout Japan, China and Korea. Although it isn’t mentioned on the label, this Zeeuwier Jenever can be seen as a Jonge Jenever with added Kombu. So in our journey, this Jenever will not only cover the “Specials” category, but the “Jonge Jenever” category as well, since it is the only example of a Jonge Jenever I will review in this week.

Jonge Jenever got its name from young, or new style Jenever. It stems from the time when neutral, and foremost cheaper, alcohol could be distilled in a proper way from almost anything (neutral spirit). Neutral spirit is usually made in a column still from molasses and/or potatoes. The original Jenever thus became Old (style) Jenever. So in fact “Old” and “New” have nothing to do with the age of the Jenever itself. Jonge Jenever can not contain more than 15% Malt Wine and 10 grams of sugar per litre. Strange enough, no minimum percentage is set for Jonge Jenever, so it can be made without any Malt Wine whatsoever. This is usually the case with very cheap Jonge Jenevers. Jonge Jenever is often unaged, has a neutral taste, somewhat similar to Vodka, with a slight aroma of juniper (and Malt Wine). No rules exist for the usage of the spices as well, so it is common practice to add the aroma of juniper berries after distillation. Again this is true for most run of the mill Jonge Jenevers. Jonge Jenever has an ABV of 35% or higher.

Rutte ZeeuwierIf Jenever is distilled only from grains and malt, the Jenever can be labelled as “Graanjenever” (Grain Jenever).

Color: Almost colorless, smallest hint of green.

Nose: Sweet alcohol and juniper. Fresh and warming. Good balance. Very soft with a breath of fresh air, more than a breath of fresh air. Windy beaches. Salty. Very much coastal (cold weather) and coastal vegetation, dare I say fresh fish? Great nose, and unbelievably un-alcoholic. A treat.

Taste: Soft, very soft and creamy. A bit too light, since it tastes like a soft, watered down Vodka. Slightly warming going down. Hints of vanilla and even smaller hint of wood. The attempt of a bitter note in the finish, shows me some wood, but not much. Alcoholic sweetness without the alcohol. Not a lot of the coastal notes in the taste though.

Very nice nose. Smells interesting and well made. Going down it has its warming qualities, but on the palate a bit too young and too soft for my taste. I would like this to be stronger in taste, since this makes hardly a ripple in the ocean, whereas we like to see some waves. Maybe an aged version? So elegant and over the top soft. The nose is there, but the taste could be stronger.

Points: 70

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Lascaw 12yo (40%, Distillerie du Périgord, Fûts de spécialité à la truffe)

Next up a French Whisky, that seems utterly French, since it was finished in casks that once held truffles, yes a fungus! The Whisky itself (before it is finished) turns out to be a 12yo Scottish Single Malt brought in by the Perigord distillery to finish for several weeks in the aforementioned special casks. Alas the source of the Whisky is confidential. Just to clear one thing up, the casks previously didn’t hold truffles, but were used for ageing a spirit (Vodka) with truffles infused in them. Distillerie du Perigord has a website, at the time of writing, only in French, which show the distillery is known mainly for its fruit spirits and liqueurs and some French specialties like Pastis and Poire William, and now this French-Scottish Whisky.

Lascaw 12yoColor: Orange gold.

Nose: Creamy and fresh. Light and fruity. Lots of yellow fruits with hints of menthol. Fruity sweetness with hints of oak. I braced myself for so thick and earthy fungus smell, but nope it’s not like that at all. Its fresh and fruity, Light and quite elegant, with a tiny hint of burning candle and pine. That part reminds me of christmas. Simply a nice smelling Whisky. Give this some time to breathe (believe me, this does need a lot of time to breathe) and yes, a whiff of mushroom does pass by. Remember the smell when cleaning champignons? It may not only be the smell of the mushroom itself, but also from the earth its growing in. Sure it has that, but don’t expect to get a lot of it. I already used more words about the mushroomy bit, than is actually noticeable, but it is noticeable. If nosed blind, the mushroom would be considered a part of the wood aroma I guess. Remarkable change when it breathes, more and more towards the christmassy bit I described above. Even more earthy, dry and more and more candle wax, boiling water and dry pine. Mocha coffee. The pine is integrated, it’s not overpowering the smell at all. Very interesting nose.

Taste: Light, creamy, watered down oak and cardboard, no yellow fruits but there are some red fruits in the finish. Quite malty and in a way it has aroma’s of porridge and old beer. This probably has been reduced too much to show off its aroma’s in the taste. Slight hint of oaky bitterness in the finish, and for me there is no truffle in the taste. It’s all in the nose. Tastes like a blend.

The nose is more than all right. Give it time and it will show you its special. A good nose you get from wood aged spirits. Not really a mushroom Whisky though. Taste wise it’s too thin with quite a short finish. Not something I would run out to buy, but an education and experience nevertheless.

Points: 70

Merci à Richard pour la bouteille.

Jameson “Select Reserve” (40%, OB, Small Batch)

In the Irish Whiskey Week I reviewed the surprisingly wonderful Jameson 18yo. I also stated that up ’til then I never came across a nice Jameson, that scored over 80 points. Thus the 18yo was a surprise and comes highly recommended.

Jameson Select ReserveLet’s give Jameson another shot, although this “Select Reserve” is another NAS Jameson and not very expensive to boot. I feel my old prejudice itching again. I shall not scratch, since I have found that there are quite a few very nice Irish Whiskies around, but I have to say upfront, that I don’t have very high hopes for this one. I hope I’m wrong.

Color: Gold

Nose: Sweet, light and powdery. Small hints of vanilla, cream and toffee. Sort of a Irish Latte Macchiato if you ask me. Probably excellent for an Irish Latte! Slightly fruity and cleanly alcoholic. No sign of wood but there is some forest floor shrubbery present. Smells very young. Not a lot happening in fact, but also nothing wrong (with the nose, nothing wrong with the nose).

Taste: Very light indeed. Grainy, alcoholic and maybe a bit too sweet. Vanilla, toffee and caramel, with hints of honey and luckily the sweetness quickly leaves the stage. Some bitterness and strangely enough, some cardboard, sawdust and grenadine. Here it is grenadine, but Jameson always have a nice fruity edge. Again very simple and it has a pretty short finish. Passes by quickly, but doesn’t leave a bad impression.

When the normal Jameson is considered a Whiskey for Irish Coffee, I most definitely would put this in something too. Irish latte anyone? Yes, this may be a mediocre Whiskey, but this is still a lot better than a lot of other distillates, so it’s not for nothing, we have a 100 point scale. As an (Irish) Whisk(e)y you can do a lot better.

Points: 70

Inchmurrin 15yo (46%, OB, 2012)

Bottled on the 14th of november 2012, we have here an Inchmurrin which is a Single Malt Whisky made at the Loch Lomond distillery. Loch Lomond was founded in 1965 and distillation started a year later. On site there is a malt distillery as well as a grain distillery. The distillery has two copper pot stills and four stills with adjustable rectifying columns (for Single Malt production). Because of these different stills and the fact that the rectifying columns are adjustable a series of different Single Malts can be made. Today Loch Lomond produces the following Single Malts: Loch Lomond, (Old) Roshdu, Inchmoan, Craiglodge, Inchmurrin, Croftengea (heavily peated), Glen Douglas and Inchfad.

Inchmurrin 15yoSince 1993 also a Coffey still is placed for Grain Whisky production and therefore the company is able to produce a Single Blend named Loch Lomond (you’d think they were good at making up names for their products)

Color: White wine.

Nose: Extremely malty, grassy and has notes of lactic acid. How’s that for a start! We continue with cardboard and a strange kind of acidity. Vegetal and woody. Toasted wood which makes the whole rather spicy. Slight whiff of menthol. When you let it breathe a while in your glass this is actually not a bad nose, the strange funkiness that was there in the beginning dissipates, to give us a more normal nose.

Taste: Grainy, very grainy. Neutral. It tastes like a Vodka on wood. It ís a Single Malt, so what happened in those casks over all those years? Grain and wood, not a lot more actually. Freshly cut baguette with its paper bag. Hint of vanilla. It isn’t sweet and has only a hint of bitterness. Finish is uneventful, and the higher strength gives it some staying power. But nothing really special stays behind.

First of all let me say that the bottle looks very nice when you have it in front of you. Highest marks on the packaging. The Whisky itself seems almost like a Grain Whisky that was aged in a bunch of rerererefill casks, very inactive indeed. Probably the most neutral Single Malt Whisky I ever tasted. Let’s make it my 70 points benchmark.

Points: 70

Säntis Malt Säntis Edition (40%, OB, Old Oak Beer Casks)

Well we all know the Scots have a lot of success with Whisky. Just like the Irish, the Americans, the Canadians and the Japanese. Today a lot more countries try to figure out how to make a good Single Malt. As far as I know, Switzerland already has 5 reasonable distilleries, or maybe even more. This Säntis Malt comes from the Locher Brewery from Appenzell. Locher has a long history in brewing beer and distilling spirits. It’s in the family already for five generations. Locher started with its malt in 1999, before that it was illegal to distill grain spirits in Switzerland.

Säntis Malt Edition SäntisQuite hard to figure out how to call this malt. On the label is stated: Säntis Malt, Swiss Highlander, Appenzeller Single Malt, Matured in Old Oak Beer Casks. On their website, this is called the Säntis Edition.

Color: Full Gold.

Nose: Malty and sweet. Very appetizing actually. Very fresh and clean. No off notes. A small hint of minty wood. A room that was painted a week before. Something fruity, maybe apples? Quite young. Hay and caramelized toast. It was aged in old beer barrels. In the nose there is hardly any wood, and certainly no beer, so I gather the casks don’t do a lot for the nose, so it’s all the aged spirit. Not bad!

Taste: Very mellow. Apple sauce. Syrupy sweet. Short attack from the wood, a sort of liquorice note, but vanishes very quickly. Very easy drinkable and again no off notes. Very short finish. The whole is too simple and too mild.

The nose was quite up to par, so I expected something with more oomph and complexity. Still I didn’t expect much from this, but it’s not all bad, not bad at all. It’s quite reasonable actually. A more aged spirit in a more active cask and at higher strength, has a potential to become a very good malt. Well worth to check out the rest of the range. Especially the distillery only Cask 1130 (Pinot Noir) at 64% ABV (less than 20 left).

Points: 70

Thanks go out to Erik for this sample.

The Griffin’s Robusto Maduro

Twentieth post, so let’s get something out of the ordinary. I don’t have a lot of non Cubans lying around so I was very curious how this would be. Besides that, this cigar earned itself a 90 points score from Cigar Insider. So here it goes…

The Griffin’s are named for the Griffin’s Club in Switzerland, and are made with tobacco from the Cibao Valley in the Dominican Republic. and I guess that with Nicaragua, these are the countries to watch when thinking of good cigars to compete with the Cubans. The Cigar is made by Davidoff and that shows. It’s a very nice looking cigar, so it seems to have a good build quality. Compared to their Classic Line, this Maduro uses an aged Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper. The producers themselves describe the taste as this:  Spicy, sweet aromas with medium-strong, but understated piquancy…

The Griffin’s Robusto Maduro (50 x 127mm, Robusto, Box Code Unknown)

Color and Looks: Maduro. Very nice wrapper with one larger vein. Numerous small white spots on its surface, like sand. A little tear at the foot. The whole cigar feels firm.

A cru: Deep tobacco flavor, perfumy. After cutting, it smells grassy (this cigar sat for many years in my humidor). Draw is al right and tastes like hay.

Taste: Good smoke, very appetizing, very elegant smell from the outside. It reminds me of how cigars smelled when I was a kid (when somebody else was smoking). Grey ash, straight as an arrow, with a slightly brown tinge to it. Very firm ash, good build. I’m having it after dinner, and it smokes just fine. Perfect draw. Quite mild with no soapyness or ammonia. Well aged. I have a feeling that the Maduro wrapper balances the cigar, and gives it more of an edge to it. I can imagine that the Classic version, would be mild and has to be smoked before dinner. It’s not an overly complex cigar, but still interesting enough for the connoisseur. Up to this point (1/3) a very nice surprise. If this would be a men’s fragrance, this would be a “sports” version.

The (2/3) mark starts with more spices and wood. The overall experience is on the dry side, so not creamy. Like the Petit Edmundo, this is a cigar that does not complement coffee, but rather emphasizes some tastes. I don’t think this cigar needs more ageing. Further down the road, this cigar keeps getting spicier, woodier and adds hints of bitter dark chocolate and licorice. It’s building up its strengths. By doing so, it gets more and more one-sided which is a bit boring really. Ash fell off only twice.

The first 1/3 was very satisfying, with nice development. 2/3 down, it became “stronger” and more linear and less interesting. The last third is very disappointing, so you can say the first half is good, the rest should die out in your ashtray. The big band this cigar has, is glued to the wrapper ánd is placed nearer to the middle than the end, so be careful when shifting or removing it. Or maybe they strategically placed it there, since you shouldn’t smoke the cigar beyond the band. Now try to score a cigar that starts so well and goes downhill so fast. The first third would score something like 85 points, and beyond the halfway point it’s more like 65 points. So overall I will score this…

70 Points