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