Spirited Union – Spice & Sea Salt Botanical Rum (41%, A55001, Barbados/The Netherlands)

More than with any other type of distilled spirit, Rum aficionados (have to/feel the need to) protect their tipple. Whisky, for example, is highly regulated, so there is no need for the Whisky aficionado to protect their spirit, and there isn’t a lot of adulteration going on, to boot. Quite the contrary actually, regulation prevents too much openness about the Whisky in the bottle, preventing distillers like Bruichladdich and blenders like John Glaser (Compass Box) to print all the available information on the label. Aficionados like it (we want to know as much as possible), regulations prevent it. For instance, only the last cask is mentioned in detail on the label, but if the whisky was previously matured in a different casks, details of that cask aren’t allowed on the label. Blenders aren’t allowed to print on the label how exactly their blend came to be. Blenders like Compass Box, do publish that information on their website as do distillers, like Bruichladdich, to name but a few.

Rum aficionado’s are very clear about how they prefer their Rum. Pure and unadulterated. No additions of any kind and certainly not of the sugary kind. If possible non or not much reduction. Preferably aged on location, although continental ageing is accepted. So when word comes out, somebody is releasing a popcorn infused/flavoured Rum, well, you’d better hide in your bomb proof cellar for a while, until that travesty blows over and Barry has killed the culprit who had this infamous idea. Sure, pure Rum is the best Rum, and I like them dry and untouched as well.

I myself do draw the line when people essentially produce a sweet liqueur and call it a Rum, examples like Don Papa (you don’t want to know what was added to that and in which quantities!) and The “Rums” of A.H. Riise, again to name but a few. I reviewed this Christmas Edition of A.H. Riise a while back and I did like the taste of Christmas it gave off, hence the score, but in hindsight I don’t feel it is a Rum at all. Its a tasty Liqueur, with Rum used as a base spirit. So as a Rum the score, if reviewed today, should be much, much lower, but I’ll let it stand as a testament to the ignorance of the consumer, me, myself and I, in this case. Since we don’t have a class of Sugared Rums or Rum Liqueur, it may be considered a Spiced Rum, a class of Rum reserved for Rums where anything has been added to it. Un-pure. Yes, Rum is lacking regulation, and some producers obviously will do anything to sell as much Rum as possible. The market for Rum as a mixer is much, much larger, than the market for Rum as a sipper, although the latter is on the rise, as are the prices for sipable Rums. So consumer beware!

So the Rum police doesn’t like people messing with their Rum and here is me reviewing a Rum that has been altered, messed with, and I’ll leave it up to you, the Rum detective from the Rum Homicide department, to decide if this particular case is acceptable or not. As is the type of Botanical Rum. In the Netherlands, I imagine, Ruben Madero got an idea when sipping his traditional Gin & Tonic. Hmmm, he must have thought, Botanicals, interesting, what if I made a Gin, that uses Rum in stead of a clear grain spirit as a base. No, even better, what if I would make a Rum with botanicals! Yes! The industrious guy he is, he started a distillery and started experimenting (Ruben hates sweetened Rums as well). Probably not in that order. Fast forward a bit, since this introduction is already a wee bit too long. Here is Ruben’s first baby available to the public. The Spice and Sea Salt Botanical Rum. I don’t know if it is a secret, but when walking around the distillery, I saw some industrial size containers on site with 5yo Rum from Foursquare (Column and Pot Still). And I have to say, fans of Foursquare are amongst the most fanatical Rum police there is. Foursquare is a wonderful Bajan Rum, so of course there is this hands-off-our-Rum movement. But please read on, not all changes to Rum are done with the wrong idea? Ruben started to make various infusions and distillates of herbs and spices and fruits and so on, I saw many of those in his distillery. Which botanicals did eventually end up in this Botanical Rum? (lets just call it that, since there is this lack of regulation and this type of Rum doesn’t exist officially). First of all:

* Organic Añana Sea Salt (Spain)
* Madagascan Vanilla
* Cloves
* Guatemalan Cardamom
* Peruvian Cacao

No time to waste than to taste this Botanical Rum now. Ruben isn’t really presenting this Rum as a sipper, but to assess this Rum, I will be sipping it to review it. I also had a chance to try this Rum, at the distillery, in their proposed mix with ice and ginger beer, and…well I do have to admit I was shameless enough to ask for another one.

Color: Light Gold, almost White Wine

Nose: Light Rum, sweetish and leafy. A green smell. I already know this has sea salt added, so I don’t know if I’m truly objective, but I do notice an aroma associated with salt. Ginger, nutty, foremost almonds and citrussy notes (it’s the cardamom speaking), young Rum, not really full of vanilla, toffee or caramel notes. If you smell hard, some spicy green notes come forward. Based on the nose alone, and considering this has salt added, which you can’t smell, the other botanicals are present, blended in with taste. They add to the taste of the young Rum, but neither of those botanicals overpower the nose. Actually still recognizable as a Foursquare Rum. A wee bit of parrafin, diluted cola and sea spray are present as well. Give it more time in the glass the appetizing cola note stays and mixes in with a new floral note. Even longer and some ripe and sugared red fruits come forward. The Foursquare base is now even more recognizable. The cloves, by the way, are foremost noticeable in the empty glass afterwards…

Taste: The entry is salty and unique to the world of Rum. The somewhat slower sweet taste follows right after that. In a way also a bit thin, 41% ABV is very close to 40% ABV. Sugared black tea. Salty lips and a mouth full of pretty nice nutty Foursquare notes, with a tiny acidic citrussy top note. Medium sweetness, sugar water and a black tea note. A light bitter note (from spices, not wood), cloves and vanilla, yet, apart from the salt, nothing of the botanicals or additions overpower. I have to admit, the tweaks are done sparsely and with taste, leaving enough room for Foursquare to leave it’s mark as well. Sure the salt is prominent, and a key player, but for me it works well. Cacao in the rather short finish (with light botanicals and young Rum, this was to be expected). The cacao stays around for the (short) aftertaste. The base-Rum is young and still hasn’t got a lot (if any) wood notes impaired to it. The aftertaste may be shortish, but the salty lips are here to stay for a while. Well balanced.

Interesting Botanical Rum. Works for me as a sipper, especially as a starter in a flight of Rums. Equally good with (smoked) ginger beer. Quite by accident after tasting this Spice and Sea Salt Rum I poured a high ABV Pour Mourant into the unrinsed glass, and the salt from this Rum that stayed behind on the inside of the glass, tasted very nice with the Demerara as well, even with only this trace amount of salt.

Points: 77

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 7: Rutte Single Barrel Bordeaux Graanjenever 14yo 1999 (38%, Limousin Oak Cask #239, 490 bottles

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We already reached the end of our Dutch Jenever journey. It was a long journey for me, and writing the reviews and doing the research took me a whole lot longer than first expected. Lots of other things came in between, both already published and some not, like the next Master Quill week, which at this point in time is nearly finished as well. It’s a good thing I took my time, because in the mean time I somehow connected with Jenever and found out what it is and what its place is in the big scheme of things. I learned to appreciate it for the wonderful traditional liquor it is. I present to you the last review of the week and it is a 14yo Rutte, aged in a Bordeaux cask, in many ways similar to yesterdays 14yo Zuidam that was matured in two Oloroso Sherry casks. I expected both to be dominated by the Bordeaux Wine or Oloroso Sherry before setting off…

RUTTE_SINGLE_BARREL_BORDEAUX_14JR_lowresxxx300Color: Vibrant copper gold.

Nose: Very fruity. Berries, cherries and this definitely has some characteristics of wine, just not the wine itself. Very fresh and vibrant at first, but also a deep dull nutty undertone that evolves over time. Sweetish and grainy. The cask impaired a lot of aromas onto the Jenever. Waxy red apple skins. Vanilla, mocha and plywood. Small hint of licorice, some toasted cask and sometimes a light whiff of cigarette smoke. Still not a true red wine aroma, if you ask me. If someone would give me this Jenever blind and ask what kind of cask this came from, I would have been sure this was from a Calvados cask. The aroma is from apple, but also the typical acidity from Calvados. Very perfumy and fruity. Definitely floral as well. Cinnamon comes next and as we all know, cinnamon goes together well with the apple aroma this Jenever has. Nice stuff to smell. Soft.

Taste: Sweet, sweet, sweet. Apples in many (distilled) guises. First impression shows an enormous lack of complexity. Fruity, overpowering and warming, and yes, quite likeable as well. Liquid candy and although 38% ABV is not high, it seems way less than this. It drinks like a soft Sherry with corresponding ABV. Christmas pudding. More Calavados notes mixed together well with some soft and spicy notes from wood. I know this is from a cask that once held French Red Wine, but the spirit is Dutch. Having said that I can’t get rid of the French feeling this Jenever gives me. maybe this is because this hardly tastes like a Jenever at all? Am I biased by the statement on the label and the aroma’s of Calvados? I wish I had tasted this blind, not knowing what it was, would I call this a Calvados then? Even after 14 years we can safely say that the Bordeaux may have overpowered the Jenever a bit, but some nice synergy was achieved as well. It ís still recognizable as a Jenever. It has a great nose and tastes well. Big gulp now and damn, this has a lot to do with a semi-sweet Calvados (and nothing with Bordeaux or the other Rutte offerings I reviewed and tasted). Again a Jenever that has to breathe for a while, so don’t be hasty with it.

Whereas with Zuidam you get the feeling everything is intelligently planned and intended, with Rutte it sometimes is more random and spontaneous. Trial and error. Hit or miss.”Well lets not chuck out the cask, people. Rinse it out and put some spirit in it, I might like it in the end.” (And then forget about the cask altogether untill a cleaning-lady accidentally stumbles upon it…)

I hope Patrick van Zuidam doesn’t feel too comfortable now, to sit back on a beach somewhere, and just let things happen. Although the Rogge Genever was a bit sweet and simple, the rest of the offerings I reviewed here were top-notch. A clear winner. Rutte seems to be trying to find an identity for itself by concentrating on experimentation, marketing and far away markets. Everything was pretty decent though, especially this Dutch Calvados made from Jenever and Bordeaux casks. However, the bottle of the Rutte Twaalf Graanjenever started out as a disappointment by its lack of balance. Shockingly so, since I actually expected quite a lot of that one. When it got some extensive contact with air it got way better. I tasted some young expressions, maturing in American oak and they were pretty good. I should try another bottle of this 12yo, to see if the profile is just different. Knowing the Rutte 12yo, puts this Bordeaux Jenever more into perspective. The fruity acidity I expected to come from the Bordeaux cask is actually coming from the spirit itself, since it is also present in the 12yo.

In the end this Dutch Jenever Week only featured products from Rutte and Zuidam. Of course there are a lot more Dutch and other Jenevers around, as I mentioned yesterday, and I will absolutely source some more for future reviews., because Jenever is definitely worth your attention. Just let it be Jenever and don’t compare it to anything else. It’s not Whisky nor Gin and why should it? Proost!

Points: 79

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 4: Rutte Oude 12 Graanjenever (38%, The Netherlands)

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For day 4 we return to the Rutte distillery we already encountered on the first day. This Jenever fits snugly in the “Oude Jenever” category as well, and the addition of the word Graanjenever tells us this was made from grain based spirit only, just like the Zuidam actually. A sign of quality. Together with a maturation of no shorter than 12 years makes me having high hopes for this one. But first, a history lesson and an amazing run of naming children by the Rutte family:

The history of Rutte starts with Sijmon Rutte born in 1749. Next came his son Simon Rutte, born in 1779. The Rutte family moved to Rotterdam. Both are said to have laid the basis for distilling Jenever. Antonius was born in 1806. In 1830 Antonius moved to Dordrecht and started working for a distillery. At the same time he started experimenting with distillation at home. One of the sons of Antonius called Simon Antonius (born in 1844) bought a bar in 1872 and started distilling in a shed in the back. After a while he started selling his own distillates in his own bar. The bar was closed eventually and Simon Antonius turned it into a shop, selling his (and other) distillates.

Next in line was Antonius Johannes (Anton) Rutte, born in 1872. Anton took over the business in 1905 but he died quite young and his wife Margaretha continued the business eventually handing over the reigns to her eldest son Johannes (Jan) Rutte. Jan had a son called… Jan (John) born in 1931. It was this John who started to distill with passion, making the Rutte distillery known far beyond the borders of the city of Dordrecht. John had three children but none of them showed any interest in the distilling business, so in 1991 John sold the company to a group of investors, clients actually, who loved the products of John. Erik Herter, one of them, someone like John himself, was taught the ropes. Even though the business was sold, John stayed around untill his death in 2003. Erik left the business in 2006 leaving Myriam Hendrickx in charge to this day.

Rutte Oude 12 GraanjeneverColor: Pale gold.

Nose: Very soft and fruity. Definitely grainy. Hints of Grappa and slightly soapy. Very fresh for a 12yo. Hints of butter, warm toffee and vanilla. Warm and soothing, like grandpa’s warm embrace. Yes, smells like something from the past. Vanilla ice-cream. Lots of woody notes you get from American oak. Not only soft, but also slightly spicy. Watercress! The whole is unbelievably soft smelling and introvert as well. The distinct smell of fruity new make spirit, you know, the stuff before it becomes Whisky. The new-make smell has this fruity acidity that is placed on top. It’s a bit dissonant at times. It seems a bit volatile, because for a moment, when sniffing, it is gone and then the whole becomes a lot nicer. Remember that Graanjenever is made with juniper and other spices, so those add to the smell as well. The Jenever has to breathe for a while to get rid of the volatile new-make part. It does help. Breathing makes the whole more coherent and nice. More vanilla sugar-water. I’m actually amazed that even after 12 years of ageing, this new-make aroma is still around, but now you know how to deal with it.

Taste: Starts somewhere between sharp and creamy, but turning quickly into something more chewy and sweet. Refined sugar with a splash of vanilla. Sometimes the sugary part tastes like brown sugar. Nice effect. Quite a mouth full, but also, again, that hint of new-make spirit I don’t really care for. Soft wood, with more of a vanilla pudding note. Quite a short finish and a creamy vanilla part forms the after taste, together with some bread aromas. Well this sure isn’t a Whisky, for those of you looking for an alternative. No, it is a whole new discipline, you might have to grow into. And if you can forget about Whisky for a while, and treat it as such, it can be quite rewarding, getting to know stuff like this, to broaden your distilled horizon.

I have tried more products of Rutte and liked quite a few of them. Beforehand I thought this one would be a favorite, after 12 years of ageing, but actually it starts out as bit of a disappointment. Extremely unbalanced start. I can’t get past the new make spirit in the nose and the taste, and some flavours just don’t seem to mix together well. Luckily there are some parts that are nice, so it’s not a complete let-down.

However, breathing does the trick here. It needs to be decanted. Give it time and lots of air and it becomes significantly better, but to my taste it will never completely recover, no matter how many time you are willing to give it. Still, I don’t dislike it. No. It has its charm and is definitely different from the Zuidam expression I reviewed yesterday. It is different in style and maybe is an acquired taste. For best results, buy a bottle and leave the cork off for two weeks. No, I’m not crazy. Try it for yourself.

Points: 77

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

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

Dutch Courage Aged Gin 88 (44%, Zuidam, Batch 001, 2013, The Netherlands)

Over here, summer has now seriously started. For the time being anyway, so it would be no use, and somewhat odd to try to review a nice heavy hitting, iodine clad, peated Whisky, now would it. Sure, I could go for a nice Rum, since that is a distillate that loves these kinds of temperatures. However, yesterday, after spending most of the day outside, I suddenly had a craving for a nice Gin & Tonic. Looking back I only reviewed only one Gin on these pages, since I guess, Gin more or less belongs in a good Tonic, and not a lot of people drink Gin neat. By the way, I can’t stress that enough: Tonic must be good if you want a nice experience, without downplaying the role of Gin of course. That would be almost blasphemous now wouldn’t it. The first Gin I reviewed here was the organic Gin of Hven, which is excellent, and worthy of my reviewing method of tasting it neat. If it’s good neat, it must be good with Tonic right? Not the case, but a good start. It all depends how the combination will work. Today we’ll have a look at a Dutch Gin, made by mad professor Patrick van Zuidam. No ordinary Gin, but an aged one. This one has aged in new American oak barrels. Let’s try this one neat as well, so I can familiarize myself with it, and work out which Tonic to pair it up with.

Dutch Courage Aged Gin 88Color: Citrus gold.

Nose: A very appetizing smell. Lot’s of citrus. Sweet orange skins and other citrus fruit skins, with hints of fresh (not sweet) orange juice. Nice soft Juniper comes next. Not overpowering at all, it is used with taste. Spicy, sweet cinnamon and (toasted) oak. It actually smells like spices used for baking cookies. The slightly sweet profile (It’s not an old Tom, mind you), is enhanced by the vanilla-like notes coming from the American oak. Although it is aged, it hasn’t been ageing for a long time I guess, it doesn’t smell like a very old distillate to me. It has kept it youthfulness, but the ageing did give it an extra layer, making it softer and “rounder”.

Taste: Slightly bitter and definitively sweeter than I expected. Still not an Old Tom though. Heaps of nice (sweetish) citrussy notes. Nice Orange notes, but also some more fresher citrus components. As with the nose, the juniper is present, without overpowering, allowing for great balance. Spicy, the cookie spices are here too, but this time with a shift towards licorice. In the background a vanilla pudding note, which adds to the perception of sweetness (or “roundness”). All that is present in the finish which seems to be built around sugared anise seeds. Nice. Again, Gin, for me, is often not meant for sipping, but just like Hven, it is unbelievably drinkable. Maybe it is a sort of hybrid between Gin and Genever (the granddaddy of Gin, which most of the time is consumed neat).

One day I made two G&T’s, for me and my wife to try. I paired up this Dutch Courage 88 with Indi Tonic and for comparison the well-known Hendrick’s with the also well-known Fever Tree. Although the latter makes for a very good G&T, one easy to enjoy, however, the combination of Indi with Dutch Courage was something else. Softer, excellent bitters, with a lot of aroma’s presented in excellent balance. Definitely a must-have Gin. I’ll have a go at this Gin soon, paired up with some more Tonic’s. Recommended!

For the completists, I also did a head to head with Hven Gin. The Zuidam is more accessible, sweeter and benefitted of oak ageing. The Hven is obviously unaged, but also even softer on the nose, more restrained. The taste initially also shows some sweetness, and for a moment nothing happens, but it doesn’t take long for taste-evolution to take place. These two are actually very nice to try one after the other, like they were meant to be together. Both are excellent sippers. Luckily I don’t have to choose between them, because both are worthy in any liquor cabinet. My advise, buy the biggest bottle available, both of them.

Points: 81 (and believe me, that is quite a lot of points for a Gin by itself).

UPDATE (29-6-2016): I did a H2H2H with Hven, Hendrick’s and this Zuidam. First of all the Hendrick’s is the one best behaved. It’s nice and friendly and definitely the subtlest. You can’t go wrong with it and it a worthy sipper. The Hven is sweeter and a bit bolder. Bigger if you want, but also somewhat simpler. Another good sipper. This Zuidam however is something exceptional. It is big and dirty. Tasting the three side-by-side, this one seems to have some goût de pétrole you get in good Rieslings. Less typical Gin I guess, but very special nevertheless. For me a must-have.

Millstone 12yo “Sherry Cask” (46%, OB)

Non Scottish Single Malts a.k.a. world Whiskies are taking over the…uhhh…world. Sure, Scottish Single Malts are still in high demand, especially in countries that are fairly new to them. They are embracing them with much love, as long as the local government permits them to. However, there isn’t enough well aged Whisky to go around the world. Thus, opportunity knocks for the rest of the world to step up their game. Add to that the growing interest of local products and you know where this is heading. Some countries already had a prosperous Single Malt culture, but were ahead of their time, and almost didn’t manage to stay afloat for the current boom. Just look at the history of Irish and New Zealand Whisky to name but a few.Luckily most of them have survived and see a bright future ahead. Then there is a second group. Whisky from countries that didn’t have a blooming local Whisky culture, like Sweden and The Netherlands, again to name but a few, because there are many, many others. I already reviewed a Rye Whiskey from Millstone (Zuidam) from the Netherlands and this time we’ll have a look at a proper Single Malt Whisky. I still have an old expression with the cream label. As far as I know there were two small batches of this, one made up from only two casks, and one made up with three. I only don’t know which of the two I have here…

Millstone Sherry Cask 12yoColor: Orange brown.

Nose: Sherried, definitely Oloroso, but quite dry and elegant as well. Spicy with nice wood, but also some honey sweetness. Wonderful fresh (and slightly soapy) fruity acidity. Good spirit in good casks. I also get some licorice, quite surprising for a Dutch malt. Creamy vanilla, maybe from American oak. Towards the end some nice red fruit notes appear as well as some lavas. Nice development.

Taste: Very creamy but less integrated than the nose suggested. Some light raisins and warming. Almonds and a bigger nutty aroma altogether. The Sherry cask bestows even a winey note to the Whisky. On entry, the cream has a sweet edge to it, although the wood and the Sherry quickly overpower it with a nice and spicy dryness, never to let the sweetness take over again. I’m guessing Oloroso again, but probably a high quality one. A two-faced Malt. Towards the finish a medium kind of bitterness emerges, but in a soft way. It like chewing on a pencil. The finish itself is of medium length. In the aftertaste a slight burnt note, with even a hint of tar.

A Whisky which is great already and still shows lots of potential and is definitely something The Netherlands should be proud of. Kudo’s for Patrick and the Van Zuidam family.

Points: 84