I know, I know, the picture of the bottle is enormous but it’s because I’m in love. Bols Genever is now available for sale right here in Australia, only 3 years after global distribution was announced.
Why am I excited? A whole lot of reasons really, primarily because of the liberal use of Genever that Jerry Thomas made is his Bon Vivant’s Guide, and a stack of other great drinks, like the Flying Dutchman, that make use of this very unique spirit.
The modern revival of this product really starts with Dave Wondrich, and his fantastic Imbibe! which chronicled the life of Jerry Thomas, and the birth of modern cocktailing. Following the runaway success of the title, demand for the Genever style used by Thomas skyrocketed, but there was very little of it to be found, replaced over the years by different styles that reflected the evolving Dutch palate. Two years after the book was published, in 2008, Bols announced they would distribute the bottle you see above around the world. Finally, it is here.
The story of Genever and Bols too starts much earlier than that, as it says on the bottle, in 1575.
The story of Genever is the story of Dutch Colonial expansion. The Bols family held a major share in the VOC, better known these days as the Dutch East India Trading Company. As such they had access to the bounty of spices flooding into the country. The industrious Bols family quickly developed an astonishing 300 liqueur recipes to take advantage of these spices.
It would be another 89 years before the family produced Genever in 1664, but their distilling chops were well established by that time.
A further 14 years after that, in 1688, Genever really took off. As is their wont, the English had run out of royalty (a recurring theme in British history) and installed a Dutchman on the throne, William III. The clogged monarch introduced Genever and the public went mad, getting extremely drunk (a recurring theme in British culture). As happens all around the world, popular products beg local imitation, the Brits tried their hand and came up instead with Gin (another of the reasons I love this spirit so).
Fast foward again, another 132 years, to 1820. Genever gets close to what we have in the bottle that sits atop this piece. Technology caught up with ambition and enabled production of rich malt wine, a flavourful distillate of wheat, corn and rye, run thrice through a copper pot. This malty goodness is then married with a botanical distillate of a very special recipe, containing, but not dominated by juniper.
The advent of the class of sporting gentlemen in the States created a huge demand for distilled spirits, and at the time Jerry Thomas stood, blazing behind a bar, US imports of Genever exceed Gin by a factor of six to one. This dutch spirit then, is the authentic way to enjoy Collins, Slings and Sours.
The malty base does cause a bit of a learning curve in mixing, but it’s one I am looking incredibly forward to progressing.
You’ll be able to find it at Dan Murphy’s and I think that type of distribution is fantastic for a spirit as storied and fantastic as this. Expect to pay about $50, which is really quite the bargain.