Jenever (also known as junever, genievre, genever, jeniever,
peket or in England as Holland gin), is the juniper-flavored and strongly
alcoholic traditional liquor of the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France
(Nord département), from which gin evolved. Believed to have been invented by
a Dutch chemist and alchemist named Sylvius de Bouve, it was first sold as a medicine in the late 16th century. In the
17th century it became more popular for its flavor.
Traditional jenever is still
very popular in the Netherlands and Belgium. European Union regulations specify
that only liquor made in these two countries, two French provinces and two
German federal states can use the name jenever.
Jenever was originally produced by distilling maltwine (moutwijn in Dutch) to
50% ABV. Because the resulting spirit wasn't palatable due to the lack of
refined distilling techniques (only the pot still was available), herbs were
added to mask the flavour. The juniper berry (Jeneverbes in Dutch, which
comes in its turn from the French genievre) was chosen for its alleged medicinal
effects, hence the name jenever (and the English name
Jenever evolved from malt wine spirits, and is a distinctly
different drink from later styles of gin. Jenever is distilled at least
partially from barley malt (and/or other grain) using a pot still, and is
sometimes aged in wood. This typically lends a slightly malty flavor and/or a
whisky. Jenever is typically lower in
alcohol content and distinctly different from gins distilled strictly from
neutral spirits (e.g. London dry gin).
There are two types of jenever: "Oude" (Old) and "Jonge" (Young). This is not a
matter of aging, but of distilling techniques. Around 1900 it became possible to
distil a high-graded type of alcohol almost neutral in taste, independent of
the origin of the spirit. A worldwide tendency for a lighter and less dominant
taste, as well as lower prices, led to the development of blended whisky in
Great Britain, and in the Netherlands to Jonge Jenever. During the Great War
lack of imported cereals, and hence malt, forced the promotion of this blend.
Alcohol derived from molasses from the beet-sugar industry was used as an
alternative to grain spirit. People started using the term ‘Oude’ for the
old-style jenever and ‘Jonge’ for the new style, which contains more grain
instead of malt and can even contain plain sugar-based alcohol.
In modern times, jenever distilled from grain and malt only is labelled
jenever can contain no more than 15% malt wine and 10 grams of sugar per litre.
Oude jenever must contain at least 15% malt wine but not more than 20 grams of
sugar per litre. Korenwijn ("cornwine") is a drink very similar to the 18th
century style jenever and is often matured for a few years in an oak cask; it
contains from 51% to 70% malt wine and up to 20g/l of sugar.
Hasselt and Deinze, Belgium, and Schiedam and Groningen, the Netherlands, are
famous for their jenevers.
Jonge jenever is sometimes served cold from a bottle that has been kept in a
freezer. However, the higher-quality oude jenever (and korenwijn) is usually
served at room temperature. When jenever is drunk with lager beer as a chaser,
it is referred to as a kopstoot (headbutt).