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Bols Genever

Review: Bols Genever   87.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published March 21, 2016

Lucas Bols advertises itself as the oldest distillation company active in the world today with origins that trace back to 1575. After 440 years, the company has grown to become one of the leading global concerns in the spirits industry. Bols has a presence in over 110 countries selling liqueurs, vodka, gin, and genever. The wide range of  liqueurs is particularly impressive. With 36 naturally flavoured liqueurs, the company can boast the widest range of liqueur flavours in the world.

According top the Bols Genever website, Lucas Bols began distilling Genever in 1664.  In fact, genever is the juniper-flavored spirit from which modern gin evolved. Traditional genever is still very popular in the Netherlands, and I remember as a child when my parents would go back to Holland (where they emigrated from), and when they would return they would bring back a bottle of dutch genever which was not available in our hometown.

Bols Genever is based upon a recipe which Lucas Bols introduced in 1820. The spirit is produced from malt wine distillate which is made from long-fermented rye, corn and wheat which is triple-distilled in copper pot stills. This malt wine, is then infused with a carefully selected distillate of botanicals and brought to 42% alcohol.

Note: Genever is a protected spirit much like cognac and tequila as EU regulations specify that only liquor made in Belgium, Holland, two northern French departments, and two German federal states can use the names jenever/genever/genièvre when producing the spirit.

Bols Genever SAM_2415In the Bottle 4.5/5

Bols Genever arrives in the tall cylindrical bottle shown to the left. The bottle is sealed with a synthetic cork. When I set the bottle upon my review shelf next to the other gins I have been collecting lately, I must say that it commands a certain presence. The smokey bottle and the labeling are attractive, and in a retail setting I would certainly be enticed to see what this bottle was all about.

My only quibble with what I see is the very small neck at the top of the bottle. Short necked bottles are much more difficult to pour than long-necked bottles. However, I found if I was careful, I could pour a dollop of genever into my glencairn without spilling.

In the Glass 8.5/10

When I did pour that dollop of genever into my glencairn, I noticed immediately that this dutch spirit was much more complex and quite a bit different from the English-style gins which I more familiar with. Rather than being greeted with a clean piny juniper aroma in the glass, the scents and smells which reached up to me were much earthier, with warm, musty vegetal impressions drifting in the breezes. I do sense a firm juniper presence in the spirit, but it is disguised somewhat by the more dominant vegetal aspect of the spirit.

Besides juniper, the musty/earthy breezes above the glass  seem to bring me impressions of grilled pineapple as well as oven baked squash. There is also a spicy/grassy quality which reminds me of cilantro and coriander. The complexity of the aroma intrigues me. I suspect I am in for a few more surprises.

In the Mouth 53/60

The complexity I noticed in the breezes above the glass is reinforced as I sip upon the spirit. The first thing I notice is that the vegetal, earthy quality I identified on the nose comes across clearly through the palate. This vegetal characteristic is very similar in nature to what I have encountered when I reviewed several Cachacha spirits two years ago. (It would not surprise me if there were similarities in the manner in which both spirits were fermented and distilled.) I taste a light wine-like character within the spirit and a not so subtle maltiness. These flavour impressions are accompanied by hints of grilled pineapple and an almost herb-like spiciness. Running through everything is a clear Juniper presence which becomes more dominant as we sip.

The new flavours I have encountered (new for the spirit we call gin at least) have me wondering how I should approach the genever as a mixer. It occurred to me that Bols Genever being based upon a 1820 recipe may be the ideal spirit for me to explore early gin cocktails from the nineteenth century. To that end I reconstructed Leo Engels’ Gin Crusta recipe from 1878 (see recipe below) I was surprised by how nice it tasted. Afterwards I tried some of my favourite modern recipes, a Tom Collins and a Gimlet. Those recipes were nice as well; but the Crusta was by far my favourite.

In the Throat 13/15

The finish is spicy with impressions of white pepper and coriander building up as I sip. Within the spice are further earthy impressions of malt wine and juniper.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Bols Genever is a throwback gin produced similarly to  how the spirit used to be before the evolution of the column still and the advent of the London Dry Style. The genever features the softer more complex flavours which have resulted from slow fermentation and copper pot distillation. It may also true that this particular genever now represents a style of gin many enthusiasts may have to take their time getting used to and work towards cocktail styles which suit the spirit’s complex vegetal flavour profile.

My score of 87.5/100 reflects my appreciation of the genever spirit.

You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Cocktail:

This recipe is based upon the recipe for the Gin Crusta as found an early recipe book written by Leo Engels, (American and Other Drinks), which was published in 1878. The recipe provided by Engels is rather hard to follow because it bases its construction upon a recipe called the Fancy Cocktail, which in turn bases its construction upon a recipe called the Gin Cocktail. Weaving my way through the recipes I have brought forward Leo Engel’s Gin Crusta from 1878.

1878 Gin Crusta1878 Gin Crusta

2 oz  Gin (Bols Genever made with recipe from 1820)
1/4 oz lemon juice
1/8 oz of Orange Curacao
1/8 oz Sugar Syrup
1 or 2 drops of Angostura bitters
1 or 2 drops Fees Cocktail bitters
1/3 cup cracked ice
Lemon spiral (paring from half a lemon)
lump of ice

Rim a wine glass with a lemon slice
Dip the glass in powdered sugar
Pare 1/2 a lemon and place the paring inside the wine glass
Place the ingredients in a tumbler and strain into the wine glass
Add a small lump of ice

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret that score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing spirit.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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