It seems elusive as the concoction whirls out of the nearly silver bottle. The aroma is like a familiar gin, but with an infusion of herbs and spices. At its first taste, Bols Genever is reminiscent of a variety of spirits – falling somewhere in between gin, whiskey or absinthe.
Lucas Bols, a world-renowned Dutch distiller of alcohol throughout the Dutch Golden Age, was born in 1652 – although it is widely accepted that the Bols family began distilling their spirits in 1575. Lucas Bols is responsible for the advent of the cocktail, along with the creation of over 300 different liqueurs, mainly due to the easy access to botanicals, herbs, and spices in Amsterdam.
The Bols family, because of its partnership with the Dutch East India Company powered the Dutch community through even the hardest of times – providing Amsterdam with the gorgeous merchant houses that line the streets to this day.
As with most Genevers, the Bols Genever distilling process begins in Shiedam, Netherlands. Using a windmill grinding process, corn, wheat and rye are pulverized to create a special flour. Using three copper distillers – each with its own purpose – the flour is added to water and yeast creating a distillate, which the Dutch refer to as maltwine.
This maltwine is then taken to the home distillers of the Bols family in Amsterdam. Next, a combination of star anise, orange peel, cherries and of course Juniper berries, along with other special herbs and spices are added using the same three copper distiller method as before.
The result is a tradition that spans centuries – Bols Genever. In 1688, William of Orange – the then King of Holland, who had not only married Princess Mary Stuart of the United Kingdom, but was also parented by his uncle, King Charles I of England – conquered England to liberate the Protestant people from the Catholic government. In doing so, King William also is credited with delivering genever to England. In the absence of the necessary grains, England began to produce their own Juniper accented spirit – gin.
While the original recipe came about in 1575, Lucas Bols revamped his genever recipe in 1830, which led to the American cocktail revolution. In fact, the original Holland House cocktail, the original Collins, and the original Old Fashion were first mixed with genever. In the legendary Bartender’s Guide by Jerry Thomas – the majority of the cocktails were originally printed with genever as the spirit of choice in each cocktail.
Today the Bols Genever tradition lives on, as it has for centuries. The only major change to this seasoned spirit is the updated design of the bottle. For centuries Bols Genever has been packaged in the same slender clay bottles. There have been some small redesigns, but now Bols has re-released their famed genever in a slender etched glass bottle, still reminiscent of the first clay bottles used in 1575.
This spirit is only now making its way back across the seas and onto American shelves. If you are lucky enough to live in one of America’s major cities, you might be able to obtain the Dutch gem. While you should certainly indulge in one of the limitless cocktail possibilities of the concoction, it is imperative that you first sip the liqueur free of any mix. The Bols family and their distillers have put centuries of passion into the spirit – and this passion can only be truly appreciated in its purest form.
So pour a small glass of genever, and breath in the intoxicating aroma of herbs and spices that have evolved into one of the finest spirits the world has to offer.
For more information about where to purchase Bols Genever, or simply how to order the “world’s most authentic spirit” online, visit www.bolsgenever.nl.