After writing about Filliers last week, I’m shifting my focus to The Netherlands, to take a closer look at Bols, the biggest Genever brand in the world. This Dutch company traces their distilling roots all the way back to 1575, although that seems more legend than fact. Whatever the case, this is a company that has been around for many centuries.
While the company is called Lucas Bols, it was his father Pieter Bols who started it. Most likely it was founded in 1649 (link in Dutch), when Pieter bought a house on the Rozengracht in Amsterdam. He was originally a producer of liqueurs. Ingredients were readily available in Amsterdam at the time because of the Dutch East India Company trading all over the world. Cinnamon from Asia, orange-blossom and citrus fruits from de Mediterranean and the Caribbean, cloves from Africa, vanilla beans from Tahiti, and so on.
Pieter Bols died when Lucas was not yet of age, so his widow made sure the company stayed afloat. Lucas Bols took over in 1678, several years after (according to the company website) the distillery actually started making Genever, which was in 1664.
The old Lucas Bols Distillery in Amsterdam, circa 1920
Bols have been making Genever ever since, and are at the forefront of the Genever revival in bars all over the world. The reintroduction of Bols Genever in the United States in 2008 was a crucial moment. It might not’ve been embraced immediately, but riding the coattails of gin, (Bols) Genever is now a staple in many of the top bars in the world.
Today I’ll try Bols Zeer Oude Genever. As it is Oude Genever, this must contain at least 15 percent malt wine. The rest is a neutral (grain) spirit. I couldn’t tell you exactly how much malt wine is used, although I did find a source mentioning 19 percent, but that was 10 years ago. A lot can change in a decade.
I’m trying to find out more about the recipe, including botanicals that were used. As soon as I know more, I’ll update this post. One thing I will mention, just to make sure that’s clear: this is an unaged spirit.
Bols Zeer Oude Genever (35%)
Nose: Displaying a nice maltiness, accompanied by resin, pine sap and a distinct juniper aroma. Finally some cumin. Taste: Fresh and subtle. The grain isn’t in the lead, but it’s always there as a base for other flavours to shine on, such as aniseed and licorice. Finish: Juniper notes linger for a little while.
Lovely fresh and accessible. Does exactly what it needs to, and I can see this working both as a fine base for a cocktail, or as a boilermaker.