I’ve not been shy about declaring my admiration for Hooghoudt. They’re one of the few companies truly championing the Dutch genever category. (I’d be remiss not to mention Rutte and Zuidam also.) And they’re really catering to whisky drinkers with some of their recent releases, including the newest one, the Hooghoudt Aged 7 Years PX Single Cask.
There’s no use in regurgitating what I’ve written before, but I’d love it if you would read up on Hooghoudt. You can do so on this blog, as I’ve published some content and reviews. But my most comprehensive article on them and the cooperative they’re a part of, was published in Gin Magazine. This print publication has sadly been discontinued due to rising printing, paper and distribution costs, but the website is still going strong.
So, now that you’ve hopefully learned some more on Hooghoudt, let’s examine their latest release. For those of you not familiar with genever, it’s a grain spirit with a long tradition, predominantly produced in the Netherlands and Belgium. What’s important to know is that producers are allowed to use botanicals. What’s even more important to realise: it’s not gin. I can’t emphasise that point enough. GENEVER IS NOT GIN!
The best way to explain the difference between the two goes like this. Before botanicals are added to genever, it’s whisky. Before botanicals are added to gin, it’s vodka. So, what Hooghoudt are trying to do, is enhance their aged whisky (or maltwine, as it is called in the context of genever) with botanicals. Just to further clarify, Hooghoudt’s maltwine is about equal parts malted barley, rye and wheat. And for this particular release the maltwine has aged in a Pedro Ximenez sherry butt.
But back to those botanicals. Because this is going to blow your mind. Dutch juniper berries are a given. Without them it’s not legally allowed to be called genever. But they were used very sparingly for the Hooghoudt Aged 7 Years PX Single Cask. As were all botanicals. They’re supposed to work in harmony with the maltwine and PX cask.
Then there’s apricot, bergamot, clove and… smoked strawberries. I kid you not. It’s the first time I’ve heard of them being used as a botanical for genever. And I kind of love it. Quite ingenious. But how has it all worked out? Let’s find out together.
Hooghoudt Aged 7 Years PX Single Cask (56.9%, OB, C#1031)
Nose: Warm and inviting with roasted almonds, Maraschino cherries, dark chocolate and caramel, aided by notes of raisins, sultanas and strawberry gelato. Finally, but this might just be the power of suggestion, a whisper of barbecue smoke. Taste: Warm, oily mouthfeel with a gentle touch of sage, some cough syrup and licorice root, but balanced by sweeter notes of prunes, fudge and ripe strawberries. Slightly hot, but this lends itself perfectly for playing around with water. Figs, honey and dark caramel with a touch of tobacco. Highly enjoyable. Finish: Lingering spices. Pepper, ginger, nutmeg. A touch herbacious and pine-y too.
Another great example of how botanicals can enhance an aged grain spirit. I'd be interested to know why the Scots ever stopped doing this. Anyway, we still do it over here in the Netherlands, so everybody should just switch over to genever. I'm kidding of course, but it does open a whole new avenue of possibilities. Not all good, but in the right hands...