Re-released in 2008, Bols Genever is an essential addition to any gin shelf, especially if you are seeking to make authentic cocktails. It provides a unique opportunity to taste the sweeter style of gin’s original form – Genever – using a Lucas Bols’ original recipe dating back to 1820.
To write anything about Bols Genever however, is to attempt to tackle the history behind the origins of gin as a whole, as well as the legacy of not only the oldest distillery brands in the world, but one of the oldest Dutch companies still active today.
At 42% ABV, Bols Genever is triple distilled using over 50% maltwine (made from triple-distilled rye, corn and wheat) and neutral grain spirits. The use of a maltwine base is what sets genever spirits apart from London Dry styles generally, as the sweeter base spirit provides more floral and sugary notes. Without sidetracking too much into the history of Genevers (also known as Jenever), the original Bols Genever recipe of 1664 would bare more resemblance to what we know today as cornwine, most likely containing over 70% maltwine base, sugar and maybe even matured for a few years in oak casks.
However, the balanced approach of maltwine, grain spirit and carefully chosen botanicals used in the creation of todays Bols Genever, is in keeping with the revolutionary Lucas Bols recipe from the 1820’s. It results in a spirit that combines the maltwine base sweetness with the smooth qualities that neutral grain spirit distillation brings. The original release of Bols Genever became a hit in the US in the late 1800’s with the growing cocktail movement that was rising there adopting the spirit as the base to many classic concoctions of that era.
On the nose Bols Genever has strong grain and malt tones, complemented by sweet subdued juniper, honeysuckle and citrus notes. Rich and smooth on the palate, the liquid is a vibrant, younger type of genever, complex and full of depth. The 50-50(ish)-production process makes it lighter in body and more versatile than other an Oude Genevers and it is easy to see how it could be used in classic cocktails.
The bottle is reminiscent of the traditional cylindrical clay jug shapes of previous genever incarnations, with a short history on the rear label. In itself the bottle is the perfect summary for what Lucas Bols has tried to do – re-release an old classic but modernise it so that it is accessible and versatile enough to meet modern tastes and industry demands.
The Lucas Bols BV. brand portfolio consists of Bols, Galliano, Vaccari, Pisang Ambon, Goldstrike and a large group of Dutch genevers and liqueurs. It produces around 3 million cases a year, with yearly revenues exceeding 95 million euros. Their history, heritage, continuing production and portfolio diversity is too large to merely add as an amendum to a gin post and we will be writing a feature on them soon.
In the meantime for those interested, here is their wiki entry.