Damrak Gin could almost be considered a style of its own, as it is almost perfectly halfway between a Genever and a London Dry style. Produced by Lucas Bols, one of the world’s oldest distillers established in Amsterdam in 1575, the recipe dates back to the 1700′s.
The Damrak name is more than a simple reference to one of the main streets of Amsterdam, as it nods towards the spice trade prolific in the country in the 1700’s. At that time, the Dutch East India Company held a monopoly on the spice trade from Indonesia and the Sub Continent, returning to its base the Damrak (Amsterdam’s main harbour) laden with herbs and exotic produce. All the way until the 1800’s, the Damrak became a central hub for merchant ships arriving from and departing to exotic ports around the world. It was because of this important mooring place and the spices available there that Lucas Bols named the gin Damrak Amsterdam Original Gin in the early 1700’s.
Despite its heritage, its name or the producer (famed for their Genevers), Damrak is not a classic Dutch gin. This is mainly due to the fact that it is made with both malt (like a Genever) and plain, unmalted grain (more traditionally associated with London Gins). The production is similar to Bols Genever, also part of the Lucas Bols portfolio, but the taste of liquid leans more towards London Dry than Dutch gin (whereas Bols Genever is almost perfectly the halfway mark).
Distilled five times and bottled at 41.3% ABV, the end spirit has a pronounced orange aroma with a smooth, creamy texture. With subdued juniper flavours coming to the fore, the 16 other botanicals; orange, citrus, honeysuckle and an array of spicy and sweet herbs combine to create a intricate mix that makes Damrak pleasant to drink over ice. This particular blend of botanicals also adds unique complexity to many drinks; such a Negroni as the orangey citric flavours compliments the Campari well. It is slightly lost in a G&T however and we would recommend it in cocktails where the fruit is used to the best advantage.
The bottle itself stands out. The shape is reminiscent of the original Bols stoneware crock featuring a swing top more commonly associated with ale bottles. The brand remains in the shadow of its more famous sister, Bols Genever, which clearly receives the lions share of both the budget and attention. Nevertheless, it continues to remain steady with a devoted following and along with the occasional marketing push, it manages to hold its share of the market. Damrak gin is never going to be a international big hitter, but is worth seeking out for those who like sweeter styles of gin, enjoy sipping it neat or those who are interested in seeing the evolution of the spirit from its historical origins.