Genever: Beyond Convention

06 August, 2013
Genever barrels

“It’s not really a collection because I keep drinking them,” he adds. “I think the producers of genever should push more – just look where single malts were 20 years ago and where they are now.” 

Educating consumers

As a producer, Van Zuidam agrees with Kratena. He says: “People are not yet familiar with the products and we the producers must spend lots of time educating the market about what is it and how do you drink it.” But he says one of the greatest challenges around the category is the number of poor-quality products seeping into the marketplace. 

“There are super genevers being made by a handful of good artisanal distillers. Unfortunately there are also lots of cheap, industrially-made genevers being marketed. “These could give genevers a bad reputation and explaining the difference to new consumers will be a challenge,” says Van Zuidam. 

For this reason, he is sceptical as to whether the product will reach the dizzy heights of its juniper relation. “I don’t think it will ever be as big as gin,” he says. “Not because its not a great product but because it’s still relatively unknown.”

Filliers’ Lanckriet says producers “don’t have the marketing budgets of the multinationals” but it’s not going to stop him from sowing the genever seed. “It’s important we keep spreading the word. The gin revival gives us a nice opportunity to tell our story and our historical connection with gin” he says. “We don’t have the budgets of the multinationals, so we have to be realistic and focus on the barmen/trade to tell our story. “But to be honest, it will be extremely difficult … but never say never.”

Genever’s number one fan Belmans is a little more optimistic and he, for one, hopes history repeats itself. “Gin is recovering and regaining its place on the global map, so why can’t genever?” he asks.

“It’s complex and it’s mixable, and no other spirit has more history (sorry Ian Burrell) than genever. The key is in the hands of the distillers. The average quality wasn’t that good for the past decades, and I’m glad we are seeing a change in strategy. 

“Since 2008, you see both big and small distilleries creating a new vintage style of genever, going back to the roots of it, good quality moutwijn redistilled in pot still with first-class botanicals, some aged in oak barrels.”

Belmans can’t resist adding the background to the story: “This is what I call 17 Provinces Genever, named after the period when Belgium and The Netherlands were one country, in the 16th century, and were called the 17 Provinces.”

Aside from an extensive knowledge of the category’s history, Belmans also sees an ‘in’ for its future. “I see many so-called typical whisky drinkers having G&T’s or other cocktails/spirits, so why could genever not be one of them in the near future?”

Genever producers: it’s time to make history. 

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