If you’re not familiar with genever, don’t think you are alone! A recent influx of genever/jenever into South Africa, as well as a number of domestic gin bottlings inspired by the spirit, probably means we should take note of The Netherlands’ native distillate.
By definition gin is a distilled spirits base, infused with juniper berries – without juniper it cannot be called gin! And despite having undergone many changes over the past 400 years, this basic requirement has remained unchanged.
Gin is a lot like genever – both contain juniper, for starters. Both also contain a range of other characteristic “gin” spices like anise, citrus, coriander and angelica.
But genever is not gin…
So, what is genever exactly? It’s like gin, but not as we know it…
Gin can be distilled from any raw material, while genever is always made from grains like rye, malted barley and corn.
Genever retains much of the flavour of its base grain ingredients and is often described as a cross between whisky and gin. As is the case with gin, juniper is an obligatory ingredient for genever, but unlike gin, juniper does not have to be the predominant flavour or even noticeable in the finished product.
Finally, another important difference between gin and genever is the absence of citrus in the latter.