I know, I know. Genever is not the first thing that enters your mind each time you think of Amsterdam. Magic mushrooms, coffeeshops, red light district, tulips, bicycles, nice and clean streets, blonde girls and nice small bridges are more common keywords used by people who visit this wonderful city of the Netherlands. But there is a place in Amsterdam on the Museumplein square, which is really interesting for every kind of visitor. If you are looking for some historic facts, like which is the oldest distilled spirit brand in the world and who was Lucas Bols, or if you just want to satisfy your senses during a spectacular journey through the “World of Flavour” then this is the right place for you: House of Bols, which was our first stop during our genever research. Everything was in there: The stone jar (a historic bottle aka “genever kruik’ ), 36 liqueurs, the Hall of Taste, a 280º film, the Mirror bar. And despite the fact that I was not expecting to learn many things about genever in a place which was looking more like a “tourist attraction”, I was totally wrong. Having spent more than two hours inside the Bols house, I really had some great time there. Here is what I have learnt there about Bols genever:
- 1575: The Bols family sets up a liquer distillery.
- 1664: The Bols family starts producing genever.
- 1688: William I, King of England introduces genever to the British. Genever becomes the forerunner of Gin (The gin recipe is based on genever with the addition of more juniper berries, coriander and lemon peel).
- 1820: Bols Genever recipe is optimised into smooth, powerful spirit that is ideal for cocktail mixing.
- 1823: Bols ships its first load of liquers and spirits in the United States.
- 1880: Genever conquers the world and is used in many cocktails. The import of genever in the US is six time larger than gin’s.
- 1883: The first Bols Corenwyn (aged & blended genever distillate) is launched from the Lucas Bols oak cask reserves ‘t Lootsje.
- 1920: Bols launches its first ready made cocktail in a cocktail shaker shaped bottle: The Manhattan!
- 1973: Jonge genever is created.
- 2007:House of Bols and the Bols bartending academy are opened.
Still reading and wanna know more things? More real facts follow:
For a long time Bols has been using second hand ceramic jugs which contained mineral water and were imported from the Ardennes and the German Westerwald (drinking water in Amsterdam was very bad because of the huge population increment). In the old days house numbers were not used and every building had its own name. Same goes for ‘t Lootsje (= the warehouse). In 1700, six stills were to be found in there. Maltwine is the heart and main component of Bols genever. In fact, maltwine is the heart of every good genever. This is an aromatic distillate made from three different types of grain: corn, rye and wheat. These are left to ferment and then they are triple distilled in copper pot stills. The result is a very smooth and malty (whisky like) distillate at 47% abv (alcohol by volume). Bols genever is made from maltwine and botanical distillates, including juniper berries. The juniper berries distillate is maltwine redistilled in small copper pot stills with … juniper berries. Today, in ‘t Lootsje warehouse, Bols corenwyn genever matures in oak casks from Limousin. After maturation Bols genever gets a light golden color and a rich bouquet of sweet oaky flavors.
Tired of reading? Take a look at Vangelis Patsialos‘ wonderful pictures.