There is an old Dutch saying which goes like this: “A sailor’s best working compass is a glass completely filled with genever” . We were not sailors, since we had just landed on Schiphol airport, but we were in such a hurry to arrive on time at A.van Wees distillery de Ooievaar in order to fill our glasses with some great genever that we really needed a compass. We decided to take the train to Central Amsterdam. Then we walked through a nice bridge, passed next to some beautiful buildings and we finally arrived at the hostel were we had made a reservation for a small quiet room. We were welcomed by a kind blonde young receptionist, we checked in and left our luggage. Five minutes later we were on the road again. We were delayed for more than thirty minutes so, I made a phone call to Mrs F.van Wees while we were walking:
– Goodmorning Mrs van Wees, this is Spyros Patsialos from Greece.
– Oh, hello! Are you still in Greece? (!!)
– No, no. We are going to be there at ten minutes.
Soon after our telephone conversation, we were very happy to stand in front of an old, authentic, well preserved building, located at Driehoekstraat 10. We knocked the door of the last distillery left in Amsterdam and a few seconds later we were welcomed by Mrs Fenny van Wees, director and distiller of this traditional business. We apologised for our small delay and we started to talk.
– “Well, what do you know about genever? She asked me”.
– “Hmm, I have read a lot about it but I feel confused”. I responded to her. And then she started to talk about the Dutch spirit, while she was filling our glasses with it.
A.van Wees distillery de Ooievaar was built in 1782. The distillery is run by Fenny van Wees and the employees are just a few loyal workers. All products are exclusively made of pure natural raw materials, without the addition of artificial flavours. The drinks are coloured with natural colorants. Jenever (in English it is spelled Genever) is a typical Dutch drink. The word means , quite simply, juniper.
The production method is quite complicated. First of all different types of grains are fermented. The fermented liquid contains, of course, alcohol. But more alcohol than this is needed. As a result, the liquid wash is then three times distilled in copper pot stills. This product is called korenwijn, or maltwine. Maltwine is then distilled for a fourth time with herbs and juniper berries. The final spirit can be aged in oak barrels for even 20 years, or bottled directly. ‘A.van Wees distillery de Ooievaar’ produces 17 types of genever and each one of them has a different recipe and/or maturation time. The distillery also produces many different liquers, elixirs, flavored spirits and bitters. Mrs van Wees experiments all the time at her laboratory using, mixing and infusing different raw ingredients, botanicals and blends.