According to the Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 of the European Parliament and the Council of 15 January 2008 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks, products which have labels on them with the Geographical Indication Genièvre/Jenever/Genever must originate from Belgium, The Netherlands and a very few regions of France and Germany. In 19th century Holland and Belgium, genever consumption was enormous.
Considering all these facts we could not resist visiting Hasselt, a Belgian city and capital of the Flemish province of Limburg, where we easily located the National Genever Museum of Hasselt. Originally the museum was built as a monastery farm, but later the property was protected as the first industrial & archaelogical monument in Belgium. After a substantial restoration, it finally opened its doors on the 16th September of 1987.
The National Genever Museum of Hasselt, produces its own unique and geographically protected styles of genever. The latter is distilled in accordance with a 19th century recipe, in which we had the luck to be introduced by the distiller himself:
As expected, the process includes the malting procedure, where barley’s starch is converted into fermentable sugars. Then there is the grinding of the grains (barley, rye and malted barley) that takes place inside a mill, which is followed by the saccharification of the starch in the mash tun. This is going to be the “desired food” for the baker’s yeast which is added later for the fermentation, which lasts for 2-3 days. The yeast converts the fermentable sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It also produces a few volatile aromatic products, acids, aldehydes, esters and other elements that affect the taste of the malt spirit.
After the fermentation we finally get the desired alcoholic wash of 7-8 % abv, which is going to be concentrated during distillation. The wash is distilled first inside a column still and then it runs for a second time through a pot still until it reaches 65 % abv.
This refined distillate rests in oak barrels for 6 months and after this resting period it is filtered, mixed with a neutral grain spirit and then watered down to 40% abv. The blended spirit is then flavoured with an alcoholic extract of juniper berries, caraway and gentian and is finally ready to get into the jar bottles.
We tasted a few sample of the museum’s genever which I must admit that I found very interesting. I cannot say which one I liked more, but we both – me and Vangelis– agreed that the Belgian genevers had so many differences from Holland’s. Maybe you should give it a try whenever you find yourself around this nice peaceful city. It really worths and I am sure you are going to love it.