Notaris & UTO. These were two words that I had kept in my mind since Philip Duff’s Gin Masterclass at Bar Academy in Athens, a few years ago. The first word refers to the only genever brand allowed to have the seal of Schiedam on bottle’s cap. The second word stands for ‘Uit Tegenweer Opgericht’, wich means ‘founded out of protest’ and refers to the glass company that was founded to produce the bottles that would be filled with this quality Holland spirit.
Having spent three days in Amsterdam for our genever research, we decided that we should kiss House of Bols and distillery de Ooievaar goodbye, in order to visit the Dutch province of South Holland, the city with the tallest windmills in the world and famous not only for “hosting” a lot of distilleries and malthouses but for its huge genever production, also: Schiedam. As long as we arrived there, we started knocking around the historical centre and finally we paid a call on distillery De Tweelingh, where the very delicate authentically traditional spirit, called Notaris, is produced. Although it was late on the afternoon, the people from Herman Jansen company, made us feel so welcome that we really wanted to learn everything about their products and their production process. Here is what we saw there:
One of the most important things in any kind of production, is the raw materials. Grains used in Branderij De Tweelingh are transformed into flour in the mills “De Nieuwe Palmboom” and “De Vrijheid”. The sacks of flour weigh about 70 kilograms each and are carried to the distillery with the use of a fork‑lift truck and a cart.
Next, the mash‑container is filled with water of 73 °C and the maize (corn) is added. By heating this up to 93 °C all the starch from the maize is dissolved. A little bit later, cold water is added and the temperature lowers to 67 °C. Then, rye and malted barley are added and it is during the next interval that the enzymes from the malt will make the starch convert into sugar. As you may remember, fermentation happens at lower temperatures than 30 °C. This is why the temperature in the mash‑container is brought down to 30 °C and fresh yeast is added. Then, everything is mixed thoroughly.
The fermentation takes almost 2 days (44 hours) to complete. The mash then contains nearly 5% alcohol and the content of the fermentation tank is pumped into pot‑still 1 or 2.
As happens with every spirit, genever production includes distillation. And this is the right time that the distillation must start. The liquid wash boils, the vapour rises into the “helm” and gets in the spiral tube of the wooden cooler through the vapour pipe. This cooler is filled with cold water and as the vapour of the alcohol finds its way through the spiral, it condenses. Through pipes the alcohol gets into tanks which have mainly been placed under the ground.
What remains in the pot‑still is known as spent-wash and is used as cattle forage. The distillate in the low wine charger is called “low wine” (ruwnat) and it has a low alcohol content of 12%. This low alcoholic spirit is distilled for a second time in another pot‑still. This second run’s distillate obtained, is known as the “single distillate” (enkelnat), it is collected in vats and contains 24% abv. This liquid is pumped into a buffer tank and then the single distillate is distilled for a third time in a pot‑still. This final product is the maltwine (moutwijn or bestnat) with an alcohol percentage of 46% abv and this is also collected in vats.
But hey! There is more than this: This maltwine is just the basis for an authentic and traditional genever as used to happen in Schiedam at the beginning of the previous century.To transfrom the maltwine into a drinkable spirit, it still needs some … adjustments. So, afterwards, the distiller splits up the maltwine into four parts: The first part, maltwine 46%, stays the way it is. The second part is distilled with spices to create “korenwijn 70%”. The third part is distilled in pot‑still with juniper berries to make “gebeide 70%”. The fourth part is distilled in a column still in a stronger form of maltwine of 75%, through which the taste of maltwine is diminished. And there we get four different incredible distillates which, of course, need to be blended.The blending or the “marry” of the four components takes place in the bottling‑room. To get the final percentage of 35%, the workers add some de-mineralised water. There the blend rests for two weeks, and after this period it is sampled by quality inspectors who compare it to former blends.
Then the Holland spirit passes through the bottling line. The bottles are rinsed and when they dry, they are filled by a rotating filler. After this, a closing and a bottle cap are placed on the bottle.
The different distillates composing Notaris are also matured in oak barrels. Notaris V.O. ( Very Old) is composed from these distillates after an aging period of at least three years. During maturation, almost 10% of the product is evaporated (called the angels’ share) and the taste improves dramatically through the interaction with the wood and the effect of oxidation.
Notaris, is the only genever brand allowed to have the municipality seal of Schiedam on the lid of the bottle. This seal dates from 1902 and indicates the authentic way of production, which guarantees that the distilled product is made of malt wine which is produced in accordance to the following rules:
1. the distillate must be distilled from at least malt and rye
2. no industrial alcohol or sugar may be added
3. no other product but maltwine may be distilled on the premises
For me and Vangelis, there was no better way to end our tour at “De Tweelingh Distillery” than tasting six unforgettable spirits that the distiller, Ad van der Lee, and the brand manager, Dez Veth, were very proud to serve in our glasses. Jonge Graanjenever (100% organic), Moutwijnjenever (100% organic), Moutwijnjenever V.O., Moutwijnjenever X.O., Moutwijnjenever V.X.O. and Vintage 1991 were all so great!