We do love genever at The Cocktail Nation and we wouldn’t be Belgian if we didn’t like Filliers. Now, the last couple of decades, genever suffered a bit from an image problem. That and 66 years of prohibition up and until 1985 didn’t do well for the juniper fuelled grain spirit in Belgium, but now Filliers aims to remedy this by introducing a whole new generation of genevers, especially catered to the modern mind and taste.
Genever is often cited as being the missing link between gin and whiskey. We think it’s much more than that, genever is the grandfather of gin and whiskey (and probably several more spirits). Written sources confirm the existence of a prototype of genever as far back as 1269 (genever berries boiled in wine), not much later we started distilling the wine with juniper berries, creating ‘Brandewijn‘ from which the word ‘brandy‘ is derived.
At first we used our own wine for this (yes we had wine back then), but climate change forced us to seek elsewhere for good grapes. We ended up in the Charente region of France and thought: “well, these are nice!”. Apparently there’s still a ‘Quai des Flamands‘ in the town of Cognac, large part of which is called Quai de Hennessy now. God knows why! 😉 So very roughly speaking we were actually distilling cognac before the French did.
After some hustle with the French and even more climate change, we were forced to change from grapes to (cheaper) grain. Rye and malted barley mostly and we still called it wine: maltwine or grainwine. We also had a bit of a quarrel with the Spanish, which lasted some 80 years and basically broke up the Low Countries into The Netherlands and Belgium. The English tried to help us out here and fought with us against the Spanish. Alas to no avail! And you know the British, whenever they visit a country they take something with them… as a souvenir. In this case, what they called ‘Dutch Courage‘, or the drink that was served to all the soldier before each battle, being genever of course. They went back home, tried to recreate it, failed miserably and couldn’t even pronounce the name of it. So they called what they had made ‘Gin‘.
Genever nowadays still has the image of being an “old man’s drink”, although the cocktail renaissance has done a lot to try to rekindle the flame, the larger public still thinks it’s something that only grandpa drinks. The fifth generation of the Filliers Distillers Family has decided to change this and made two “new style” genevers.
One, unaged, young style genever and four barrel aged impressions of it. The first one is the unaged, called “Young and Pure Genever” and it tastes indeed as they promised: like a well balanced hybrid between gin and genever. By the way, Filliers also makes gin of course, naturally, but they started it some time before the gin hype, like 1928 to be correct! ( The contemporary Filliers Dry Gin 28 is a recent reincarnation of this excellent gin).
Back to the genevers now. The juniper is well present with a strong hint of grain. It’s smooth and rounded, but also refreshing. The texture is velvet and oily, but not too much. It’s only 35% ABV, but somehow it didn’t strike me as a weak drink. It has enough taste, but remains neutral at the same time. It works very well in gin cocktails (as most genevers do). It’s a fantastic base product and it made me very curious about the aged ones.
The Barrel Aged 8 years old has a sweet note and a strong honey flavour with aromas of vanilla and spice. This is the result of 8 years ageing on American Oak barrels. This one is fantastic with red vermouth, but also with almost anything else (lime, ginger syrup and soda tastes great for example). A real crowd pleaser if you ask me, there’s nobody who doesn’t like this.
Besides the 8, they also have the 12, 17 and very exclusive 21 years old Genevers, which unfortunately I wasn’t able to taste, but I’m sure they are spectacular! So next Christmas, if you’re looking for gifts or presents, forget Whiskey or Bourbon, get them some Filliers Barrel Aged instead and they will love you for it! Speaking of whiskey, Filliers has just installed a brand new copper kettle to start distilling their own Single Malt very soon. So you can forget Scotch altogether and buy Belge very soon! 😉