Van Damme Distillery in Balegem (Belgium) is now ready for its 7th generation of distillers since 1862. And it’s an all female generation, three sisters: Sofie, Eva and Ilse Lampaert are taking over the helm in the only surviving farm-distillery of Northwestern Europe.
Photography by: Geertrui Van Goethem
Balegemse genever is a well-known spirit in Flanders and should be in the rest of the world too. For starters it has its own official AOC and the specific, characteristic flavour of all their distillates is very identifiable. In the 1800’s Belgium counted over 455 farm-distilleries yet two World Wars and 66 years of prohibition reduced this number to 1. Interestingly, most farm distilleries claimed that the genever they made, was actually a side effect of producing ‘wort’. Normally, one would think it’s the other way round, but they made a clear argument: the wort was used to feed the cattle and the manure this produced was extremely fertile for the fields. Well, I’m sure not only the cattle was happy.
It’s a unique piece of heritage which is well worth the visit, especially if you’re a genever aficionado like us. Also the family and friends at the farm are probably one of the most warmhearted, hospitable and passionate people I ever met. Balegemse genever is a fantastic genever with a very intense and characteristic flavour, a must have for every genever-lover. The three sisters decided to drop the old green glassware and replace it with clear glass bottles, a bit more slim and trimmed than the previous ones. The label is also modernised, but the link with the old one is still visually there. We actually like it a lot, it’s neat, clean and minimal with an obvious link to the heritage. Balegemse comes in 31, 41 and 51° ABV versions, the latter two are absolute masterpieces and work very well in cocktails too.
More info at the farm: Stokerij Van Damme .