Genever

Review: Compass Aquavit by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Compass Distillers

Image courtesy of Compass Distillers

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Nova Scotia corn and wheat with botanicals
Distiller Compass (Halifax, NS)

Aquavit is a spirit which is very popular in Scandinavia - it is made in a similar fashion to a gin, but with a very different flavour focus. While gin is focused on juniper and citrus, aquavit is focused on caraway, herbs, and spices. Compass makes their aquavit using caraway, dill, and fennel.

The aquavit began as an R&D product, but quickly was commissioned as a larger scale product once the balance was achieved. I find aquavits to be very interesting and hold a lot of potential for small producers, so I’m glad to see some more of them coming out.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose here is loaded with caraway and cumin, dill, and woody spices like brown cardamom. The palate keeps up the caraway and dill character, with generous herbaceous and dried lemon peel notes. The spices pick up nicely in the clean, herbal, and spicy finish that carries with it an impression of sweetness.

Mixes great in cocktails, too.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.


Review: Fort George Genever (Compass Distillers) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Compass Distillers

Image courtesy of Compass Distillers

ABV
43%
Aging
~1.5 years
Recipe
Nova Scotia rye, corn, and barley with botanicals
Distiller Compass (Halifax, NS)

Genever is a precursor to gin, with a large following in Holland and Belgium. It is similar to gin, but it emphasizes a heavy grain base rather than the light base used for gins. This genever is made from double pot-distilled corn, rye, and malted barley spirit. On the last run, botanicals are added to both the bottom of the still and a vapour basket, infusing the character of juniper, caraway, cinnamon, pink peppercorn, and frankincense into the spirit. The spirit is then aged in oak barrels in the Halifax citadel. So, not just a genever, but an aged one!


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose here is oaky and sharp, which balances out a rich, oily grain character underneath. Around the edges, there are loads of flavours – dill, caraway, juniper, lemon, and a surprising mineral character. The palate is grainy, loaded with complexity (particularly gin/caraway), vanilla, clove, pine, pepper, and juniper bush. The finish brings it all together – sharp juniper, toasted oak, hints of walnut, and black pepper.

For sipping, I much prefer genevers to gins. This shows why – it’s rich, deep, interesting, and just so different from what we normally drink in Canada. And this is a fine genever.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.


Review: Bols Genever by Jason Hambrey

Bols 1.jpg
ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
rye, corn, and wheat distillates
Distiller Bols (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Genever is where Gin originated - it was British soldiers fighting the Spanish in Holland who first developed a taste for this spirit, with a grain base (much like a whisky new make) which is steeped with botanicals such as juniper. It tastes much more like a whisky new make than it does a clean, citrusy gin. It is still the national spirit of Belgium and Holland.

Bols is the most influential genever brand in the world, with a recipe being produced which dates back to 1820. The distillery got its license in 1664, and Lucas Bols, the head of the company, had close ties to the Dutch East India Company which allowed easy access to spices for his genever. It's a very interesting spirit - I highly encourage those who haven't tasted it to give it a go! A lot of the flavour in the spirit comes from the triple distilled corn, rye, and barley - it is grain driven, unlike sister gins.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2018

It really reminds me of new make, but it has an appeal to it. Early on in my whisky enjoyment, I probably wouldn’t have liked this. I like it now. Rough and farmy, with a real farminess to it, but, behind, an edge of woody juniper and mixed spices – largely coriander. The palate is grainy and slightly hot, with a finish flourishing in farmy grain notes (sorry for the repetition – I mean by this something like a fermenting mash of grain – like a malt driven beer or a distillery). The palate is oily and rich, and the finish is spicy and woody and sweet – it’s a nice contrast.

It’s not something I’d put down a lot of money for, but it has a really nice raw essence to it and it’s the kind of thing I am tempted to reach for after a social engagement to wind down. 42% is a nice strength for it, too.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Glen Saanich Genever by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of De Vine Spirits.

Image courtesy of De Vine Spirits.

ABV
45%
Aging
None
Recipe
Malted Barley Base
Distiller De Vine Vineyards (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Genever was the original spirit that predates gin, developed in Holland and consumed starting from the 16th century - flavoured malt distilled with botanicals and used to cover up poor tasting spirit and for medicinal (and recreational...) uses. This then was found by the English who started then developed it to gin. It is still widely consumed in Netherland and Belgium.

When I visited De Vine vineyards, I tasted through all of Saanich’s spirits when I visited, and this is the spirit I chose to walk away with. Nicely balanced, good feel, and interesting. The malt base underneath works its wonders. I only bought a half bottle, but I wish I had taken a full....


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Fascinating nose. Really intriguing and spicy – lots of licorice and clove, with a terrific balance between citrus, herbal, and spice notes. Dried fruit notes come in too, and this is a full bodied spirit. It reminds me, in some ways, of homemade bitters (or, I suppose, purchased) which are added to gin. Beside other gins – you start to notice all sorts of interesting notes – tomatores, sea minerality...The palate is rich, complex, and spicy with great mouthfeel. This would mix well, and makes some great classic gin cocktails, including a nice take on a negroni. Terrific, rich spices. Star anise just shines through. It’s nice too since the coriander is quite present on the nose, but it fades to all sorts of other flavors throughout the palate.

I tasted through mostly all of Saanich’s spirits when I visited, and this is the spirit I chose to walk away with. Nicely balanced, good feel, and interesting. The malt base underneath works its wonders. I only bought a half bottle, but I wish I had taken a full....

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.