the stillery's ouwe
an old style hop genever
Ouwe is an “old style” Dinklewheat or Spelt Genever, made wit hops and poppie seeds but before we tell you more about this spirit let me first explain its name and the origins of Genever itself.
In Amsterdam, “Ey Ouwe” is something uttered in enthusiasm at first sight of an old pall, a buddy, an “ouwe pik ouwe pijp”. Freely translated “Ouwe” is like “you son of a gun”, but an “Ouwe” could also be your dad which would be closer to its true meaning of old man, old skipper, captain or chief as defined in the Dutch dictionary. Basically it means “old”, but don’t be offended. Just take it as a reminder and an invitation. A reminder of the briefness of our existence and an invitation to spend the little time we spend on this pale blue dot in good company.
While you are in good company and contemplating life, the universe and everything, you may feel you want to tell a story or two. So let us tell you one.
the history of genever
Have you ever met someone not at both a place and a time? Your answer is probably “No”. We can go places and spend time there. We can revisit the same place at different times. But revisiting the same time can only be done when time is recorded in one way or the other. Now there are ways to do this, now more than ever.
Yet in the 1200’s those ways were limited and in the past 800 years some of those records got lost or corrupted. When telling Genever’s origin story we are at the mercy of the doctors, the scientist and the early distillers of the 13th century, the literate few.
Forgive us if, in telling this story we play a little fast and loose with the facts. The thing is, the story has been told to many times already. What we know for a fact however is that Genever comes from the Dutch word for Juniper berry, Geneverbes. The first documented use of Juniper was in Bruges, Belgium, back when Belgium wasn’t Belgium and a war still had to be fought to unite the provinces of The Netherlands.
As a spirits enthusiast you may know juniper as one of the key ingredients in gin. And you may know gin because well you don’t live under a rock, you have a bustling social life and a keen sense of your surroundings. What I’m trying to say is; Gin is everywhere. Well, right up until the 90s of the 17th century, Genever was everywhere.
a little history lesson
Sixteensometing, the year that is, we, The Dutch plagued and plunder the earth only to set sail for home when our ships would not hold anymore booty. Just like any seafaring nation at the time, we did well, a Golden Age indeed. We were also fighting a costly war with Spain which lasted 80 years. This pressure cooker of circumstances made for a time of discovery and invention.
So the Dutch got really good at stuff. For example; distillation. In particular Genever. “Dutch Courage” it was mockingly called at the battlefront by the many English mercenaries fighting side by side with the Dutch. These guns for hire brought the malt wine and juniper distillate back to England.
Boatloads of the freshly distilled Genever were shipped across the North Sea. Then in 1690 when the demand for Genever was high, in an attempt to lower their dependency of Dutch Genever production the English ended the then gilded distillers monopoly. As a result many small craft distilleries opened all over Britain. Due to a lack of expertise it wasn’t as good as the Dutch Genever, so they named it Gin.
youth is wasted on the young
There are two styles of Genever Old and Young. We’ve shortly discussed the story of old Genever. Young style Genever just like old is also a child of war. Traditionally Genever contains quite some malt wine, a flavourful distillate with a rich malty taste.
It was during the Second World War when shortages in grain supplies throughout the country caused distillers to get creative. They started using other products like molasses, a thick blackish waste product from sugar production as a basis for their Genevers. With this new improvised way of production two categories were born, Old- and Young-style Genever.
So we spent a little time talking about the stuff of old. But what makes The Stillery’s Ouwe an “Old style” Genever? Just like its name is a wonderful example of Amsterdam slang, and has not much to do with the literal meaning of Ouwe, its second meaning, as just explained, refers not to the age of the spirit inside but to the old ways of preparation.
Bureaucracy brought us some strict rules to adhere to. Old-style Genever must contain a minimum of 15% malt wine.
Since everything spelt is our M.O. we decided to use 27% spelt malt wine as a basis. The recipe further contains two kinds of Hops distillates, Amarillo and Citra which add a certain freshness to the profile. We used Poppy seeds for body and an almond distillate for warmth.
Now to add some more fuel to the blazing fire of confusement, we did age our old style Genever, called Ouwe, for one month. We used White American oak to give the spirit a touch of vanilla and a warm brown colour. You may have noticed a glimmer of green too, this comes from an extra tincture of Citra hops.
In 2008 the Dutch and the Belgians reclaimed our beloved heritage by means of an AOC. AOC stands for “Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée” which is French and has surprisingly little to do with apples or oranges. It is a Label of Origin and protects Genever from the big bad outside world. From 2008 Genever may only be called Genever if it was produced in the Netherlands or in Belgium.