Jenever tasting in Amsterdam

Jenever is the national liquor of The Netherlands and Belgium, and while we’re quite partial to a gin and tonic, we’d never heard of Jenever, which happens to be gin’s ancestor.. time to get acquainted..

Wynand Fockink, Amsterdam

The Wynand Fockink distillery is on Pijlsteeg, a narrow backstreet just off the main Dam Square in the centre of Amsterdam

We booked ourselves on a 1 hour tasting session at the Wynand Fockink distillery which was established in 1679, but Jenever is known to be much older. We’re glad we reserved a place by email as there was quite a crowd waiting outside before the start of the weekly tastings.

Jenever tasting, Wynand Fockink, Amsterdam

After a short introduction about the history of the drink, the company, and how it’s made it was time to start tasting!

Jenever tasting, Wynand Fockink, Amsterdam

The alcohol in Jenever comes from fermented sprouting grains, which is then triple-distilled before being flavoured with spices and juniper berries – or ‘jeneverbes’ in Dutch – which is where the name comes from. (In Dutch the ‘J’ is pronounced like a ‘Y’ in English, so now you know how to ask for it!)

Julie and I at the Jenever tasting, Wynand Fockink, Amsterdam

Julie and I sampling the limoncello course.. Mmmm!

Andre our guide went on to explain Wynand Fockink produce essentially 2 types of Jenever and a host of different flavoured liqueurs:

  • Jonge Jenever – Young Jenever. In this case young refers to the age of the recipe not the ageing of the spirit!
  • Oude Jenever – Old Jenever. The original (and best!) recipe.
  • .. and Flavoured Liqueurs – For these the alcohol base is bought in and infused with pretty much any flavour you can imagine!

The tasting started with the Jonge Jenever which we thought akin to vodka. We found it quite harsh but not unpleasant – certainly nicer than drinking neat gin. Next up was the Oude Jenever which we thought had more flavour – the spices and juniper came through more and and it was easier to drink. Both of these are aged in metal drums for about 6 months, but Wynand Fockink’s Superior Jenever is matured for about 3 years in old wooden Jack Daniels barrels and the Tennessee sour-mash easily dominates the subtlety of the spices.

3 stills, Wynand Fockink, Amsterdam

The 3 recently renewed stills of the Wynand Fockink distillery where the alcohol for their triple-distilled Jenever is produced

Andre then started talking about the many flavoured alcohols that the small distillery produces, and offered a taste of one of our favourite liqueurs – limoncello! After two different varieties, he said they have a flavour for every occasion or event in a person’s life, some with cheeky names like “Hansje in de Kelder” which translates as “Hansel in the cellar”, and is a Dutch saying similar to the English “a bun in the oven” – although they no longer recommend it for pregnant ladies!

The final round, Jenever tasting, Wynand Fockink, Amsterdam

We also got to sample a few of the many flavoured spirits or liqueurs they make. Left to right they are: “Half and Half” – a blend of orange liqueur and spice infused liqueur (cloves and cinnamon); “Hansje in de Kelder” – “Hansel in the cellar” which tastes of orange, apricot and lemons; “Volmaakt Geluk” – which means “Perfect Bliss” and tastes of violets and roses; and “Drop” – salted liquorice, our favourite along with their limoncello!

Next was his personal favourite flavour: “Drop” – which is liquorice in Dutch, and one of my favourite flavours too! While I was sipping away he said the sweet, salty taste is great for alleviating sore throats. Of the flavoured ones we tried, this and their limoncello were our favourites.

Flavours, Wynand Fockink, Amsterdam

The back wall is full of giant glass jars where they steep the ingredients for flavoured the liqueurs

In the end we sampled 3 Jenevers and 6 different liqueurs in about an hour. After the tasting session finished they opened up the bar next door to the public, but not until we’d had chance to visit their extensive gift shop and get another round in!

2 thoughts on “Jenever tasting in Amsterdam

  1. Keith

    Hi Guys

    I tried the Oude Jenever and must admit was not a fan I am afraid. Enjoy Amsterdam beautiful city


    1. Andrew Post author

      The Oude Jenever was better than the Jonge, but I think we reached a similar conclusion as we much preferred the sweeter liqueurs


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