Malt-wine is similar to an un-aged whisky, being a double-distilled mixture of rye, wheat and corn. It is only distilled to around 50%, which leaves a lot of impurities in the form of malty, grainy flavours. Historically, these flavours were masked by the addition of herbs, notably juniper, which gave the drink its name. Neutral spirit is like a very pure, high-strength vodka distilled from grains or molasses. For the purposes of jenever production it is re-distilled with the producers chosen blend of botanicals before being blended with the malt-wine.
Jonge jenever is a new style that emerged in the last century. It has a very high proportion of the neutral spirit and came about partly due to a shortage of grain in the war years and partly due to the prevailing taste moving away from coarse, characterful spirits and towards a more neutral palate. It is the most similar to a modern gin in style, and the most suitable for mixing in cocktails.
Oude jenever is not so-named because of its age (it is unaged), but because it represents an older styler of jenever, more akin to the original jenevers than the modern Jonge style. Oude jenevers tend to contain more botanicals and must contain at least 15% malt-wine.
Finally, there is korenwijn, which must contain more than 51% malt-wine. These jenevers are the most characterful and flavoursome in style, and are cask-aged before bottling.
Typical Character and Style of Jenever
- Mixed Herb