Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Hollands Gin

A totally random article today. Not even about beer. This one is about jenever. I've posted it because, well, there's so little in English about jenever out there. Enjoy.

A few months ago, during our inquiries into the margarine question in Holland we took occasion to examine Hollands gin as drunk in Holland, extending our investigations into it as distilled, as flavoured for the English market, the American market, and the Cape. In our issue of Dec. 16th we gave some of the results to our readers as follows :


The reason why this spirit has not advanced more rapidly into public favour has been in a great degree owing to the fact that really high-class Geneva has, until recently, not been obtainable. The spirit commonly sold as Hollands gin in England is of a kind which a Dutchman would regard as an interesting curiosity, but would decline to run the experiment of drinking. It is becoming increasingly difficult to secure a pure spirit. If we take, as an example, whisky, we find that the enormous increase in the sale of this spirit during the past few years has (ed to the flooding of the market with so many blends of malt grain and potato spirit, that the whisky drinker is bewildered. If he be not wise enough to strictly confine himself to what is guaranteed to be a genuine article, such as John Jameson's and Old Bushmill's in Irish whiskies, or Lennox's pure malt whisky in Scotch whiskies, he pays the penalty of his trustfulness by headache and nausea. But high-class whiskies afford the owner of a number of * tied houses,' or the individual publican, far less profit than the 1 faked' ones, and it is usually only in the best hotels that genuine whisky is to be bought retailed, the ordinary public-house being the medium by which the blends of malt, grain and potato spirit are disposed of. Slowly, but yet perceptibly, there is a turning from whisky as there was from brandy, and for the same reason, viz., the difficulty of obtaining a genuine spirit. There has thus come about a gradually growing demand for Hollands gin, which many medical men now recommend to spirit drinkers in preference to suspicious whiskies. For this reason the makers of high-class Geneva are giving more attention to English requirements than they have hitherto done, and at last the real Geneva loved by the Dutchman is obtainable in this country. We have recently compared a dozen well-known Hollands gins of various makers, consisting of those mainly drunk in England, and of gins drunk exclusively in Holland hitherto unobtainable in this country. We find that those having the largest sale in England are not the product of one distillery, but blends of spirit purchased from a number of petty distillers of varying character and quality, and which are, as is the case with so many Scotch and Irish whiskies, ' faked ' for the English market. The growing demand in England for Hollands gin, however, has led the largest of the Dutch distillers—' the John Jameson of Holland '—Mr. H. C. Jansen, to offer his 'Goldfinch ' brand of Hollands gin to the trade in the United Kingdom. What John Jameson is in Ireland, Mr. Jansen is in Holland—his own maltster, and unapproached as a distiller. The connoisseur in Schiedam drinking asks in Holland for the ' Goldfinch,' aa the Irish whisky judge asks for his John Jameson. The ' ten year old Goldfinch' Schiedam, in particular, ia a spirit devoid of what to many is the obnoxious character of the commonly known Genevas, of admirable flavour, and the perfection of a pure spirit."

In the interests of a section of its advertisers Ridley's Wine and Spirit Trade Circular characterises our statements as " a libel of the grossest kind, which is not modified by the inference that a comparative parvenu is the only genuine purveyor." The suggestion is further offered that we ought to be " brought within the criminal code." It is only by an accident that we came across this specimen of what trade journalism can descend to, and we doubt if the few dozens it circulates make it worthy of our notice, but it has not been our custom to permit any journal, however insignificant, to accuse us of mis-statement, and in this case we must even give Mr. Ridley a well-merited correction. In the first place, as to the flooding of our markets with blends of potato spirit, malt, and grain whisky, we have before us a letter from a German house asking us if we can buy potato spirit, and informing us that they can show us many recommendations from leading firms who are using it.

This is the class of spirit of which Dr. Woodside wrote in our issue of December 30th :—

" Two kinds of whisky are known in the bond, one, the old sort made from home grown grain. Corn, rye, and barley, is not ' ripe' for drinking, till it has 'matured,' for which purpose it should be kept from five to seven years in wood. It is known by the name of pot-still whisky, seven-tenths of the whole of the whisky in the land belongs to the other kind, and is known as new patent whisky, and is produced in this country from yellow Indian corn, but may be made from almost anything under the sun.

It is hot, vile rubbish, burning the throat, and poisoning the brain, and does not improve by keeping. Indeed it is often swallowed at the public-house bar inside thirty-six hours from the time it left the still. And the producers are glad to have it so, for I believe if kept for over two years, it will undergo a process of rotting, as mariners know their casks of water do on board-ship,"

How this trash and the vile rubbish we commented upon ia doctored for the market, is referred to in a recent number of The Wine Trade Review, which

"Understands that another method of rapidly ageing or maturing whiskies haul been developed by Mr. J. A. Nettleton of Belfast. His methods are preferably applied during the distilling operation, but are also said to be applicable in dealers stock to finished whiskies.''

In recommending, therefore, to our readers to avoid such " faked " spirits, and stating which spirits our examinations have shown to be of unquestionable quality, we do a necessary duty whioh, however objectionable it may be to journals of the " reptile" press order, we shall not swerve from. As to Holland's Gin, to which our critic takes exception, our advice to the writer in Ridley's is to do as we did, make personal examinations in Holland. He will then find hie statements a tissue of falsehoods from start to finish. He will find that the Holland's most commonly drunk in England is, as we have stated, a blend made from the product of any number of small distilleries, that Mr. Jansen the distiller, whom he calls " a comparative parvenu," and whose Holland's we recommended, actually distills annually three-fifths of the whole Geneva distilled by 302 distilleries in Holland, that he is in addition his own maltster, and can thus guarantee quality and purity of his spirit, which those who are merely blenders, buying small quantities here, there, or anywhere, cannot do. Ridley's give a list of a number of firms, who, it says, sell genuine Geneva. We do not say they do not. We merely give the results of our own examinations. We might go further, and say that the Hollands in question, is not only of the highest quality, but that it is some sixty per cent. cheaper than those hitherto offered to the trade in this country. The moral, however, of this is obvious—there is no paper so consistently and dangerously mendacious, as the so-called trade one. It is the province of trade journals to " scent out that which pays them best, and go for it baldheaded," to defend alum in baking powder, infants starving by skimmed condensed milk, chemical " swipes " as beer, crushed dates, Indian corn, potato, &c , spirit as whisky, all of which may be very profitable to the maker, brewer, or distiller, but is injurious to the trader, the publican, and the consumer. We should hear less tirades against the evils of drink if trade journals did their duty, and not only told traders what were pure spirits, &c, but warned them against those that are " faked." The lager beer prosecution, in our present issue, is a case in point. We warned the trade months ago of this adulteration, but the trade journals, as usual, denied the practice.
"Food and Sanitation volume 4", 1894, page 42

1 comment:

Gary Gillman said...

What this is referring to is the use of spirit distilled in a column still at a high proof to form the base of a geneva gin blend. Originally, geneva gin was distilled, as all whisky was, in pot stills to a proof which did not exceed that for distillation of Cognac brandy in similar vessels. The product, as the article implies, often needed long aging to gain its particular character (George Saintsbury states the same in his Notes on a Cellar-Book). You needed to age it to modify and eliminate certain co-products of fermentation which often had an oily taste.

Later (mid-1800's), distillers started to blend cheaper column still spirit with this oude genever - oude because made in the old pot still way, not because it was aged, although some was - to reduce the selling cost. The column still is a more advanced, industrial still. It makes large quantities of spirit distilled out generally at a high proof (around 95% ABV), which is essentially flavourless because rectified to near-neutrality. Since it comes out largely without taste, inexpensive grain is often used for such distilling. Why use expensive malted barley when the final result won't taste of the fermentables used?. Corn, rye, wheat were often used to make this column still base spirit, because cheaper than malted barley.

Sometimes molasses was used, or sugar beets. The blended geneva gin was therefore lighter and more neutral in character than traditional genever.

The analogy with whisky is close, in that a similar development characterized whisky production in the 1800's. For whisky, it was finally decided it could be made in any kind of still, provided grain was used to make it - not molasses or other such sugars - and it was aged at least 3 years. I believe genever gin's definition is more flexible, and much of the gin sold in Holland today has a neutral base spirit, whether made from grain or sugar of some kind, blended with a small amount of true oude genever, whcih is called "moutwijn" by distillers.


P.S. In the late 1800's, the production of the column still still was not fully understood. There is nothing unhealthy about such spirit, if anything, it is purer than pot still spirit because devoid of most of the fusel oils and other co-products of fermentation which traditional spirits have and which only long aging in wood can modify or eliminate. You don't need to age column still spirit, which is a vodka-like, clean-tasting spirit. Still, all Scotch or Irish whisky today must be aged at least 3 years.