This weekend I really had a wonderful weekend, a weekend that made me even prouder to be a Belgian! Sometimes I really forget that we have so many great products. One of these products we Belgians can be proud of is ‘Jenever’, in English it is known as Gin (don’t confuse with English Gin, which has the same base, but herbs are added) or juniper. This weekend I was lucky enough to visit the distillery of Filliers, one of Belgium’s biggest ‘warm’ distilleries. Why do I say Warm distilleries, well there are2 sorts of distilleries warm and cold distillers. You can compare it like you have what we call “warm” bakeries and ‘cold’ bakeries, where in the warm bakeries they make their bread, pastries, etc… from scratch. Whereas a ‘cold’ bakery will get everything delivered. In case of the distilleries a warm one will make its own Malt wine, (is like a kind of rough beer) that is the base used to make ‘Jenever’. Just to give you an idea, in Belgium there are less than 10 warm distilleries and most of them are in the East-Flanders region and not in the Limburg as most people (including me) have always been thinking. You might really be surprised the big Jenever brands that are actually not producing their own Malt wine.
Filliers is one of Belgium’s biggest warm distilleries and is good for around 1,6 million liters of Jenever a year… and is already existing from 1880, which gives that the current owners are already the 5th generation of distillers! So you can be sure that they have all the knowhow to make some good stuff 😉 and is also the reason why I wanted to visit this Belgian monument.
We do have to make a big distinction between the ‘grain jenever’ and the ones you find with fruit flavors. As the production of the ‘grain’ ones is much more complicated and time consuming than making the ones with fruit flavor. As for the ‘Fruit’ jenever they will just mix the alcohol with the fruit. For the grain jenever the malt wine will be distilled 2 times (1st time in column kettle and second time in alembic at 85°C as alcohol heats quicker than water), wrests in barrels (bourbon and Sherry barrels) and after this has been done, and only after this has happened they will heat the ‘alcohol’ (as you could call it) together with the famous Gin berries that will give the particular taste to the Jenever.
I’m sure you guys have already heard talking about Old and Young Jenever. The big difference between both is actually that that Old one is made in the old way of making Gin and the Young in the new way… it is as simple as that 🙂 So not really the age of the Jenever as you might think.
What gives the different color to the older Jenevers is the type of wood of the barrel, not what has been inside the barrels (as for Jenever they always re-use barrels previously used for Bourbon or sherry). Once the Jenever is bottled, it will NOT age anymore, so basically 8 year old jenever will always stay 8 years old 🙂
My (and I’m sure everybody’s) favorite part of the tour is the tasting 🙂 Ok, the tasting was at 11 in the morning, but I’m sure it was 5 pm somewhere else in world 🙂 :-). On top of that I didn’t want to be rude or offensive against the people of Filliers.
The first (yes, there were more) I tried was the traditional grain jenever or ‘druppeltje’ as people used to call them.
My second tasting was actually one on request, as during our tour, I was told that Filliers does not only make Jenever, but also makes one of the few Belgian Whiskeys… (Again, I’m sure somewhere it would have already been afternoon). I’m not really a whiskey drinker or expert, but I did like the aftertaste of this 12 year old malt whiskey… it had tones of vanilla.
I must say that my tour at Filliers was very interesting and I would really recommend it to everybody and not only the tasting ;-). Even if you are not really into drinking alcoholic drinks I’m sure that Filliers will have a product of your liking, I know I found a few :-). I have to thank Philippe (the Guide) for giving me a taste of the wonderful world of Jenever! (FYI, if you visit the distillery, 1 euro per visit goes into funds for handicap people)