The American presence of Diep 9 genever begins with a love story.
After emigrating to the U.S., Flemish-born Veronique Beittel fell in love with an American, and married him in 2007. The wedding took place in Belgium where Beittel introduced her new American family to genever, the malted botanical spirit considered to be the great-grandfather of gin. Every time she returned to Belgium, she did so with requests from family to bring this genever back to the States. Eager to have regular access to her country’s national spirit, she quit her job in marketing and founded Flemish Lion LLC to import Belgian genever directly to the States.
Until Diep 9 appeared on the market, the only true old-school genever available was from the Dutch company Bols. However, Belgian genever differs greatly from Dutch genever, offering a less-juniper-forward flavor profile where the characteristics of the malted grains – rye, barley, and wheat – shine through. In contrast, Dutch genever uses corn in its mash and tends to focus more heavily on the piney botanicals. That softer profile sets Belgian genever apart from the Dutch style and also lends itself to many elegant cocktails.
Beittel’s first memories of genever are inextricably linked with happy times. As she recalls, “I first tried genever as a teenager at a Christmas market in Bruges, Belgium. Christmas markets are an essential part of the holiday season and feature tiny A-frame chalets set up around ice skating rinks. These markets offer Christmas decorations, Belgian waffles and, of course, genever. Genever is served chilled in an hourglass-shaped shot glass filled to the brim. This makes it impossible to pick up the glass without spilling, so tradition dictates that people take their first sip without using their hands. Then, with the genever safe from spilling, patrons raise their glasses in a toast, saying ‘Gezondheid!’ Experiencing this tradition firsthand in my youth ignited my fascination with genever.”
When Beittel decided to import genever, she wanted a distiller whose style captured the true flavor of the Belgian genever she remembered. She immediately knocked on the door of Stokerij De Moor, which had always been her favorite brand. Founded in 1910 and almost completely destroyed during World War II, Stokerij De Moor is Belgium’s smallest active grain distillery, still making its malt wine and neutral grain base in house. She also set about writing an English-language book about genever’s history, entitled “Genever: 500 Years of History in a Bottle”.
Ironically, when choosing a name, Beittel ran up against some amusing issues. In Belgium, the genever is part of the Dirk Martens brand, but Beittel thought this might lead to an association with the Dr. Martens shoe company. She changed the name to Diep 9 to reflect, as she says, “the deep 500-year old history of genever and the nine botanicals immersed in its centuries-old distillation process.” Despite the name change, the bottling is exactly the same as that sold in Belgium, reflecting the unchanged original recipe and presented in a traditional clay genever bottle.
Perhaps surprisingly, Beittel chose to import both ‘oude’ (old) and ‘jonge’ (young) genever. “I decided to offer both styles so I could tell the genever story,” she explains. “It is crucial to know the difference between your ‘jonge’ and ‘oude’ genever, both protected products of origin with a very different taste profile.” ‘Oude’ genever is not about aging, but rather the distilling technique which results in a rich, malted, more whiskey-like product. ‘Jonge’ genever was created in the 19th century to appeal to the changing, more neutral flavor leanings of the market.
For Beittel, each style has its merits.
“The aromas of malt of the old genever attract the whiskey drinkers, while the spice and complexity of the taste intrigues the gin drinkers.”
– Veronique Beittel
“The young genever’s neutrality is palatable to the vodka drinker and its delicate spices serve as a welcomed substitute for gin. Young genever provides bartenders with a great stepping tool to introduce vodka drinkers to classic cocktails without having to mix with the highly juniper flavored gin.”
Released in small amounts on the East Coast in 2011, Diep 9 is now poised for broader release thanks to a distribution deal with Henry Wine Group. Meanwhile, Beittel and her team of brand ambassadors have been knocking on the doors of craft cocktail bars across the country to spread the genever gospel. “Education is key”, she believes because “genever is a fairly unknown and mostly misunderstood spirit, even though its history is intricately integrated in the way Americans and the rest of the world drinks today.”
- 1 1/2 oz. Diep9 ‘oude’ genever
- 1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
- 1 spoonful maraschino liqueur
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with an orange twist.
- 1 1/2 oz. Diep9 ‘jonge’ genever
- 3/4 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
- Brut Champagne, to top
- Shake first 3 ingredients over ice.
- Strain into a champagne flute and top off with Champagne.
- Garnish with a lemon twist.