Jenever (Dutch: [jəˈneːʋər], English: /dʒəˈniːvər/),
Also known as genièvre, genever, peket, or in the United States most commonly known as Dutch gin or Holland gin, is the juniper-base national and traditional spirit of the Netherlands and Belgium, and few provinces of France and Germany.
Jenever was introduced to the Britisch by Prince William of Orange, from which modern, more widely know, gin has evolved.
Traditional jenever is still very popular in the Netherlands, Belgium and nearby French and German regions. The European Union regulations specify that only liquor made in these two countries, two northern French departments and two German federal states can use the name jenever/genever/genièvre.
Jenever was originally produced by distilling malt wine (moutwijn in Dutch) to 50% ABV. Because the resulting spirit was not palatable due to the lack of refined distilling techniques (only the pot still was available), herbs were added to mask the flavour. The juniper berry, jeneverbes in Dutch (which comes from the Latin Juniperus), hence the name jenever (and the English name gin), was used for its alleged medicinal benefits.
There is a false tradition that attributes jenever as an invention by the Dutch chemist and alchemist Franciscus Sylvius de Bouve, and it was first sold as a medicine in the late 16th century. The problem with this theory is that Dr. Sylvius was born in the 17th century and that during his fourteen-year tenure as a professor at the University of Leiden, his research included distilling medicines with juniper berry oil, but none of his research papers contains any reference to jenever. The dates also do not add up: Dr. Sylvius certainly was not the first to distil with juniper or call a concoction jenever, as proven by written references to jenever in 13th century Bruges, Flanders (Der Naturen Bloeme) and 16th century Antwerp, Flanders (Een Constelijck Distileerboec). The latter contains the first printed jenever recipe.
Additionally, in 1606 the Dutch had already levied taxes on jenever and similar liquors which were sold as alcoholic drinks, suggesting that jenever had stopped being seen as a medicinal remedy many years before Dr. Sylvius was even born. Genever's prevalence can also be observed in Philip Massinger's 1623 play, "The Duke of Milan", which references "geneva". Geneva was the Anglicized name for jenever, which English soldiers had brought back with them upon returning from battle in the Low Countries in 1587 and again during the early 1600s. Dr. Sylvius would have been just nine years old when Massinger's play opened. So while the legend of Dr. Sylvius's "medicine" may be more myth than fact, it has become the tale most people know.
The Nationaal Jenevermuseum Hasselt, Belgium claims unequivocally that jenever was created in the lowlands of Flanders in the thirteenth century. Their assertion is given credence by commentary in 'Jenever in de Lage Landen' by author Prof. Dr. Eric Van Schoonenberghe.
HRH, Prince William of Orange-Nassau
Prince of The Netherlands