A legacy of Sebastiaan van Bokkel’s grandfather Bobby became the inspiration for Bobby’s Gin. Grandfather Bobby’s Indonesian spices and herbs infused gin recipe laid the foundation for Bobby’s Gin, made in the Dutch Jenever capital of Schiedam.
There are more and more gin brands on the shelves, but what to choose? A problem of choice easily solved by Dutch Gin of the year Bobby’s Dry Gin. On the eve of Schiedam’s yearly ‘Jenever’ and Gin festival the quirky Dutch gin brand released a unique 5-year single cask genever-based gin created by Ad van der Lee, Master Distiller at Herman Jansen.
Schiedam the capital of the Dutch ‘jenever’
With its yearly National Jenever Festival Rotterdam’s small, picturesque neighbour Schiedam proves that it is still at the heart of everything ‘Jenever’. Many of you might not know that for centuries Schiedam was and actually still is the international capital of the genever industry. In the historic town centre many buildings in the Distillers District remind us of Schiedam’s past. In its heyday, there were almost 400 distilleries and malting facilities operating in Schiedam due to the huge demand for Dutch Genever, also internationally.
Why Dutch courage took hold
At the time soldiers and sailors were introduced to ‘jenever’ via the encouraging tots given to Dutch and English soldiers to steady their nerves before the battle. As a consequence, the English christened genever Dutch courage, plus shortened the word genever to the easier gin. In the beginning, English gin tasted very much like Dutch genever. It was heavy in alcohol, a bit sweet and aromatic and often flavoured with spices like juniper, cloves. Dutch Genever became such a craze that the British government tried to limit the import by introducing the Gin Act of 1736. The act allowed the government to control the sale of genever. As from then on it needed to be first re-distilled on English soil, evolving to what we now know as London Dry Gin. Malt wine jenever -Korenwijn- was also taken along by the Dutch West India Company on their trade routes between the Netherlands, Africa, and America.
Schiedam’s reputation for authenticity
Nowadays there are only a handful of distilleries left to maintain the historic authenticity of the traditional distilling method. Only two of them, the Jenever Museum and Distillery De Tweelingh produce their 100% malt wine according to a late seventeenth-century method. Their bottles are recognisable by a ‘Seal of Authenticity’, introduced in 1902 as a guarantee for the ‘real Schiedam jenever’. Moreover, rye and barley malt are still milled in Schiedam to make the traditional Schiedam malt wine.
Built in 1785, the tower windmill ‘De Vrijheid’ is one of the largest in the world
It is this connection with the process of milling barley that takes us up the five worn-out, wobbly, wooden staircases of one of the most iconic – and one of the highest – windmills in the center of Schiedam: De Vrijheid. This mill dating back to 1785 is still in operation and provides, among other things, the milled grains which form the basis for Bobby’s Gin. Bobby’s makes one of the tastier Dutch gins. Its unique flavor comes from a special blend of traditional botanicals and Indonesian spices.
The story starts when grandson Sebastiaan van Bokkel discovers a forgotten genever bottle of his grandfather Jacobus Alfons or Bobby to his family. Grandfather Bobby used to drink his beloved genever infused with Indonesian spices and herbs from Ambon, part of the Maluku Islands. The infused gin became Bobby’s favourite drink to revive familiar flavours from his Indonesian past.
Partners in distilling
Years later Sebastiaan is so enamored by the smell and taste of Bobby’s jenever that he partners up with the family-owned distillery firm Herman Jansen to re-create the recipe. Distillery Herman Jansen is one of the surviving distilleries in Schiedam. They produce spirits since 1777. Herman Jansen earned the label World Class Distillery when they won the World Spirits Awards in 2012 and were named “Distillery of the year”. After almost two years of distilling, developing and refining, Bobby’s Schiedam Dry Gin was ready to hit to the market in 2014, at 42% ABV. Only one year later Bobby’s Dry Gin was named the Best Gin in the Netherlands. And, in May 2019 for the second time. Quite an achievement when you consider that Bobby’s only entered the drinks market in 2014. Bobby’s Dry Gin is currently sold in 46 countries.
For the rest of the story, we leave the mill ‘De Vrijheid’ and cross the street to distillery ‘De Tweelingh’. Here, Herman Jansen’s Master Distiller Ad van der Lee distills the malt-spirit genever Notaris, the base of Bobby’s gin.
In the Netherlands and elsewhere, five years into a marriage is considered a ‘wooden marriage’. During a brainstorming session about how best to commemorate their first 5 years, Bobby’s team used the idea of a wooden marriage to adapt it to a Notaris Gin aged in wood. The gin in this special edition was aged for almost 5 years in special virgin American oak barrels, prepared with grooves on the inside to increase the contact surface interaction with the malt spirit. European oak casks are used for finishing. De facto another a wooden wedding, but now between oak casks from the old and new world.
Barrel-aged gins are incredible once you figure out the right way to make them
Although barrel-aged’ or ‘barrel-rested’ gins are nothing new, the ageing of the Notaris genever in new Bourbon casks was quite a tricky process. The blender or distiller has to watch closely the process of ageing. Under the influence of time and oxygen wood components are converted into taste components. If the speed of wood extraction is quicker than the speed of maturation, wood will be too dominant and the product tannic and less smooth. To keep the character of the botanical as a taste component, the eight botanicals are separately distilled. No additives, sugars or extractions. It’s all about quality. “We are making gin here, not alcohol,” remarks Ad van der Lee.
The delicate authentic, traditional malt spirit called Notaris
It is Ad van der Lee who had the foresight to keep a small batch of gin -cask 329 -aside for a special occasion. Reason: cask 329 was not full to the brim with Notaris genever to give the oxygen, wood and time a chance to age the malt spirit in the best possible way. Cask 329 constitutes 20% of the special blend. The remaining 80% is Bobby’s Gin, which has matured in virgin American oak barrels, but received its finish – 3 to 6 months- in European oak.
Bobby’s Special Edition 5 year single cask gin
Before the reveal, we first taste the Notaris, distiller Herman Jansen’s regular gin. Then a unique leftover from barrel number 329. Then we switch to the classic Bobby’s Gin and two different wood-aged versions of this classic. In the end, everything comes together in of Bobby’s Special Edition 5-year single cask. A beautifully balanced blend between the fresh citrus notes and oriental spices of Bobby’s Dry Gin and the five-year-old Notaris maltwine gin. Incredibly fragrant, floral, sweet spices on the nose. Smooth, pleasant and broad mid-palate. Spicy, slightly peppery, hibiscus tea, pear, vanilla, and spices, such as fennel, coriander. Long finish with juniper, cinnamon and a light woody nuttiness shining through. The maturation on wood gives this gin an extra, complex dimension.
The selling price for this beautifully packaged Special Edition bottle is € 99.95. You can also purchase the at the Liquor store Alambic and the Jenever Museum, both in Schiedam.
Nationaal Jenevermuseum Schiedam | Lange Haven 74 | 3111 CH Schiedam | 010-2469676 | email@example.com
The National Distillery Museum has an impressive archive and working distillery. It’s open to the public, in easy reach by train from Rotterdam or Amsterdam, and well worth a visit.
* Schiedam’s seal of authenticity
Only 2 genever brands are allowed to have the municipality seal of authenticity on the lid of the bottle. This seal dates back from 1902 and guarantees the authentic Schiedam way of production. The distilled product has to be produced of malt wine in accordance with the following rules:
1. the distillate must be distilled from grain, malt, and rye
2. no industrial/neutral alcohol or sugar may be added
3. no other product than malt wine can be distilled on the premises