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Filliers Graanjenever: Belgian Whiskey From a Friend

Having this blog has been mostly fun.  It is a great way to connect with new people and get to know them a little.  Recently we’ve had a person frequent the blog that is in the process of opening and all Belgian Brewery in the great State of New Jersey.  And this should be the real thing, since he is from Belgium himself.  His Name is Wim Vanraes and he is my new BEST friend!  See Wim recently made a trip to his homeland of Belgium, and while there picked up a couple bottles of his favorite whiskey.  This is a Belgian Whiskey called Graanjenever.

Wim is also a very generous man.  He had picked up two bottles of this beverage, and offered to send one to me.  Being the lush I am, I quickly agreed, and it was off in the mail in a jiffy.  Wim wanted to make sure it arrived unharmed  and senti it in almost as much packaging weight wise as the bottle itself!  It arrived none worse for its trip this Tuesday, and I quickly poured myself a Glencarin full…

I was very excited to try something that, not only I can’t get in Idaho, but it isn’t available at all in the US!  See Filliers does not export, and thus it is unusual to find this particular drink outside of Belgium.  I find it fun to live vicariously through drink, and this was a great way to experience a bit of the culture in my own living room.  The writing on the bottle is in Dutch, so all I could really figure out from the bottle was that the company was established in 1880, and that this is a 50% ABV Whiskey.

The little card that came attached to the bottle had a paragraph of English that explained that this is a whiskey that is aged 8 years in barrels (what type or whether they had been used previously remains a mystery) and that the whiskey is distilled from Rye and Barley.  It tastes a bit like American Rye, but doesn’t have the corn in the mash so it is a but drier and less oily.  While it did have legs they were only slightly visible on the glass.

The nose is very heavy with alcohol and rye, and this is reflected in the flavor.  It is a bit drier than American Ryes, and that could easily be due to the fact that no corn is used in the mash.  It has a medium mouthfeel, and begins sweet and caramelly, reflecting the barrel notes.  It then gets a bit musty at mid palate and finishes with a nice rye flavor and a big alcohol burn.  I was dying to pair this with a cigar, but the weather was nasty outside, and I didn’t want to be relegated to the garage for the evening.  I will do so next time I drink it.

All in all this is a very fine rye whiskey from Belgium and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I love the bottle too.  My Wife thought it was a propane canister at first and wondered why someone would mail me that!  I had to explain to her it was whiskey, then sh rolled her eyes and wondered where we would put it!  Although once it is finished I think I will burn short candles in it, as it is an interesting vessel.

I can’t thank Wim enough for sending this to me, I love trying unique and interesting drinks from far away places.  You can follow Wim’s progress on opening his Brewery (Saint William Brewery) on his blog here.  They have a cool new logo, and I’m looking forward to trying his beers when he gets up and running!  Thanks Wim!

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13 Comments on “Filliers Graanjenever: Belgian Whiskey From a Friend”

  1. May 27, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Awesome. I totally dig the bottle. Looks like ordinance. A canister of mustard gas from WWII perhaps. So fun when being barely famous (in our tiny, tiny little worlds) leads to new friends and intriguing beverages. Cheers!

    • Don
      May 27, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

      That was my thought as well Chad. Looks like the perfect bottle to make a Maltoff Cocktail out of. And the Drinks from friends are always appreciated!

  2. May 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    There are some Belgian whiskeys (Belgian Owl is the only one that comes to mind immediately), but Filliers make jenever, which is a different type of liquor. Their website (http://www.filliers.be) is available in English too, if you’re interested in reading a bit more about this drink.

    • Don
      May 27, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

      I have to respectfully disagree. Its production process and aging are identical to many American Whiskeys. Where it differs in in the proof at which it is barreled, and the barreling itself. Otherwise this is pretty close to straight Rye Whiskey that is made here in the States. Perhaps there is some sort of distinctions that are made in Belgium proper, but this is what we would call whiskey in America. That is why I called it whiskey. 🙂

      • May 27, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

        Then whiskey it is! Truth be told, I don’t know all that much about alcohol. ;o) It’s just that in Belgium jenever and whiskey are considered two very seperate things… The EU even gave it a protected geographical status not too long ago. (I guess it’s a bit like an appellation d’origine contrôlée, only different.)

        If you ever get the opportunity to drink a young, fruit-flavoured jenever, you should do it, though. It won’t be any good, I promise, but it’ll be something completely different and isn’t it always good to know what’s out there?

        • Don
          May 31, 2011 at 9:06 am #

          It seems as if Belgium decriminates between specific liquor types based on geography as well as by ingredients and distillation process. So in essence we are both correct. This is Jenever, but were it to be produced in the states it would be called Rye Whiskey. I’m still learning, and this has been very interesting to understand some of the differences between countries and how they make, and what they call their liquors.

  3. May 27, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Ha, nice write up, you made me thirsty to open up my bottle!
    I have a whole row of empty bottles, worth almost 6 years, on top of my fridge, much to the despair of my wife. But she does admit they do look decorative…
    It is as Lies said, in Belgium it would be called jenever, very distinct from whisky. The technical similarities are no surprise, as this is our take on distilled drinks. And is also is a name that helps distinguish the origin. Whisky is not whiskey is not bourbon is not jenever is not genever (what it is called in the Netherlands). But in a way, as long as it is in my glass, I don’t care too much.
    Op de gezondheid!

    • Don
      May 31, 2011 at 9:11 am #

      I agree Wim, it is a very different product than Scotch Whisky, however it is very similar to American Rye Whiskey. I wasn’t trying to argue that it wasn’t Jenever, only that had it been made in the States it would be called Rye. That said, it is very interesting to me how the various liquors get their names. I just wanted you to know that I understand the drink is Jenever, and will always be Jenever, However I was trying to draw a parallel to what it would be called had it been made here in the states. It was very good, and I very much appreciate your sending it to me.

      • May 31, 2011 at 9:36 am #

        No problem, I thought you might find the whole naming tradition interesting! And it is a great drink, isn’t it?

        • Don
          May 31, 2011 at 9:38 am #

          I enjoyed some this weekend! Only one problem, Once it is gone, I’ll have to go to Belgium to get more! 😉

  4. June 23, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Hi Don,
    No need to go to Belgium to get more. I’m from Belgium, living in Vermont, and missed Jenever so much that I quit my job and started importing Jenever (Genever in English) from Belgium. Currently you can buy all natural fruit and cream flavors online at http://www.diep9.com or in VT & DC but in September you’ll be able to purchase a young grain jenever, and by the holidays you’ll be able to purchase an old grain jenever in a clay bottle in the US a well (750ML bottles required for the US are being baked in an oven as we speak! It’s a 3 month process). I submitted the Red Currant Jenever and Passion Fruit Jenever to the LA International spirit competition and we won the silver and bronze medal. All Diep 9 Jenevers are handcrafted in Belgium’s smallest and 100 year old active grain distillery. It’s very exciting to introduce the US to Belgium’s national spirit and share the taste of my homeland. Learn more on http://www.diep9.com or become a fan of Diep 9 on facebook to stay up to date on the new product launches. Gezondheid!

    • November 14, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

      Hi,
      I have family in Aarschots and just returned from a trip there. I have fallen deeply inlove with this spirit, the elixir of my Belgian happiness, and so of course I brought with me one bottle of Filliers Jenever. I couldn’t find St. Pol(white bottle), which if given the chance in my opinion, is even more superb than the 8(brown bottle). I am a huge Whisky lover, rye being my favorite so I am not shocked at Don’s description. Must say though that Lies and Wim are correct…I was schooled several times for calling it Whisky. I have been scouring the internet trying to find an importer of Filliers but to no avail and as i learned here it is not for import. I am from Portland Oregon and as I am just a lowly stay home mom 😉 would love to get involved in anything to do with Jenever. Veronique, do you have a pacific coast distributer???? I would love to see it out here 🙂
      Sante!

  5. Patsy Vanfleteren
    December 2, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    I guess one cant post pics here, but i just sent one to my friend and one kept for me of the St Pol. I like the story on the front of the angel 😄. Too bad i cant post the pic on here. Just tried some tonite a few min ago. Stroooonnnggg stuff indeed and still very smooth on the tongue !!!

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