Ready to spice up your appetite? We sat down with Leonard Crijns, founder of the innovative new genever brand Kever Genever. Learn more about his vision on this new, contemporary style old genever and the liquor industry.
Hi Leonard, how is your day?
Hi! I’m really good. Very happy with how Kever Genever is doing at the moment – we are attracting more and more attention from bartenders and demand is increasing. This shows that we are on the right track!
What is the story behind Kever Genever?
Together with Sebastian, who is one of my business partners, we discovered the mesmerizing taste of genever by accident. I had brought back a bottle of genever to Sweden, because we were both studying entrepreneurship there. We had a few drinks and were inspired by the taste. We realized that the once-popular Dutch tradition could be revived into something even better. Two other friends, Ben and Ruben, liked the idea and joined us to pursue what is now Kever Genever.
How has genever transformed throughout the years?
Genever used to be one of the most consumed alcohols in the Netherlands, but after World War 1 things changed. The shortage in grain supplies limited producers from producing a proper (old) genever, so they started producing cheaper ones from sugar beet – today we call these young genever. For the past 20 or 30 years, the industry has slowly been killing itself. Today, genever is not synonymous with the younger generation; mostly older people drink it. This is something we would like to change.
What makes Kever Genever different from other genevers?
Genever in itself is already special. Many liquors today are derived from this old drink. Kever Genever is special, because it contains a high percentage of malt wine. It makes our genever more accessible to taste. Other than that, we present genever in a young and fresh manner. Its packaging is very recognizable from behind the bar and we get a lot of good feedback from the bartenders we work with.
How do you create a contemporary product, while also maintaining the classic stance of genever? Is it a tough balance?
This is actually the perfect time to do so. Old products are becoming more appealing to a younger generation. Nowadays, we are interested to see where our products comes from; riding a vintage bike or wearing your grandpa’s watch, for example. It is not too different with genever I think. People want to drink the ancestor of gin-tonic. With the right packaging – which in our case is a minimalistic, Scandinavian-inspired flask – we feel that we have created the right mix.
Speaking about the flask, why the unconventional packaging?
In the past, genever was stored in clay jars and it actually diminished the quality of the genever over time. We aim for a packaging that maintains the quality of our genever in addition to being sustainable and space-saving. Our metal flasks are 90% recyclable and practical for export and travel.
How is it to run a business with your own friends?
It is really cool and it feels relaxed. Spending a whole day with friends does not make work feel like work. Sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge, because we have to be professional with each other and keep each other in check.
What does it mean to be a winning brand at the International Wine and Spirits Competition? How has that affected the brand?
It was definitely an amazing experience! It has of course generated more exposure, but winning the IWSC last year also helped to shed more light on genever as a relevant product category.
What do you hope to achieve in the near future?
I’d really like to bring back the kopstoot; something my grandpa used to drink after work back in the day.
What is your favorite cocktail with Kever Genever in it?
Ah! I’m glad you asked. I like a good Dutch Negroni; 40 ml of Willem Wermoed, 20 ml Kever Genever and 20 ml Campari. You should try and make it yourself!
Kever Genever is available at Hutspot Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Rotterdam.