Meet the Team introduces you to the writers and experts behind Gin Magazine and gin-mag.com, as they talk about their lives both in and outside the gin world. This week we meet our genever guru, Thijs Klaverstijn. Thijs is a Dutch spirits writer and blogger, sharing his thoughts at wordsofwhisky.com. Hailing from The Netherlands, he feels a particular sense of pride when it comes to genever. Once one of the world’s foremost spirits, this Dutch relative of gin is currently experiencing a renaissance. As he explains, “My personal journey started out in whisky, and there’s simply no ignoring genever as a Dutch whisky enthusiast.” You can follow Thijs on Facebook and Twitter @wordsofwhisky.
Gin Magazine (GM): How did you end up in the gin world and what do you like most about working in it?
Thijs Klaverstijn (TK): I don’t particularly see myself as someone who ended up in the gin world, but rather the world of spirits in general. As a journalist or writer we’re in the fortunate position to write about whatever we want, as long as someone wants to publish our writings. So why not write about something you’re truly passionate about? Several years ago I quit my job and decided to branch out on my own. One important step I took was to formally educate myself. Books and the internet are great, but there’s nothing like having the best genever and whisky distillers as your teachers. At the same time I started pitching and writing articles. Thankfully, some magazines valued my work and I haven’t looked back since. My experience within the world of spirits has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s a small, welcoming and open-minded group of people that I enjoy being a part of.
GM: What did you do in your pre-gin life?
TK: After finishing the School of Journalism I briefly worked freelance for a variety of local outlets. While I love it now, the independent lifestyle of a freelance writer didn’t quite suit me at such a young age, so I started working at a Dutch university as editor of its independent journalistic medium. It was a vibrant community with more than 3,500 employees and close to 30,000 students. Working with students was great and the university turned out to be an inspiring environment. During my time at the university, my interest in spirits grew and I started spending most of my personal time learning about and exploring the world of drinks. As an outlet for my growing obsession I launched a blog, Words of Whisky, where I’ve also been writing about genever. Eventually, it turned into a springboard for a career in drinks writing.
GM: What’s the best piece of career or life advice you’ve been given?
TK: There’s not a single piece of advice that stands out. Of course, there are many people in the world of drinks I look up to and try to learn from, some of whom I know, others I’ve never met. I continue to be impressed by the writings of people such as Angus MacRaild on whisky, Adam Wells on cider and Dave Broom on pretty much anything. I very much value writer Hans Offringa’s contributions and his advice. And I’m in awe of the work of certain master distillers, such as Patrick van Zuidam and Myriam Hendrickx.
GM: What moments or occasions have you reaching for a genever?
TK: I rarely reach for a drink because of a certain occasion. The drink in itself is the occasion for me. Whether it’s an unaged 100 per cent maltwine genever, a mature genever from a Fino sherry cask, or a modern-style genever incorporated in a cocktail – it all depends on my mood.
GM: What would be your ideal holiday destination and activities?
TK: I love visiting New York, London or Berlin and indulging in the culinary opportunities those cities have to offer. But ideally, I’d book a comfortable Airbnb in a remote part of Ireland or Scotland. No WiFi and a lack of cell reception are two big plusses. Lots of reading, exploring the surroundings and enjoying some of the local spirits or drinks. That’s when I really unwind.
GM: If you were a genever or a genever cocktail, what would you be?
TK: While I enjoy trying all the modern, innovative releases, I find I’m a traditionalist at heart. I generally tend to go for the grain-forward style of genever. Zuidam Distillers and Rutte Distillery have some great sherry cask-aged genevers that are right at the top of my list. These types of genevers truly sit right in between gin and whisky; a place where I feel very comfortable. As far as a cocktail? An Improved Holland Gin Cocktail is hard to beat.