As a Dutchman I take an interest in making "geneva" or Dutch Gin. In Holland this drink is called "jenever" or "genever". I've been told the English word "gin" derives from "genever" and the Dutch call "geneva", because that is the Dutch word for "juniper", geneva's main taste ingrediënt.
The first geneva was made by Fransiscus Sylvius, a Dutch professor from the Leiden University (actually called Frans van den Bos, but that does not sound half as exotic, off course, as the more famous Latin translation). He made geneva on request on the Dutch East Indies Trade Company. This company sailed to the east and a one way trip would take as much as a year, with only few points where fresh food could be taken on board. The older the food became, during the sailing trip, the more stomach problems the sailors encountered. Sylvius made a drink that would help strengthen the stomach and help to prevent kidney failure. And since the juniper berry was known to do this, he made a juniper liqor.
English soldiers fighting in the Dutch independence war got to know "genever" and nick named it "Dutch Courage". The taking of the English throne by William of Orange, who was Steadholder of Holland before, further established Dutch Gin on the English market.
Nowadays, a number of geneva varieties exist in the Netherlands. "Old genever", meaning it is made the traditional way (and from malt wine) and "ýoung genever" which is made in a more modern way (and from purified, 96% alcohol). Right here, I want to give you my recipe for "young genever".
I first make, from sugar, a distillation wine. After clearing, and skiprunning, I distill this "wine" in my fractionating column. Heads and tails are left out, and hearts (95% and more) I collect. After collecting the hearts, I add distilled water, in order to get the alcohol percentage down to 35%.
Per liter of 35% liquid (pretty much a vodka, by the way), I add 18 grams of juniper berries (lightly crushed), 9 grams of coriander (the seeds, not the leaves!), 0,5 gram of lemon peel (without the white stuff on the inside, please do get rid of that!), 0,5 gram of orange peel, 0,5 gram of mango peel and 0,1 gram of liquorice. I let these ingredients macerate for no less than 12 and no more than 24 hours.
Note: I read about macerating geneva or gin ingredients in alcohol as strong as 40% of 50%. I would not do that, since later on you want to use a pot still to distill everything. And distilling a 40% or 50% base drink, will mean that the first parts coming out of your pot still (containing the lighter fruity essential oils) will be over 80% and start loosing taste. Not what we want. Deluting the liqor to 35% will prevent that.
So, continueing with the main process: put everything in a pot still and start distilling. Nice and slow will do it. No need to hurry. Leaving the ingredients in the liquid you are about to pot distill, is called hot compounding (as oposed to cold and warm compounding, which I will treat later on, and of which I am not too big a fan). Make sure you leave enough head space between your distillation vessel and the helm, since it might boil up. I use no more than 60% of my pot still's gross capacity.
Do not seperate heads. You already did that in the reflux of fractionating column. Instead, throw out the first 5 to 10 mls, to get rid of juniper oils otherwise troubling (mist!) your likker. Just collect everything until (pretty much) you have half of what you started with. If you pot distill 10 litres of 35%, you should stop when 5 litres are collected. You will leave some alcohol behind, but continuing will create off tastes you do not want. Especially the liquorice comes over heavily if you continue distilling after you've collected half of what you started out with. And that will give a very hot taste to the drink.
After finishing your pot still run, you are probably left with a drink of around 65% tot 70% (depending on your pot still efficiency). Water it down to 42%. Put it in glass bottles (with some head space for air) and leave it to rest for at least 48 hours. Some more rest will give the oils, water and alcohol even more time to settle and balance out. It will improve in glass for another 5 weeks.
Drink the geneva at room temperature. Between 18 and 23 degrees centigrade is fine. If you cool this geneva, you compress the liquid and sort of press out the essential oils (due to the hot compounding way of distilling - with berries etc. in the liquor you are distilling - a lot of taste and essential oils came over). Drink the geneva too warm and it will start to'"sweat". Taste will get worse.
Note: sometimes the end result - even after ridding yourself of the first 10 mls - is still cloudy. Don't cold filter it. Instead, add some neutral (42%). Like 0,1 liter at a time. When you added enough, it will clear in a few seconds.
Enjoy! And - if you like making your own geneva's - try to experiment a little with other herbs. It pays of!