For the first of our #CraftLessons, CS hopped on a plane to the wonderful city of Amsterdam. Our mission was to discover all that we could about a brand that combines over 3 centuries of family craft with the industries latest technological innovation. Ketel One vodka is only produced from one place in the entire world, and luckily for us we’d been invited for a tour.
A trip in the car took us to the small fishing village of Schiedam, home to the Nolet Distillery. Specialising initially in jenever, they’ve been creating super high quality spirits here since 1691, and the distillery along with the craft secrets has been handed down through 10 generations of the same family. The guy calling the shots today is Carolus Nolet, and he is the man responsible for deciding to streamline the distillery’s output into doing one thing very, very well. The result of that decision is Ketel One vodka, a brand that shuns the traditional advertising model and instead uses the quality of its product to speak for itself by engaging bar tenders around the world and asking them to compare it to any vodka of their choice. We were there to find out what goes into the craft of making such a product.
For many generations, this was the desk from which the head of family would run the distillery from. The next in line, his son, sits would sit at the other desk in the office so they can could learn the business from them.
It starts with selecting the best raw materials possible, in the case of Ketel One that means sourcing the finest ‘winter wheat’ which can then be taken into the distillation process. This is where the real craftsmanship shines through. The wheat spirit is re-distilled in small batches using traditional copper pot stills together with modern distilling techniques. It is the combination of traditional methods, passed down through generations, combined with modern innovation that allows Ketel One to beat every one of its competitors when it comes to taste. It took Carlous Nolet 7 years to perfect this process, and the product they create at the distillery today is testament to his passion and commitment to never settling for anything but the very best possible.
Bob Nolet telling us the story of Pot Still Number 1 (Distilleerketel #1 in Dutch), which is still used to this day. Every bottle contains vodka that was distilled in this original pot still.
Another truly mind blowing element to the brand’s production is the quality control they maintain to an extraordinary level. Every single batch of their vodka is personally tasted and approved by a member of the Nolet family, a seal of approval very few brands can match.
It really was fascinating to see the Nolet Distillery in action. The building is a prime demonstration of what over 300 years of craft knowledge combined with the latest industry innovation and technology can achieve. The distillery itself is incredibly energy efficient (its windmill generates 20% of the power used day to day). This simply makes better business sense, and the green benefits are an added bonus. We were invited up to the distillery bar where the Nolet family invite bar tenders from around the world to come and play and experiment with the finest spirits to create groundbreaking cocktails. A blind taste test later and CS can confirm that the skill and craft that goes into every bottle of Ketel One results in a product that wipes the floor with the more well known brands in the space. Next time you’re at the bar, give it a try.
The bar at the distillery is an experimental playground for the worlds top bartenders.
The Nolet Distillery windmill is used to create green energy. It also contains a beautiful cinema within its walls that is used for the daily tours of the distillery.
Big thanks to Bob and Maurice for inviting CS along to Nolet Distillery and giving us the tour.
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