My around the world journey continues with my first overseas distillery! I hinted towards the next stop by saying there’s canals, art, a cool tram network and a very long history of distilling – the last one really should have given it away… We’re off to Lucas Bols in The Netherlands, known for being one of the oldest distilling companies in the world, if not the oldest!
It would take me around 4 hours to travel from Southwold to Amsterdam (the capital of the Netherlands, I’ll have you know) by giraffe, but only if the giraffe didn’t mind running full speed the entire way and could walk on water. Both are unlikely. Giraffes are so lazy.
As I said, Amsterdam has a pretty sweet tram system. Nowadays most of the trams are decked out in blue and white, and some of them have little peaks at the front that look like cool-sticky-up-at-front-1990s/early-2000s hair, which I enjoy greatly. Also, “tram”, “dram” and “Amsterdam” all rhyme, so this was clearly a match made in heaven.
I love trains and trams and whatnot, so expect to see a lot of this sort of stuff in this series.
The history of Bols goes back all the way to 1575, when the family first set up their still in Amsterdam. Back then their distillery was just a little shed on the edge of the city. Seriously. They even named it “‘t Lootsje”, which means “The Little Shed”. Amsterdam turned out to be a fantastic place for the distillers, as it became an important trading hub for ingredients during the 17th century – just the ticket for creating all sorts of genevers and liqueurs. Lucas Bols took over the business in the latter half of the 1600s, and very much helped the company grow even more. He’s the chap in ruffles you’ll see portraits of when researching Bols in your own time (what, doesn’t everyone do that? Just me?).
Over the hundreds of years that followed, Bols was owned by a number of other families and even Rémy Cointreau at the start of the new millennium, though it’s now privately owned once again. They currently distil their spirits in a distillery in Amsterdam which dates back to the late 1600s and was formerly owned by Wynand Fockink – those familiar with our Antique Spirits selection might recognise that name. This was a recent return to Amsterdam for Bols’ distillation, as previously they were distilling in Zoetermeer, which is around 30 miles south-west of Amsterdam. The distillery was opened in 2014 under the watchful eye of Master Distiller Piet Van Leijenhorst.
Piet Van Leijenhorst.
In 2015 Lucas Bols celebrated the company’s 440th birthday. 440 years. Think how many cakes would be needed for all those candles – and don’t just say you can use those candles shaped like numbers. Those always seem like a cop-out. Get the right number of candles or just have a Christmas pudding and light the whole thing on fire.
So yes, with all those years in mind, it only makes sense to try something from Bols that they’ve been making for a long time – genever. It’s said that Lucas Bols’ first genever was produced back in 1664! Reckon they know a thing or two about making it then…
3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Bols Zeer Oude Genever
Nose: Baking rye bread appears straight away. Subtle juniper brings more floral elements than the usual woody notes. A little bit of cinnamon stick, orange peel and Coconut Ice squares.
Palate: Big clean juniper and sweet citrus as it opens. Very fresh and vibrant. Rye continues and grows herbaceous. Spicy notes start to appear on the mid-palate.
Finish: Cardamom seed warmth with a lasting touch of juniper sweetness.
And with that, we say “adiós” to Amsterdam and head to the next distillery. We’re staying in the Netherlands, so we’re not going too far. Think about how windmills could be useful for spirits production and you’ll be on the right track as to what distillery we’re visiting. And just so you know, it would take me a little less than 1 and a half hours to reach the next distillery from Bols if I travelled by pelican. Toodles.