Founded in 1691 in Schiedam, Holland, Ketel One distillery still stands as a monument today. Much expanded since its humble beginnings, the waterfront structures were ideally placed for grain trade, and remain a scenic location and destination. Complete with distillery, bottling, shipping, and storage facilities, the encampment is also home to an art gallery and rooftop bar. Several historic pieces are on display throughout the Ketel One property, with everything from original bottles to recent memorabilia exhibited. The No. 1 copper pot still, for which the vodka is named, is still in use to this day and is a picture-perfect look to yesteryear and the beginnings of the company.
We sat down with 11th generation distiller Bob Nolet to ask about the industry he so loves and what the future holds for this esteemed company and industry.
JustLuxe: What do you feel is one of the most important parts of your job?
Bob Nolet: Going to the bars and creating relationships with bartenders. I’m not a cocktail expert, but the bartender is. By asking them to create something, I get to see the bartenders’ passion for Ketel One vodka and can both experience and drink new innovative and exciting cocktails from around the world. The base liquid is important in any cocktail and our vodka has a long smooth finish, which bartenders are excited about using in their own creations.
JL: Have you found the speakeasy and mixology trends from the United States to have influenced Ketel One sales or use?
BN: Ketel One has a history; a story. Having been around during Prohibition in the United States, the speakeasy is part of our history. Speakeasy-style bars in the US often use our product, as it was available during the era and continues to mix well with contemporary ingredients.
JL: How do bartenders become more involved with your product? Is it a per-person leaning towards Ketel One?
BN: It is important to understand the drinking culture in each country - we are constantly educating and being educated. The Ketel One Embassy has trained bartenders in each city; we educate bartenders around the world. They are the professionals traveling the world and changing people's lives. We offer courses in everything from how to take good photography to what to wear and tailoring your look. [It's] the Bartenders Society in the United States, while it is called the Bartenders Fraternity in Europe.
JL: Do you think your sons will be involved in Ketel One and keep the family tradition going?
BN: I was not pressured into following in my father’s footsteps and my sons will not be either. I do have one boy who will check out bars and inquire if they do not serve Ketel One; they are young yet, but this industry is easy to fall in love with.
Whether enjoying the classic Ketel One vodka or the bright and citrusy Citroen or Oranje, this Holland-based distillery not only has a quality product, but an interesting and rich history that could see it well into the next 300 years.