We had a great time at the House of Bols Experience- The world's oldest distilled spirit brand


Although it has undergone many ownership, management and corporate restructuring changes over the centuries, Bols is recognized as the oldest distiller in the world as well as the longest continually running Dutch company. The Bols family opened the t Lootsje (Translated as Little shed) distillery just beyond the walls of Amsterdam next to a stream in 1575. By 1612 the walls of the city had expanded and t Lootsje was now within the city limits. As the stream was being dug out to form a canal, the Bols family built a new stone building to house their distillery.

Lucas Bols who was born in 1652 and led the company throughout the Dutch Golden era is recognized as the leader who expanded the products of the distillery along with their exportation. As a major shareholder of the Dutch East India Trading Company, he imported exotic herbs, spices and fruits to the distillery to create new liqueurs and genevers.

In the early-1800s the Bols family, now a dynasty, had little interest in operating a distillery. The lack of interest coupled with the effects of the Continental Blockade of Napoleon caused the last male heir of the Bols family, Hermann, to seek a buyer for the declining distillery. The death of Hermann in 1813 along with the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 sparked buying interests in the company.

The company was purchased by Gabriël Theodorus van 't Wout with the stipulations that the sale included the Bols name. By the 1820s the new van 't Wout ownership brought the company back to profitability, however a falling out with a partner caused Gabriël Theodorus van 't Wout to lose interest.

The next expansion of Bols came under the ownership of the Moltzer family who purchased the company in 1889. They built a new steam powered distillery in Nieuw Vennep. They continued to build by expanding to Germany with two additional distilleries in Scheveningen and in Emmerich.

During the Moltzer family rule, Bols was aggressively expanded internationally by targeting the former Dutch colonies from the Golden Age as well as royal dynasties. In 1873 Bols won a Fortschritts-Medaille at the Weltausstellung 1873 Wien which opened the door to their first royal warrant to Vienna. Others soon followed including Royal Warrants for Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, along with Monaco.

Intent on expansion in international markets, the Moltzer family oversaw the opening of distilleries in nine countries. Their expansion efforts including buying out rivals and folding them into the Bols brand. When the last member of the Moltzer family left its Board of Trustees, Bols became a publicly traded company. Its growth was through expansion, soon being exported to almost every legal alcohol market in the world. Through it all, the original Bols Genever continued to be its primary revenue source. The growth of the Genever market stalled as the alcoholic beverage world had a change in tastes. The dry gin of London was now preferred by consumers.

Acquisitions, mergers, buyouts, licensing deals as well as global economic trends changed the controlling interests over the latter half of the 1900s. In a series of complex stock deals, Bols became a piece of a larger corporate alcohol distributer. The brand Bols was well respected, standing out as a premium alcohol as well as a stand-alone economic engine.

In 2006, a Management buyout led by Mr. Huub van Doorne was finalized. The new company living up to the pact of the sale to Gabriël Theodorus van 't Wout maintains the famous name, it is now named the Lucas Bols, B.V. The intent of Mr. van Doorne was to resurrect and concentrate on the original libations that grew the company from the Little Shed to the world-wide powerhouse that it is today. Returning the main headquarters to Amsterdam and concentrating on its heritage Bols B.V now produces the brands, Bols, Galliano, Vaccari Sambuca, Pisang Ambon and Damrak Gin, as well as leading Dutch brands including Bokma and Hartevelt genevers.

A core strategy of marketing Bols in the vision of Mr. Huub van Doorne includes direct contact with a major end user of their products, restaurants, bars, professional bartenders as well as fostering the art of mixology. In pursuit of this objective, Lucas Bols B.V under the leadership of Mr. Huub van Doorne supports and markets its core products to trade associations, sponsorships and ad campaigns targeting bartender academies and competitions.

The Bols B.V. Brand Experience begins at Paulus Potterstraat 12, 1071 CZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The Cocktail and Genever Experience is open 7 days a week beginning at 1:00 PM till 6:30 PM with later hours on Fridays and Saturdays. You must be 18 years old to experience the 1.5-hour Bols B.V tour.

The Bols Experience Tour includes:

  • History Room - Step into the Golden Age and find out how Lucas Bols conquered the world with his genever.

  • Art of Flavor - Experience the biggest cocktail and genever experience with all your senses.

  • Hall of taste - Experiment with the special effects of smell, taste and color.

  • Ingredient room - Learn about the most important ingredients of an authentic jenever.

  • Genever Room- Travel back in time and discover the wonderful history of jenever.

  • Mirror Bar- Choose your own delicious cocktail based on your personal taste and a professional bartender will prepare it for you.

  • Shake Your Own- Here you get to shake your own cocktail and enjoy all taste sensations.

The Bols Experience is hailed as a MUST see for Amsterdam Visitors.

Story by Daniel Dachille and Laine Page

Video Voice Over by Jim Reynolds

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