Lucas Bols, a distiller based in Amsterdam, has more than four centuries of botanical booze-making under its belt. A family-owned distilling company founded in 1575, Bols (for short) is best-known for its eponymous genever and colorful line of liqueurs, which look neon-tactically artificial but, according to the company, are au natural — or should we say, natuurlijk.
Genever is experiencing a revival here and around the world. When VinePair sat down with Bols master distiller Piet van Leijenhorst earlier this year, we learned a great deal about the mysterious spirit, as well as Bols’ history.
Here are nine things you should know, too.
Bols is one of the oldest spirits brands in the world
Established in 1575, Lucas Bols distillery has been producing liqueurs for more than 400 years. Bols says it had hundreds of liqueur and spirit recipes under its belt by 1820. Today, Bols’ portfolio includes more than 20 brands in 110 countries.
Bols has been producing genever for 354 years
The Bols family began producing Dutch genever in 1664. Amsterdam’s existence as a trading city in the 1600s gave Bols access to many spices, herbs, and fruits. The Bols genever recipe was recreated in 1820 using a complex mix of botanicals. And while its barrel-aged genever launched internationally in 2010, Bols started resting genever on oak – French Limousin oak, to be exact – in 1883.
By the way, genever is not the same as gin
Although some of us call it the malty granddaddy of gin, genever is very much its own spirit. Because of its malt bill, it’s actually closer to whiskey than gin. Both genever and gin use juniper berry as a flavoring agent, but gin’s base is a neutral grain spirit mixed with botanicals, whereas genever is made with a mash of malted barley, rye, and corn. Like whiskey, genever can also be jonge (young), oude (old), and is sometimes aged in oak.
But Bols also produces gin
Bols also makes Damrak Gin, a brand that combines 17 botanicals, including juniper berry, Valencia orange peel, and coriander.
Bols also makes an award-winning vodka
Bols Vodka is made with wheat, filtered through charcoal, and has a soft, smooth flavor. First released in 1989, it earned the Superior Taste Award by the International Taste & Quality Institute in 2010.
Bols makes a funky yogurt liqueur
Actually, it makes dozens of liqueur flavors, including elderflower, green tea, blackberry brandy, and pomegranate. When Bols first started its production of liqueurs in 1575, its initial flavors were cumin, cardamom, and orange.
Bols’ weird bottle shape isn’t just for show
The ridged, long neck was designed by and for bartenders. It was first released in 2004.
Bols has its own bartending school
The Bols Bartending Academy, established in 2007, has trained more than 10,000 people in the art of cocktails. Students can walk away with an advanced bartending, master bartender, or international bar management diploma. The school even has a testimonial from Gaz Regan, cocktail writer and bartender emeritus at the Dead Rabbit in New York, who presented a workshop there.
Bols serves its Negroni in a lightbulb
Called the Red Light Negroni, after Amsterdam’s Red Light District, the cocktail calls for 1 ounce Bols Genever Original, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, and 1 ounce Italian bitter liqueur. Mix with ice, stir, strain, and serve in a lightbulb with a rocks glass on the side.