Father to Son: How Gin Became a Family Tradition for Nolet Distillery

Carl Nolet Jr. shares what distilling means to the family-owned operation for Father's Day

From left to right, Bob Nolet, Carl Nolet Sr. and Carl Nolet Jr. of Nolet Distillery.

Of all the father-son-operated breweries and distilleries out there, none go quite as far back as Holland's oldest distillery, NOLET. Founded in 1691 by Joannes Nolet, the gin distillery has been passed down from father to son for 10 generations. Today, the distillery (which is also responsible for Ketel One Vodka), is run by father Carolus Sr., and his two sons, Carl Jr. and Bob. In time for Father's Day, Carl Jr. Nolet shares with us how gin runs in the Nolet family blood — plus how he and Bob Nolet came to honor Carolus Sr. with a commemorative gin, NOLET's Silver. 

The Daily Meal: What's the backstory on Nolet Distillery?
Carl Jr. Nolet:
Nolet Distillery was founded in 1691 in Schiedam, Holland by Joannes Nolet, and began exporting spirits to the United States in the late 19th century. The business has been passed down from father to son for 10 generations. Today, it is the oldest distillery in Holland that is still owned by the founding family, as it is currently run by my father, Carolus Nolet Sr., 10th generation. In 1992, the Nolets started focusing on the U.S. market by introducing Ketel One Vodka. The most recent brand we have launched in the U.S. is NOLET’S Finest Gin, which includes NOLET’S Silver and NOLET’S Reserve.

The Daily Meal: What is like to work in a family, father-son kind of distillery?
From my first day working in the distillery, my brother Bob and I were taught that being a Nolet meant that we were held to a higher standard. If I showed up late to work, I could lose my position. As I’ve grown into my current role, I have really come to appreciate working in a family business. We learned over the years that three minds working together are always better than one. Besides our family’s rich history and experience in producing spirits, I believe our biggest advantage is our disciplined way of carefully thinking through every decision we make; not only among the three family members, but together with our executive team. When we leave our board room, we are all in agreement on how we want to execute our decisions. Our family creed is, “Try not to make mistakes!"

The Daily Meal: How did you and Bob decide to collaborate on a commemorative gin for your father? How long did it take to make the gin?
With NOLET’S Silver, my brother and I — with the guidance of our father — aimed to craft something very special that is both rooted in our family’s distilling tradition and yet representative of the modern styles in which gin is now appreciated and enjoyed. It took several years of collaboration with our dad to perfect NOLET’S Silver. NOLET’S Reserve took my father decades to craft; it is his life’s work culminated in a bottle.

TDM: What makes NOLET’S Silver and NOLET’S Reserve Dry Gin so unique, and to Carolus?
NOLET’S Silver uses a very unique blend of botanicals never before used in a gin. The botanicals were specially selected by our family. Each botanical used is individually macerated and then distilled to give the gin distinct flavors and aromas. The three signature botanicals in NOLET’S Silver are Turkish rose, peach, and raspberry. NOLET’S Reserve is a quintessential sipping gin created 100 percent by my father. It uses a variety of spices and botanicals including saffron and verbena. My father dislikes the traditional flavors of London style dry gins, and he aimed to create a product that we believe to be the best tasting gin in the world.

TDM: How has the family business, and specifically gin, brought the Nolets together?
It’s truly a pleasure to work with my dad and my brother every day. We have the same outlook on everything and we challenge ourselves to live up to the standards set by previous generations.

TDM: Are there any particular family memories of the distillery or of making the commemorative gins? Or Nolet gins in general?
In creating NOLET’S Silver, the fondest memory I have was working so closely with my brother and father. It took us several attempts over the years to agree on the exact recipe. There were many times that one of us would shake our head and say, “It’s close, but we’re not there yet." We poured our hearts into a final product that we could be proud to place our name on the bottle, but the most rewarding part is to have the mixologist community, industry partners, and consumers across the country tell us NOLET’S Silver is their favorite gin.

TDM: It seems that drinking can be a true father-son (or father-daughter) ritual;  what are the Nolet family drinking rituals?
We usually wait until the end of the day to enjoy our first NOLET’S Silver or Ketel One Vodka together. It is a time to sit back, reflect on the events of that day and prepare for tomorrow.

TDM: What makes NOLET’S Finest Gins so special as a Father’s Day gift, and as a tribute to your father?
First of all, I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for my dad. That is why I believe NOLET'S Silver Dry Gin will make the perfect Father’s Day gift. NOLET'S Silver represents the ultimate celebration between you and your father. It is a gift that will honor your dad on his special day.