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Established in 1575, Lucas Bols is the world’s oldest distilled spirits company, making liqueurs and genever by combining centuries-old recipes, natural ingredients and traditional flavour-extraction methods. For 379 of those years, Lucas Bols was run by three successive families. Then it went through a series of mergers and acquisitions, finally re-emerging as an independent company, once again in Dutch hands.
Bols produce the distillates that form the heart of their liqueurs in a small distillery in the heart of Amsterdam, at 31 Pijlsteeg, close to Dam Square. This distillery dates back to 1679 when Jan Bierman established his spirits and liqueur distillery there. Some 50 years later, circa 1730 the wonderfully named Wynand Fockink (born in Steenwijk in 1693) took over the distillery. Trading under the new name of Wynand Fockink, the liqueur distillery grew to be one of the largest in the Netherlands expanding into six more buildings on the Pijlsteeg.
In the years following World War II, Wynand Fockink struggled to compete against the Bols Company and in 1954, Bols took over Wynand Fockink. Production was moved to Bols and the distillery dismantled, but Wynand Fockink branded products remained on the market until 1970.
The bar and shop which was part of Wynand Fockink continued to operate under the management of Pieter Gijsberti Hodenpijl who leased the space from 1948 to the autumn of 1988. It then lay vacant and was occupied by squatters until 1993 when Jaros Janssens and Jan Galesloot reopened the bar and set up a distillery in the adjacent buildings to once again make Wynand Fockink liqueurs and jenevers. The business passed to Rob Koning and Paul Wanrooij in 2008 before it was reacquired by Bols in 2012.
Bols started making plans to move some of their distilling requirements to the premise and after nearly two years of negotiations with the local authorities, Bols started a six month project to refurbish and upgrade the distillery with two specially commissioned stills. In May 2014 the distillery was renamed Lucas Bols and officially reopened (diffordsguide was honoured to attend the opening which cumulated with the 350 anniversary of Bols making genever).
Under the supervision of master distiller Piet van Leijenhorst, a distiller at Bols for more than 28 years, three copper pot stills (100 litre, 200 litre and 500 litre) made by Ulrichkothe Eislingen stills are used to produce the maltwine which lies at the Bols Genever, Damrak gin and the distillates which flavour the Bols range of liqueurs.
The distillates are then moved in drums and IPCs to Avandis C.V. in Zoetermeer, a production and bottling facility which Bols owns as a joint venture along with two other equal shareholders.
Happily, Bols also continue to make the full Wynand Fockink range of liqueurs and genevers at 31 Pijlsteeg and sell them in the tasting room next to the distillery. Wynand Fockink products are also sold by the glass in the attached bar which Bols also acquired but have left as a working museum under the Wynand Fockink name.