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There aren’t many who haven’t heard of Bols – the prestigious jenever and liqueur company from Amsterdam. Yet Bols is far less of an Amsterdam tradition than you might think. Indeed, the famous Dutch distiller actually left the bustling capital in 1969 to enjoy sojourns in the Dutch towns of Nieuw-Vennep and Zoetermeer amongst others. However, this year Bols finally returns home to Amsterdam and thus back to the roots of arguably the finest gin in the world.
Bols… an international success for over 400 years
The history of Bols jenever dates back to the year 1575, when the Bols family opened a small distillery, “Het Lootsje”, in the Rozengracht in Amsterdam. For the first hundred years Bols predominantly manufactured products for the local market, but that all changed when son, Lucas Bols (a major shareholder in the VOC with access to unique herbs and spices), began producing jenever (Dutch gin) in addition to their range of liqueurs, such as Bols Corenwijn, in 1664. Bols jenever rapidly became an international success and remained popular for the following two centuries. In 1816, however, the last male heir to the Bols family fortune died and the company was sold, along with 250 handwritten recipes and a strict provision that the Bols family name be retained. The international reputation of Bols continued to flourish and although the company was sold on a number of times, it remained distilling its coveted Bols Jenever in “Het Lootsje” in Amsterdam. By 1969 though, Bols had expanded so much that it was eventually forced to relocate to a larger site outside the capital.
The House of Bols
In 2006 Bols became an independent company once more, and the board, which felt very strongly that the brand belonged in the capital, decided to return to Amsterdam. Not long after they opened their gin tasting ‘House of Bols‘ at Paulus Potterstraat (next to the Van Gogh Museum), which although unsuitable for distilling jenever, immediately began attracting a steady stream of visitors. In 2012 Bols finally took over the 1679 Wynand Fockink distillery, located just behind the Dam in Pijlsteeg, and now, after securing all of the relevant permits, Bols is firmly back where it belongs …in the heart of Amsterdam.
The new Bols distillery in Amsterdam will shortly begin to distil its highly regarded jenevers, although, due to lack of space, the job of diluting and bottling will continue elsewhere. To commemorate the historic move, Bols plan to release a special series of Amsterdam jenevers, including ‘Bols Jenever Amsterdam 21’.
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, which is specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad.