In 1691, Joannes Nolet established the first Nolet jenever distillery in Schiedam. He experimented widely with herbs and spices and passed on his findings to this son. Over 330 years later, Joannes’ discoveries still form the basis of the family business’s spirits.
Later, Jacobus Nolet inherited the jenever distillery from his father. To be able to serve his loyal and expanding clientele better, Jacobus considerably expanded the business. In 1735, he purchased shares in De Star, a Schiedam grain mill, to ensure the requisite supplies of freshly milled grain.
Under Jacobus’s son, Joannes Nolet, the Nolet Distillery continued to grow. Joannes renovated it, introduced new equipment and improved the distillery’s infrastructure to ensure a continuous supply of water for the distillation process.
Joannes Nolet continued the tradition of the previous generations and, in addition to distilling jenever, he also became Mayor of Schiedam. The business continued to flourish under his management, with cartloads of Nolet spirits leaving the city every day.
It was Jacobus Nolet who navigated the distillery through the economic crisis, despite the privations caused by the French Revolution. Apart from being a distiller, Jacobus was also a doctor who helped the citizens of Schiedam and its surroundings.
The land on which the Nolet Family Distillery stands today was bought by Joannes Nolet. Its strategic position by the water boosted exports and enormously benefited the business. Joannes also bought more shares in various Schiedam grain mills.
Despite increasing industrialisation, Jacobus Nolet remained loyal to the family tradition and its crafted distillation process. Jacobus did, however, recognise the benefits of new technology and invested in steam-powered equipment which simplified the production process.
By that time, Nolet spirits had become well known all over the world. Joannes Nolet decided to build a distillery in Baltimore to serve his U.S. clientele. Although it was initially a success, Prohibition forced Joannes to close the plant’s doors.
In Paulus Nolet’s hands, the jenever distillery miraculously survived World War II. Of the forty distilleries in Schiedam, only a handful still remained after the war. The Nolet Distillery was one of them. Paulus eventually passed the family business on to his son Carel.
In the early 1980s, Nolet’s current owner Carel (Carolus) Nolet expanded the family business to create a modern distillery on both sides of the Buitenhaven. He introduced new brands into the range and launched Ketel One Vodka in the United States. In 2005, Carel commissioned the construction of De Nolet, the world’s tallest tower mill.
In 2018, Carel’s sons, Carel Jnr and Bob, introduced Ketel One Botanical, a vodka-based spirit enriched with natural ingredients. Its reduced alcohol content meets the requirements of today’s conscious consumers. The development, in 2021, of Ketel One Botanical Spritz, a ready-to-drink mix of Ketel One Botanical and soda water with just 4.5% alcohol had a similar aim. This was a major step in the development of a new category of spirits.
At the head of the Nolet family is Carel Nolet (1941), the Nolet Distillery’s ‘s current owner. In the early 1980s, Carel expanded the family business to create a modern distillery with buildings on both sides of Schiedam’s Buitenhaven. In 2005, the family unveiled Molen De Nolet, an unmissable Schiedam landmark and the world’s tallest tower mill, an icon of the Dutch Distillers District.
In the tradition of his forefathers, Carel Nolet Snr put the distillery on the world map. In 1977, he presented his smooth and pure KETEL 1 Jenever and, in 1983, he introduced the now world-famous Ketel One Vodka in the United States. Carel Nolet Snr has now shared his craftsmanship, his love of the profession and the family recipes with his sons Carel Jnr and Bob: the eleventh generation of Nolets. In 2010, Carel Nolet Snr and his sons together launched NOLET’S gins, followed by KETEL 1 Mature in 2014.
The Nolet House on the Lange Haven was built in 1804 by Cornelis Nolet, distiller and later Mayor of Schiedam. From 1908 until the early 21st century, the Schiedam subdistrict court and part of the Rotterdam District Court were housed in the building. In 1969, it was declared a national monument. In 2013, the building came back into the hands of the Nolet family. Over the years, the family has renovated the building extensively, returning all the original features to their former glory. The renovation was completed in 2021 and the building has since mainly been used for the company’s business events.
In 2005, Molen De Nolet, the world’s tallest tower mill, was built next to the distillery in Schiedam. Standing 43 metres tall, this tower mill does not mill grain, but produces wind energy and is a local landmark. Knowledge about windmill construction has been lost over the centuries, but thanks to the scientific input of Delft University of Technology and the Schiedam Restoration Workshop Foundation (Stichting Restauratiewerkplaats Schiedam), this structure combines modern technology and age-old techniques. Molen De Nolet has a reception area, a theatre and various meeting rooms, and offers beautiful views of the six other windmills in Schiedam, the Rotterdam skyline and the Nieuwe Maas river.