By Franz Scheurer
The Nolet family of Schiedam in The Netherlands has been in the distilling business since 1691 and they know their trade. They started their distillery at the mouth of the river Maas with access to the North Sea for easy shipping and Schiedam’s proximity to Holland’s largest grain auctions. With supply and demand in perfect balance, they honed their craft to perfection, always striving for quality over quantity and staying true to the ‘family business’ ideal. After meeting Carl Nolet and his wife last night, currently visiting Australia, I understand how this family has survived from the boom time of the late 1800s, with 394 working distilleries, to the present day with just 4. There is no substitute for passion, the will to do it right, staying focused and producing a product you believe in. Sooner or later the market will follow. Stubborn or visionary? It doesn’t matter, it worked and that is the consumers’ gain.
The Nolet family produces a number of superb spirits and we are lucky to finally be able to drink the excellent Ketel One, a small-batch pot-still vodka, here in Australia. The name comes from ‘Distilleerketel #1’, Dutch for ‘still number one’, and it refers to one of the copper pot stills, commissioned in the late 1800s, charcoal-fired (with special permission by the Dutch government) and still in use to produce this superb product. There is something about small-batch distilling in a charcoal-fired pot still that can’t ever be matched by continuous distillation. To the family’s credit they do not redistill the head and tails (as everyone else does) but have found a market for it in the perfume industry. This means a cleaner, less volatile spirit. After 3 separate distillations (with heads and tails discarded each time) the new make spirit is gravity charcoal filtered and is then left to rest in underground tiled tanks until it is deemed to be ready. To ensure the ultimate quality is upheld, a member of the Nolet family has personally tasted every batch of Ketel One Vodka ever made.
Although the ideal vodka is supposedly colourless, odourless and tasteless, this is a myth. I would agree with colourless (although some manufacturers now experiment with adding flavours and ergo colours), but this spirit is anything but odourless or tasteless.
We compared the Ketel One vodka last night to 3 other top brands, at room temperature to enjoy maximum flavours, and Ketel One stood out. It was easily the strongest on the nose with heady floral notes and, although it’s impossible to ‘smell sweet’, it left me with an impression of sweetness. On the palate it was textured, with a lovely mouthfeel, the sweetness was confirmed and the tastes ran the full gamut from sweet floral notes via slightly acidic citrus to a hint of bitterness akin to gentian. It was long, lingering and most enjoyable with a layered, textural mouth-feel.
Test your favourite barkeeper: if he hasn’t heard of it, hasn’t tasted it and isn’t prepared to serve it, it might be time to change bars.
Try the ‘Ultimate Martini’
Shake two nips of Ketel One in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with two olives.
List of Ketel One Stockists: