From contrast, harmony
For anyone wanting a glimpse of modern craftsmanship at work, we would recommend a trip to our Ketel One Distillery in the historic Dutch town of Schiedam. Nestled between cobbled streets and canals, the Distillery appears the epitome of tradition. Yet step inside and a world of contrasts reveals itself – culminating in the production of a truly contemporary vodka.
It was here at the Distillery back in 1979 that Carolus Nolet Snr., first imagined a new, world-class vodka. Blending 300 years of family tradition with modern entrepreneurial spirit, Carolus created Ketel One: a hand-crafted spirit that was the embodiment of his modern craft philosophy.
This philosophy takes root many miles away, in the rich wheat fields of the central European plains where the finest winter wheat is to be found. For Carl, only the best grain is good enough to make the pure ultra-wheat spirit integral to the clean, crisp taste of Ketel One.
This reliance on nature – on the sun, the rain and the fertile soil – contrasts with the process inside the Distillery. Here on the factory floor, everything is controlled, monitored and measured to the last detail. This is where a batch of the grain spirit makes its way to Distilleerketel #1, our coal-fired copper still that gives Ketel One its name.
Stoked by hand then sealed around joints and couplings with traditional flour paste, you could be forgiven for thinking that use of traditional Distilleerketel #1 is something of a gimmick. Far from it. The rich, full-bodied liquid that results is a glorious counterpoint to the fresh and lively ultra-wheat spirit in Ketel One, and an essential part of its signature flavour.
The delicate balancing of the two spirits is one of the most important tasks in the distillery – and, in keeping with Carl’s philosophy, relies on the very human qualities of sense and experience.
This is where our master blender steps in, marrying the two spirits to create a vodka that is silky and smooth when cold, rich and rewarding when warmed in the mouth. Only when he is happy is each and every batch tasted and approved by a member of the Nolet family and sent for bottling.
In a story of contrasts, this is perhaps the most curious. As the newly-filled bottles of Ketel One swirl off the production line, they are whisked on conveyor belts through a tunnel deep under the adjacent canal. On the one side, a centuries-old distillery where the human hand still influences everything. On the other, an ultra-hi-tech warehouse, where robotoic packers whir among 86 foot stacks. And where Ketel One vodka awaits the next stage of its journey.