The 11 Generations Of Ketel One

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - March 28, 2007
| | podcast Podcast |
Carl Nolet of Ketel One
Carl Nolet of Ketel One

With the baffling array of vodka lining supermarket shelves right now, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know what to buy. Is that pomegranate-passion-fruit-infused-with-Indian-spices really so much better than the one distilled 27 times and then put through a colander filled with dried sage?

Who really knows?

But you might as well get used to it - there are hundreds of new products on the shelves and dozens more in production. That’s why, amid all the perfume and pomegranate, it’s refreshing to return to the basics.

Ketel One might be a well-known name in the spirit world today, but Carl Nolet well remembers when the response was more like “Ketel what?” Nolet is the 11th generation of his family to continue the Ketel One tradition and he enjoys sharing family stories with anyone who cares to listen.

Part skilled marketing and part pure family history, the Ketel One story is certainly refreshing in a spirit market where anyone, it seems, can step up to a still and begin making vodka.

At Ketel One, they’re not interested in trends. When you have 300 years of tradition, your product tends to speak for itself. The only nod to 21st century cocktails is the surprisingly fresh and citrusy Ketel One Citron. Using a variety of fresh lemons from different European markets, Ketel One is infused with a true citrus flavor that is evident on the nose as soon as you open a bottle.

But don’t worry, you’re not about to see any Ketel Mandarin or Ketel Kampachi.

“We’re not making any more flavored vodka,” says Nolet. “We have one, and we’re happy with the way it tastes.”

More importantly, the Ketel One drinker seems more than happy with the finished product.

With Ketel One there’s no alcohol burn with the first sip, and there’s no fiery after-burn snaking its way down your throat. What the company produces is a pure, smooth vodka made from premium wheat that’s been hand-crafted and then charcoal-filtered. They’ve been refining the recipe since the early 1700s.

And the 12th generation distillers are already learning the trade. Carl has six children, and admits that at least one or two will be encouraged to take over the tradition.

“It’s really such a part of your life that you don’t even think about it,” he says of growing up with the legacy. “My brother and I would always be at the distillery with my father, giving tours, learning about our vodka - and now I see the same things in my children. My son, who’s not yet 11, will be in a restaurant with me and pick up the drinks list and comment, ‘Dad, we used to have seven Ketel One drinks on here, now there are only four!”

Generation X might be leading the way with technology and the pomegranate martini, but when it comes to crafting a spirit to be proud of, at Ketel One they’re happy to have generation XI, and counting.

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