Bols is the oldest Genever making company, and probably the oldest distillery still in existence today. It is located in the center of amsterdam, at least the House of Bols is.
Writing or reading about the history of Bols is like exploring the history of Gin. Bols was making juniper based alcohol before gin became gin. The familly is thought to be in amsterdam since 1575 and the first official mention dated back from 1634 city's papers where Pieter Jacobszoon Bols is documented as operator of t Lootsje on the Rozengracht (address of the distillery). The company remained in the same familly till 1815 when the last heir died, and the country occupied by Napoleon lost its glory.
In the 18th century the Bols familly was one of the major shareholder of the Dutch East India company, and hence had access to the most expensive and rare botanicals and other spices from all over the world. One can say, as Gin foundry that the gin as we know it is highly influenced by the natural and spices discoveries along routes the company took back then.
Back to the visit !
Does it worth going and if yes: why ?
The visit is relatively quick, and the whole point seems to be the cocktail at the end of the tour. Or the fellow visitors were heading so fast towards the end to drink and finally slow down that it gave me this impression. This was little disappointing, I was expecting more background information about gin making in general, and the whole setting a little less quirky. I was disappointed but I must confess there are some real highlights such as numerous small educative videos that I strongly recommend (see below a volontary bad quality one) ! The possibility to smell a wide range of gin and genever at different stage of production was also interesting.
It was all so dark in there that I couldn't take any useable pictures though (probably one of their goals for letting everything so dark).
And you, what did you think ?