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Lucas Bols is a privately held Dutchmarker company in the business of production, distribution, sales and marketing of alcoholic beverages. It is the oldest Dutch company still active and the oldest distillery brand in the world. Its brand portfolio consists of Bols, Galliano, Vaccari, Pisang Ambon, Goldstrike and a large group of Dutch genevers and liqueurs. It produces about 3 million cases a year, with yearly revenues exceeding 95 million euros.

Name and family origin

Bols is an old family name from the Antwerpmarker, Belgiummarker area. In Old Dutch, Bols means arrow. As a result of the Eighty Years War between the Netherlands and Spain and the Spanish Inquisition, part of the family fled to Germanymarker. There is a record of a reverse emigration back to Amsterdam.



Although there is a lack of hard historical evidence, it is claimed by the company and generally accepted that in 1575 the Bols family arrived in Amsterdammarker and opened their distillery t Lootsje ( ). The distillery was located outside the city walls on the post road to Haarlemmarker, situated next to a stream. By 1612 the city's walls had expanded to encompass the distillery, and the stream was dug out into a canal called the Rozengracht because of rose nurseries in the area. Around the same time, a new stone building was constructed to house the distillery. The first official mention is in 1634 in Amsterdam town papers, where Pieter Jacobszoon Bols is documented as operator of t Lootsje on the Rozengracht.

Lucas Bols was born in 1652. His era corresponded with the Dutch golden age, when the Netherlands were a colonial power, and led the world in international commerce. The Dutch East India Company, of which Lucas was a major shareholder, brought exotic herbs, spices and fruits back to Amsterdam, and these were used to create new liqueurs and genevers. Many of the recipes from that period, such as Blue Curaçao and Crème de cacao, remain popular to this day.

During the 18th century, the Bols family became a very prosperous dynasty, but found itself becoming more and more detached from the day to day operation of the distillery. This lack of family leadership, along with the Continental Blockade of Napoleon, severely weakened the company, and when last male heir, Herman Bols, died in 1813, the company was offered for sale.

Van 't Wout era

Napoleon's defeat in 1815 sparked buying interest in the company, and Rotterdam financier Gabriël Theodorus van 't Wout acquired the firm with the condition that the company permanently retain the Bols name. New ownership revitalized the company. A price list from 1820 shows over 300 varieties of liqueurs, bitters, elixirs and gins; it is possible that some of these were never produced, and were merely disinformation aimed at competitors.

Van 't Wout succeeded in bringing the distillery back to profitability, but by 1822 a falling out with partner Coenraad Adriaan Temminck caused him to abandon his efforts with the company. In 1842 Van 't Wout wrote a manuscript entitled Distillateurs- en Liqueurbereiders Handboek door een oude patroon van 't Lootsje (English: Distillers and Liqueur makers Handbook by an old patron of "The Little Shed"), which is now in the Bols archives.

Moltzer family era

In 1868 the firm was again sold, this time to the Moltzer family who greatly expanded the company. In 1889, the rozengracht canal was filled in order to provide a new major thoroughfare for Amsterdam. The old site was abandoned and a modern steam powered distillery was built in nearby Nieuw Vennepmarker. Other distilleries were built in Scheveningen and in Emmerichmarker, just over the Dutch border in Germany. In 1892, the company was reorganized into an LLC.

Former Dutch colonial possessions proved natural markets for the group's products, and a rapid international expansion followed. By the turn of the century, Bols was aggressively marketing its lines, and nearly all European Royal houses had appointed them Royal Warrants. In 1873 Bols won a Fortschritts-Medaille at the Weltausstellung 1873 Wien and one year later became purveyor to the imperial court in Vienna. Other courts followed such as several kings and queens of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Monaco, and later in more modern times the courts of Ethiopia and Nepal.

After World War I, distilleries were started in Francemarker (1921), Polandmarker (1922), Switzerlandmarker (1929), Canadamarker (1932), South Africa (1933), Belgiummarker (1934), Argentinamarker (1935), Spainmarker (1935) and the United Statesmarker (1947). Bols also grew through takeover, including the firms of Hoppe and Wynand Fockink, its largest competitor since 1679. In 1954, the last of the Moltzer family left the board of directors, and Bols Distilleries became a publicly traded company.


Bols continued to expand its reach over the next few decades until it participated in almost every geographic market in the world. Management was quick to realize, however, that societal trends away from alcohol consumption, particularly spirits, threatened the company. Genever was still a large component of Bol's revenues, and this was a particularly difficult market to grow outside of its native Netherlands, as global drinkers tended to prefer the British "dry" style of gin. A strategy of diversification through acquisition was adopted, and in 1977 Italian brands Cynar and :it:Biancosarti, both aperitifs, were added, and in 1983 the company added its first non-alcoholic beverages with the acquisition of Terme di Crodo, makers of still and sparkling mineral waters, non-alcoholic bitters, and sodas, including :it:Crodino, and various other fruit flavored beverages. (In a later divestiture, these brands became part of Campari Group). Through the 1980s, Bols continued to expand its range of non-alcoholic beverages with particular emphasis on the Italian and Swiss markets.

Already a leading producer of alcoholic beverages in its home country, Bols became the dominant producer of genever with its 1986 acquisition of Rotterdam based Henkes. In addition, this allowed Bols to vertically integrate itself, as Henkes had a network of retail liquor stores in the Netherlands. In 1988, Bols acquired Strothmann Brennereien GmbH & Co AG., instantly giving it the largest market share in the Korn Schnapps market, along with distribution channels and production facilities in Germany.

In 1989, Bols formed a joint venture with Gedistilleerd en Wijngroep Nederland (GWN), the wine and distilled beverages unit of Heineken, forming Bols Benelux B.V. The venture attained a near 50% market share in the Dutch liquor business, due in part to GWN's earlier acquisition of Bokma, another leading genever brand. The joint venture expanded into the rapidly growing wine segment, purchasing 85 percent of Consortium Vinicole de Bordeaux (CVBG), formerly part of Douwe Egberts. Other smaller French wine houses were quickly added to the portfolio. The company also boosted its operations in Italy in 1990, buying up Ottavio Riccadonna, adding that company's Spumante and Ricadonna brands.

Wessanen merger

By 1993, competition and consolidation in the industry had become cutthroat. Heineken decided to retrench to its beer business, and sold off its stake in the joint venture for 58.6 million guilders. Dutch foods giant Royal Wessanen and Bols saw a natural fit for horizontal integration, and a merger was completed into a new company: Bols Wessanen. From the beginning, integrating the two lines of business was difficult, and so led to profit pressures. The 1995 annual stockholders meeting was contentious and the company decided to focus its growth efforts toward the food sector. In 1997, the company moved to a new headquarters and production facility in Zoetermeermarker.

By 1999, it was obvious that the partnership wasn't working. The Bols side of the business was being neglected, and management wanted to unlock its potential for growth and profitability. CVC Capital Partners, a private equity firm, agreed, and a management buyout was engineered forming Bols Royal Distilleries. Immediately thereafter, Bols acquired a number of brands from British drinks conglomerate Diagio.

Acquired by Remy Cointreau

Almost immediately after the buyout, it became clear that Bols did not have the scale to effectively compete in the rapidly consolidating drinks industry. CVC Capital had an existing relationship with Remy Cointreau, so it seemed natural to combine the two companies. In August 2000 an agreement was reached, and Remy paid CVC €510 million for Bols, which retained a 9% equity stake in the enlarged group. The merger was perceived as greatly helping both companies, allowing Remy to diversify into products requiring no expensive aging stock, an Eastern European distribution network, and access to Bol's management skills, while giving Bols access to Remy's joint venture worldwide distribution alliance, Maxxium.

The synergies of the combined company were immediately felt. Remy reported a string of strong earnings and profit growth, until a weakening dollar and a temporary drop in sales of Bols Vodka in Poland due to taxation and counterfeiting issues hurt 2003 results. Results in 2004 remained weak, but strong growth was noted of the vodka brand throughout Eastern Europe, and Maxxium committed considerable resources to modernizing the Bols image, including new packaging and refocusing on a youth driven market. Bols was awarded "Best Brand Re-Launch" by the trade publication Drinks International Magazine.

In 2005, Remy struck a complex deal with Central European Distribution Corporation , wherein CEDC took ownership of the Bols production facilities in Poland and licensed various trademarks for use in Poland and Russia in exchange for a 9% equity stake. The deal gave each company access to the other's distribution networks. Remy also received a seat on CEDC's board of directors. CEDC would later buy Bol's Hungarian subsidiary and trademarks.

Management buyout

In 2005, Remy decided to focus on its premium brands, and on December 8, it announced it would sell the Bols brand to concentrate on its core drinks. On March 16 2006, Remy announced the sale of Bols to European investment fund ABN AMRO Capital (75%), together with a management group led by Mr. Huub van Doorne (25%). Mr. Van Doorne was a member of Rémy Cointreau's Management Board, and led the team that revitalized the Bols brand under Remy's aegis. Mezzanine capital was provided by GSC Group. The new company is named Lucas Bols, B.V. and is headquartered in Amsterdam. Its assets include the production facilities in the Netherlands, along with the brands, Bols, Galliano, Vaccari Sambuca, Pisang Ambon and Damrak Gin, plus leading Dutch Origin spirit brands such as Bokma and Hartevelt genevers and Coebergh.
Distribution will still be mostly done by Maxxium, although the United States will be handled by new partner William Grant & Son, USA., a wholly owned subsidiary of William Grant & Sons.


Bols has greatly increased its marketing presence under the leadership of Mr. Van Doorne, first as part of Remy Cointreau, and now as an independent company. The vision is to drive the Bols brands growth and profitability through the "on-trade" market, meaning in bars and restaurants. To do this, Bols is positioning itself as a leader to bar owners and their staff in support, innovation and new product development. Bols wants its ingredients to be thought of as an irreplaceable component in mixology and cocktail culture, as it capitalizes on evolving trends in the use of liqueurs. To this end, Bols actively courts bar owners, bartenders and consumers through a marketing strategy of trade associations, campaigns, sponsorships, and bartending academies and competitions.


Bols has constructed a "brand experience" in Amsterdam, which includes not only a traditional museum of the history of the brand, its manufacturing methods and ingredients, but also various interactive exhibits which involve the visitor and engage the senses. Visitors can even practice flair bartending.

Bartending Academy

Bartenders themselves are a top priority for Bols and the Bols bartending academy offers accredited courses in bartending, flair bartending, mixology (the science behind bartending) and hospitality management.


Bols produces a number of different brands. It is common in the drinks industry for companies to buy and sell brands among themselves, as business decisions are made about what market space a particular company wants to occupy. With constant consolidation and divestiture in the industry, a company's brand portfolio is usually in a state of flux. Bols owns brands that it has historically produced, as well as ones acquired in various stages of its evolution, either directly or through joint ventures or other partnerships.


Bols branded

Bols has long produced liqueurs it marketed under its own eponymous brand, going back in time to the very first products it made. Currently, it produces a line of 38 different flavors, sold in the new teardrop shaped bottle. These include:

Also documented elsewhere, but not officially mentioned by Bols are blackberry liqueur, butterscotch schnapps, green tea liqueur, sloe gin liqueur, and sour apple liqueur. Note: Although fruit brandies are not strictly liqueurs, Bols classifies theirs as such, perhaps due to added sweeteners.

Pisang Ambon

Pisang Ambon is a banana and tropical fruit flavored liqueur.


Galliano is a complex anise, vanilla and herbal liqueur first produced by Vaccari. It is also confusingly, a brand name for line of other liqueurs from Vaccari, most or all of which are no longer produced. The line included an amaretto, a black sambuca, a white sambuca and a white peach liqueur.

Vaccari Sambuca

Sambuca is a traditional Italian liqueur flavored with star anise.


Bootz is a Dutch-only brand which includes a wide range of liqueurs and spirits.


Coebergh is a Dutch only brand which is the number one liqueur and the biggest drinks brand for women in the Netherlands. It is produced in four styles: Coebergh Classic has a blackcurrant/blackberry flavor, Coebergh Red has a cranberry flavor, Coebergh Cherry and Coebergh raspberry.


A Dutch-only coffee flavored liqueur.


A Dutch-only cinnamon schnapps, similar to Goldschläger.


Kontiki is a gin-based liqueur flavored with lemon and grapefruit.

Zwarte Kip

Zwarte Kip is an advocaat, a thick and creamy eggnog flavored liqueur.


Bols branded

Bols has a line of internationally shipped vodka, flavored vodkas, gin, and genever. As noted above, in Eastern Europe, the Bols brand is produced and marketed by another entity, CEDC.

Damrak Gin

Damrak is a luxury, international-style gin. It has been well reviewed in independent drinks competitions. Damrakmarker was Amsterdam's first harbor, and the name pays tribute to the original genever trade.


Bokma is a Dutch-only brand of genevers, Lemon Genever, and Lemon Brandy.


Claeryn is a Dutch-only brand of jonge genever. Claeryn was also involved in an important legal case involving trademarks. The Benelux Court of Justice held that a similarly named liquid detergent infringed due to the concept of detriment of repute.

Els La Vera

:nl:Els La Vera is a traditional bitters from the Limburgmarker region, popular in the south of the Netherlands.


Hartevelt is another complete line of genevers and lemon brandy.


Yet another jonge genever.


An old Dutch value brand used in off-trade (home) mixing.


  1. Claeryn / Klarein, Case A 74/1, judgment of 1 March 1975, Jurisprudence of the Benelux Court of Justice 1975, p. 472.

Further reading

  • "De lange levens van zeven Nederlandse bedrijven" by Wim Wennekes. 1990.
  • "De branderijen in Holland tot het begin der negentiende eeuw" (The Dutch distilleries till beginning of the 19th century) by P.J. Dobbelaar. 1930
  • Several contributions to the Quarterly Magazine of the Dutch bottle collectors club "De Oude Flesch" by Lodewijk van Sint Maartensdijk. 1979-1995.

External links

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