Framed in the doorway of his light, airy, Amsterdam office, Lucas Bols’ self-styled chief energising officer, Huub van Doorne, cuts an imposing figure – lean, angular and quietly assured.
His bearing is relaxed, yet poised and alert, like that of a sportsman ready for the games to begin – a skier or a tennis player, perhaps. As it turns out, he is both, having played top-level tennis between the ages of 13-17 (at one time he was Holland’s number three) and annually taking to the slopes for his winter holidays.
So this is a man used to volleying whatever life serves up and traversing the moguls of the runs to take on the mantle of mogul himself. But enough of the metaphors and down to business with the son of a family of trucking entrepreneurs who turned entrepreneur himself with the buyout of Lucas Bols from Rémy Cointreau in 2006.
The occasion is the seventh annual Bols Around the World cocktail competition and Van Doorne is in high spirits as he sees the culmination of six months of whittling down the 3,000 entrants from 66 countries. “These last few days are the most rewarding thing. I see the whole company working so hard and being so passionate. That’s what people in the end enjoy.”
‘Passion’ is one of Van Doorne’s watchwords – it was the reason he bought the Bols company in the first place, having seen an underperforming brand “lacking tender, loving care”, that he wanted to put the heart and soul back into.
He had been working for Rémy Cointreau for 15 years. He joined as MD for the distribution company in the Netherlands before being sent to build up distribution in Mexico from 1992-1995 then moving on to head up the marketing and commercial side in Paris.
Van Doorne takes up the tale: “In 2000 Rémy bought Lucus Bols. I left the group in 2004 and I told them at the time that if they would think about selling off the brands I would be interested in looking at that. In March 2005 I had no job and I started literally at the kitchen table to make a budget plan.
“After a year of hard work and convincing people, in 2006 with private investment company AAC Capital, we managed to buy the company from Rémy Cointreau and brought it back to Amsterdam where it’s been since 1575.”
As what Van Doorne had bought was essentially a portfolio of brands rather than a tangible business, his next task was to create a company with a personality and purpose. To that end, four distinct elements were born in one building: the office, the master distiller team (concentrating on NPD), the Bols Bartending Academy and the House of Bols Experience – “to let people experience the past and also to link with the future”.