Over Van Zuylekom, Levert & Co (1684 –1982)
During the Golden Age, the production of liqueurs, bitters and elixirs was a vibrant industry in Amsterdam. One of the most well known distilleries was Van Zuylekom, Levert & Co., located in the Jordaan on the Anjeliersgracht, the current Westerstraat. For nearly three centuries this distillery was the place where all sorts of liqueurs, bitters, elixirs and gins were made. Its first owner was Jacob Bols (nephew of Lucas Bols of the famous Bols family, one of the oldest distillery brands in the world). In 1754, the distillery came into the hands of Frederik van Zuylekom, and in the 19th century, the merger with Levert & Co. took place.
In 1952, Erik Blaisse (1922–2015) became the last owner of Van Zuylekom. Due to increasing competition, price cuts in the industry and distribution problems, the company had no choice but to close its doors in 1983, after nearly three centuries. Blaisse was forced to sell the inventory of his beloved distillery, there were however no buyers for the paper archive. Blaisse stored the paper archive in his garden house on Vondelstraat and obliterated it from his memory. It wasn’t until 2014 when the garden house had to be renovated and therefore vacated, that the paper archive saw the light of day again.
The archive consisted of books, posters, labels, photographs, bottles and various correspondence. Some items were destroyed by silverfish, some damaged due to moisture. The majority was in good condition. The archive is managed by the foundation of Van Zuylekom Distillery Since 1684 Collection.
Erik Blaisse in his office at the Westerstraat, with numerous certificates and diplomas in the background.
The Van Zuylekom logo is a ‘little man’, a gracious valet holding a serving tray. The ‘little man’ displayed on many of the products was a creation of the second last owner, Dick van de Poll – the illegitimate son of William III, King of the Netherlands – who ran the company from 1920 until 1952. For decades, many advertising campaigns and labels were designed by this creative eccentric.
Amongst other objects, the Van Zuylekom Collection carries a large collection of valuable labels dating from the 19th to the 20th century. These beautifully designed labels are cultural reflections of their time.