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This Dutch Distillery Makes Vodka Out of Tulips

Tulips,  or flowers in general, are not exactly known as prime ingredients for strong spirits, but one small distillery in Holland (where else?) claims to have perfected a process that allows it to create a high quality vodka out of only two ingredients – tulip bulbs and water.

Dutch Tulip Vodka is the creation of 34-year-old Joris Putman, a filmmaker turned entrepreneur. Four years ago, he decided he was going to invent something, and although he didn’t know exactly what that something would be, he was sure it would involve his country’s national symbol, the tulip. Today, after years of hard work, countless experiments and trying to convince others that tulip vodka was actually a thing, Dutch Tulip Vodka is a big hit, and Michelin-star restaurants all over Europe are proud to have it on their menus.

All it took for Putman to come up with the idea of tulip vodka was a suggestion from his friends to make moonshine from grain. He wasn’t going to do something that others had been doing it for thousands of years, but the idea of making a strong spirit out of tulips sounded appealing.

Photo: Clusius Craft Distillers/Instagram

“My friends originally suggested moonshining from grain, but I didn’t find that appealing at all—I’d be making the same thing and following someone else’s recipe,” Joris Putman told VICE Munchies. “But it did connect the dots. I immediately pictured tulips, liquor, and vodka, and then it was just a matter of minutes before I figured it out and worked on plans for testing.”

However, it turns out that making 40-proof vodka out of nothing but tulip bulbs and water isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. Putman claims that he spent two years perfecting the process, all the while keeping everything a secret from his friends and family.

“The tulip has a strong texture which makes the distilling process tricky, but the first moment it actually worked was just awesome,” the young entrepreneur said. “It wasn’t the best taste initially, but it was an interesting and complex burst of flavor. Once it worked, we started long-term distilling tests to get the right flavors in and the wrong flavors out.”

 

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The process behind Dutch Tulip Vodka is a closely guarded secret, but Putman did reveal that the vodka is distilled three times, even though it’s a different process to the one used at most distilleries.

“Our column distillation system gives us extreme precision,” he says. “During the distilling process, I capture and store flavors separately, so at the end of the process, when I have my purest form of the vodka, I can use original flavors to create the final taste that delivers the whole nuanced and enjoyable experience of how a tulip actually smells and tastes.”

One batch of Dutch Tulip Vodka takes up to three months to make, but can be rendered unusable by a few contaminated tulip bulbs, so Putman makes sure to only source his ingredients from an organic farmer in northern Holland. His distillery, Clusius Craft Distillers (named after the Dutch botanist who introduced tulips to the Netherlands) goes through around 4,800 tulip bulbs per day.

 

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Clusius Craft Distillers currently offers two varieties of Dutch Tulip Vodka, the “Pure”, which is made out of only tulips and water and sells for a price worthy of its uniqueness and quality – 295 euros ($340) per bottle, and the Premium, which is much cheaper at 48 euros ($55), but also contains alcohol distilled from grain. The Pure version contains around 350 tulip bulbs, while the Premium contains an estimated 40 bulbs.

Clusius Craft Distillers started selling Dutch Tulip Vodka in December of 2017, and has so far processed over 4 million tulip bulbs. The highly-regarded spirit is sold at 2 and 3 Michelin star restaurants in Holland, as well as in other European countries. The company hopes to scale up production and expand to other continents as well.