If you take a bit of time to poke around with what others are saying, you'll find a lot of variations of, "Well, I suppose it's a good gin if you had it on its own. But, I mean, who drinks gin on its own?"
I do. Now, anyway. And I really like Nolet's.
Let's start with the negatives first. If you're buying gin primarily as a mixer, Nolet's is all kinds of wrong. It is such a distinctive and non-traditional gin that it isn't going to mix well into any gin-based recipe that wasn't specifically designed around it. Of all of the core flavors Nolet's offers, juniper—strange as this may seem—isn't a star player. In fact, the three most prominent botanicals are peach, raspberry, and Turkish rose. If you use Nolet's as a random substitution for any London dry in a cocktail, it will taste different, and probably not for the better.
The price is also a sore spot. A lot of people are going to pick up the bottle of Nolet's, see the $45+ price tag, and say, "Whoa! I can get a good gin for a lot less money." And true: you can. If you're not normally a gin drinker, I think there are a few more cost-effective and similarly delicious bottles that warrant exploration first, but consider this: the Nolet distillery has been run by the same Dutch family for eleven generations. Holland is the birthplace of gin. These guys are the real deal.
This holds even more weight considering these are the Ketel One dudes. They ship 25.8 million bottles of Ketel One around the world every year, according to my data. On the low end that accounts for a quarter million dollars of revenue coming through the doors. And yet, the gin is what they put their last name on.
In that sense, Ketel One Vodka is the Cayenne to Porsche's Carerra GT. You're going to find a lot more of their SUVs out there on the road, and they're good cars. But it's crystal clear what the manufacturer really wants to be doing, even if it accounts for a lot fewer of their dollars. Here, as in many other businesses, I suspect it's the mass appeal product funding the thing that the aficionados get to gush over.
Enough generalized praise. Drink the product on its own in quiet contemplation and there's a lot going on. As I mentioned before, juniper is kicked out of bed for rose petals, peach, and raspberry. And damned if you can't taste and smell that in the glass. Nolet's is weighty, fruity, and aromatic. It has great presence and body thanks to the very generous 47.5% ABV, but the flavors provide delicacy without becoming boring or one-dimensional. I'm a sucker for direct, distinctive spirits, and Nolet's is definitely that. It would absolutely not be hard to pick out of a blind tasting.
Essentially, I wish more vodka had this kind of backbone and flavor clarity. Nolet's shows there's a lot of room in the world of gin that's untapped. It's definitely not a classic London Dry with pine needles up the wazoo, but it's very far from the citrus-forward "New American" gins that provide a direct alternative. Nolet's in a class of its own, and it's very exciting.
All of that said, if gin has always seemed like drinking perfume, this probably isn't going to push you over the edge or make you a convert. Again, go to Martin Miller's as a first point of departure. However, if you already don't bat an eye when it comes to pouring gin right into a glass (or over ice), this is a delight. It gets my highest rating simply because I feel that someone made a gin for me and people like me.