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Spirit Man

O.C.’s Carl Nolet Jr. has a long history of filling glasses with top-shelf drinks, and he’s ready to serve another pour.

At Nolet Spirits USA’s Aliso Viejo headquarters, Carl Nolet Jr. leads a company with a 300-year heritage.

It’s a safe bet that no one in Orange County has a more storied business pedigree than Carl Nolet Jr., an executive of a company—Nolet Distillery—started more than 300 years ago by his great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather.

Carl and his brother Bob are the 11th generation of Nolets to oversee the manufacturing and sales of premium spirits, which include Ketel One vodka. Carl learned the family business literally from the ground up, starting in 1988 by sweeping the floors at the distillery in the Netherlands and learning various aspects of the operation. “Having served in all of the necessary roles and responsibilities through the ranks has tied me even closer to my family,” Carl says.

He moved to the United States in 1992 to oversee the American sales of the company’s newest brand, Ketel One. Carl—executive vice president of Nolet Spirits USA—eventually established the national headquarters in Aliso Viejo, where he now lives with his wife, Janet, and seven children.

Along with Ketel One, the firm now also boasts a unique line of gin that includes Nolet’s Silver (featuring flavor notes of Turkish rose, tart raspberry and peach) and the limited-quantity Nolet’s Reserve, with hints of saffron and verbena. “[It’s] my father’s masterpiece,” Carl says. “He announces annually on his birthday how many bottles of Nolet’s Reserve he will produce for that year.”

Not surprisingly, Carl’s favorite martini—a vesper—shows off two of his company’s spirits: Ketel One and Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin (with a splash of Lillet Blanc). “It is a great classic cocktail,” he says.

Carl and Janet have also become the toast of Orange County’s philanthropic scene, donating generously to a variety of local nonprofits, such as Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where he was treated years ago after a serious car accident.

Says Carl: “My wife and I wish to instill this same spirit of giving in our kids when they directly see the impact these charities have at the local level.”