Profile: Huub van Doorne

Van Doorne is clearly proud of his resurrection of the Bols name. “When you look at the history of Bols we had 300 liqueur recipes; in the 1700s we were traders; we were in Paris at the world exhibition so we were always at the forefront but lost it. 

“I said we need to be innovative again, be at the forefront and choose to go for the world of bartenders and cocktail culture. We really started to work with bartenders. Those were the pillars of our development and I have looked for partners to share our vision and passion and it’s only now you see the results of the hard work.”


He has never been one to shy away from hard work, fully admitting to being ambitious, and seems to have been at the top of his game throughout what has been a remarkable life to date. A burning interest in the economy and marketing led him to study business administration at university, where he became active in the Netherlands student union, AIESEC.

“It was there I discovered that I liked to work in teams and to lead teams. I headed up the local branch then, later, national.”

He started his career at Procter & Gamble, marketing on the detergents side. He was approached by a headhunter and went from being a senior brand manager to MD of distribution at Rémy Cointreau.

Yet nothing in his career has been the result of him mapping out a long-term path. “I don’t believe in those things. If someone says in 20 years I will be there, I think the most you can think is five years ahead. To go from being in the Netherlands to Mexico – I never thought I would do that. It was a different country, a new language, there was no organisation.

“One of the things I’ve learnt to be successful abroad is you need to speak languages and respect the culture.”

Van Doorne speaks English, French, Spanish and German as well as his native Dutch, and the global aspect of his business is one that really grabs him and is essential to the profligation of the Bols brand.

“A lot of companies don’t know how to go about liqueurs – it’s a general term for many different products. You have many SKUs so it requires a selling approach. I like brands in general and I like the multinational part, the global involvement. I can one day deal with Japan and Argentina and Brazil and another the US, UK, Germany.

“Bols is not a huge company but we are truly global.”


And what of the ‘chief energising moniker’? He attributes it to a colleague but admits: “It really corresponds with what I would like to be. My role is not just executive. I am a great believer in company culture. You can’t buy that anywhere. If it’s one thing you can influence as someone leading an operation, it’s that. I want to give people energy in terms of passion for the company and brands and give them their own responsibilities rather than imposing rules on them. To be entrepreneurial, take risks, make decisions, come up with ideas and try to inspire people in their cultures and to learn from those and bring them back here.”