· Can you trace the history of the Radermacher distillery and its foundation in 1836 by Peter Radermacher?
In 1836, Peter Radermacher, a farmer by trade, undertook the foundation of a distillery to transform, thanks to the mill he owned, the cereals harvested on his lands into genever. This marks the birth of Radermacher distillery, the oldest distillery in Belgium.
Peter Radermacher passed away in 1878, at the age of 72. His son Leonard succeeded him and took over the reins of the agricultural distillery.
The 1st World War marked the beginning of a difficult period for the family and its six children who survived thanks to the yield of agricultural activities. Moreover, the copper stills were seized during the German Occupation. Fortunately, the family was able to assemble sufficient capital for the acquisition, after the end of the war, of a new distillation column.
In 1920, Leonard Radermacher died at the age of 69. His three sons, Pierre, Willy, and Lambert took over the family business. They continued and diversified the distillery's activities by adding the bottling of wines bought in barrels to the production of genever and liqueurs.
Pierre Radermacher fell at the very beginning of the 2nd World War. Following Lambert and Willy's refusal to join the National Socialist party, the Nazis then banned them from producing alcohol, and the distillery was forced to suspend its activities. All the tools were confiscated. Again, the family survived thanks to farm activities.
The situation improved after the war. Exhausted by long deprivations, the distillery was finally able to restart its economic activities and increase its turnover tenfold. In 1948, brothers Lambert and Willy abandoned agricultural activities, bought new stills, and received ministerial authorization to distill by acquiring an official distillation license. In 1953, Willy Radermacher passed away, and his brother Lambert henceforth shouldered the distillery's activities.
Lambert Radermacher passed away in 1983, regretting the absence of a son to whom he could hand over his activities. But he didn't count on his grandson, Bernard Zacharias, who inherited the passion and love for the trade from his grandfather. After the death of his grandmother in 1989, Bernard took over the distillery at the age of only 22. His enthusiasm, creativity, but above all his diligence and respect for family traditions repositioned the distillery to its rightful place on the Belgian spirits chessboard.
In 1995, Whisky Lambertus was born, created in memory of Lambert Radermacher, one of the most significant pillars of the family distillery. Also, Line Zacharias was born, the 6th generation, who would join the distillery in 2019.
Radermacher Distillery is the first in Belgium to embark on the production of certified organic spirits. In 2014, the organic range 1836 was born. Referring to the year the distillery was founded, it consists of several gins, a rum, and a vodka.
In 2019, the 6th generation entered the family business. A real challenge that Line Zacharias decided to take up, allowing the company to consider long-term future projects.
Significant expansion works began in March 2021. An additional 1500 m2 are planned to optimize and modernize production, increase capacities, but also to better meet all aspects of food safety. A visitor center opened at the end of the works in September 2022 with the ambition of introducing the general public to the fabulous world of distillation.
· How has your family maintained a passion for the distiller's profession for nearly two centuries?
Family members have remained curious and have constantly fueled their motivation with ideas. There is always something to learn, something that can be done better. Passion is synonymous with continuous learning.
· What motivates you the most in your role as director of the Radermacher distillery?
Research, creation, and development of new products, modernization of production tools, as well as human contact.
I am also the president of the Belgian Federation of Wines and Spirits: Vinum & Spiritus. The objective is to ensure and protect a positive regulatory framework for the production, distribution, and sale of wines and spirits.
· How does Radermacher Distillery differentiate itself from other Belgian distilleries? How does it work for ecology and IFS FOOD certifications?
Radermacher Distillery is not only certified organic but is also one of the few distilleries to be able to present the IFS FOOD food certification.
The IFS Food standard allows the assessment of compliance of products and processes in terms of food safety and quality.
We attach great importance to environmental protection. That's why a significant part of the distillery's investments is dedicated to reducing its ecological footprint (photovoltaic panels, energy flow recovery system, insulation, LED, triple glazing, storm basin, …)."
· How did Radermacher Distillery embark on the development of an organic product range, and what does this mean for the company?
Radermacher Distillery decided to launch its first organic range in 2014, with the release of the first Belgian organic gin: the 1836 range, in line with a sustainable development perspective. Organic food products are strictly controlled and grown without pesticides, colorings, or additives. It's better for our health!
Moreover, located in Raeren, a village at the heart of the German-speaking community, the distillery aims to integrate perfectly into the rural setting of the village while preserving the environment as much as possible. It thus wishes to protect biodiversity.
· How does the distillery maintain its tradition while remaining competitive on the European market, particularly through technology?
Almost two centuries of know-how and a rigorous selection of raw materials are the real secrets of the art of distillation. Uncompromising on quality, the distillery remains faithful to ancestral traditions while combining them with the requirements of modern production, the rule of art for producing distillates of exceptional quality.
· How does Radermacher select its raw materials to produce distillates of exceptional quality?
Radermacher Distillery scrupulously selects its raw materials. It sources from reliable suppliers known for a long time. Respect for traditions and ancestral recipes, passed down from generation to generation, allows the distillery to produce distillates with exceptional character and unique delicacy."
· How does Radermacher Distillery adapt to changes in consumer tastes?
First of all, it is necessary to listen to the customer. One of the missions of our "research and development" department is to understand the major changes in consumer behaviors. The idea is to identify and understand these changes that occur in customer consumption habits to act/react accordingly. With the pandemic, for example, consumer standards are more focused on safety and reliability.
· Why did you decide to expand the distillery and double its production capacity?
With an investment of just over 4,000,000€, this expansion of 1500 m2 makes our distillery one of the most modern in Belgium. It allows, in particular, the accommodation of a new hot production unit with a 3,000-litre still, a fermenter, mashing tanks, etc. The bottling unit has also been transferred to this new building, which has computerized management. Moreover, the extension is equipped with photovoltaic panels and a system for recovering energy flows.
This new, more spacious and modern tool allows the distillery to maintain its quality criteria while freeing up the central building, which is classified. The goal is to optimize and modernize production, increase capacities, and better meet all aspects of food safety.
Radermacher Distillery currently produces 1.2 million bottles per year and aims to reach 1.5 million over the next 3 or 4 years. The infrastructure, for its part, will allow, if needed, to reach 3 or even 4 million bottles produced on the site.
· How is the 6th generation of the Zacharias family involved in the company, and what are the future projects for Radermacher Distillery?
In Line Zacharias' learning process, the 6th generation, it is planned that she will go through all the departments of the distillery to understand its overall functioning. After working in production as a student, spending 1 year in internal commercial service, she has been working in the purchasing department for 4 years. She also handles communication and marketing."
· What is the most important piece of advice you have learned in your distiller profession?
Maintain a passion for developing exceptional products. Never rest on your laurels, leave nothing to chance.
· Can you introduce us to your partner Panda Gin, and explain what makes you proud of this collaboration?
Choosing a reliable business partner is not always easy. Several aspects need to be considered, such as shared goals and values.
But above all, there are the people behind every project. Mutual respect, trust, and complicity are the necessary foundations for any partnership.
We are extremely proud of this partnership because the two companies are in perfect harmony: Panda Gin is a pioneer (the first gin in the world to contain lychee) and prioritizes quality. It takes great pride in satisfying customers with an innovative and quality product. And most importantly… it has trusted us since the beginning of our partnership.
· As a master distiller, how do you explain the success of Panda Gin with the public? How does it differ from other gins?
For success to be achieved, a perfect alchemy must be created between the design, the product, and the company's philosophy.
The four partners are true lovers of spirits. They are bold, professional, diligent, but above all passionate. The French writer Denis Diderot once said, “One must be enthusiastic in one’s profession to excel in it.
Panda Gin is extremely powerful in marketing and stands out from other gins with a completely novel recipe: it is the first gin in the world to contain lychee. During the product’s development, the aromatic profile was identified to determine the best distillation process to apply.
· What were the main challenges encountered in creating the recipe for Panda Gin?
Panda Gin and Radermacher Distillery are both driven by a common passion: quality spirits.
During the development of the recipe, we had to be vigilant in respecting our partner's idea while combining our knowledge, skills, and visions. Creating a balance and coherence between the idea and the result.
· What is the nature of your relationship with the founders of Panda Gin?
It is much more than a basic professional relationship... it quickly evolved into a relationship of trust and friendship, kind and warm over the years.
· How do you see the future of your collaboration between Radermacher and Panda Gin?
We hope to continue this wonderful collaboration as long as possible!
Joining our forces and creating together a future synonymous with pleasure and success!