“It’s in our blood”
Great-grandfather Driek Cuyvers, “Den Driek” was the well-known liftman in the Zonhoven mine. Illegal distillation was a welcome source of additional earnings for the big Cuyvers family during the occupation. Grandfather Antoon was a supplier for many distilling kettles in the neighbourhood. Right before the liberation he was fined by the occupier for illegally owning and using a distilling kettle.
Baker – Yeast- specialist
60 years later, member of the family Thomas Cuyvers started experimenting as a yeast-specialist. It was a challenge for the bakery to use that same yeast for the fermentation of beer, wine and distillates. After all, it’s the same wheat of which the live yeast gives the taste to bread or spirits.
The first products were mainly liqueurs and elixirs, inspired by classic desserts such as Suzette, frangipane, honingkoek… At first these liqueurs were only made for friends and acquaintances. Soon there turned out to be a modest demand for it and in 2011 everything was prepared for the first official sale.
First there was “Taxandria Elixirs and Distillates”
The elixirs were given the brand name Taxandria Elixirs & Distillates, a reference to the name the Romans gave to our Kempen region. After the elixirs, jenever and gin followed.
Still being a hobbyist, Taxandria Elixirs and Distillates earned a reputation with its original regional products.
Distilling for third parties
When the gin-hype took off, third parties came to him for help with their own recipes. He said yes to everything. This resulted in some surprising challenges and combinations: Pumpkin seeds, onion, turnip or sansho-pepper, to name a few. By continuous experimenting, he increased his expertise as a distiller which made Thomas a master in his field.
Contract distilling for local breweries and winegrowers.
Brewers of the low countries have a strong reputation for qualitative beers and wines. Their recipes produce beers with their own character. We help to convert these low alcohol products to spirits. We help with choosing the distilling curve with respect for the nature, the love and the pride of the brewer and winegrower. This way we choose for more or less fruitiness of the heads or power or note of the tails. These products are usually aged in oak casks. They rest here or possibly at the client’s until the desired taste is acquired.
In the spring ofc 2017 Elixirs changed its name into Sterkstokers Distilleries. The Thomas Gin no. 21 and both Cameo Vermouth’s: no. 11 (semi-sweet red) & no. 17 (semi-dry white)also brought a new range of house products. The Thomas Gin no. 21 gets positive responses from both professionals and aficionados, because of its powerful but pleasant flavour-character. The Cameo Vermouths, both at culinary level, demonstrate the versatility of the company. At the end of 2017, Thomas went back to the basic ingredients of the Suzette liqueur and re-styled the Antwerp Elixirke, a liqueur with a young and fresh character and a low alcohol percentage.
Thomas also worked on a new jenever recipe. “Den Driek, oude jenever” is a jenever based on rye and wheat malt wine with gale as an additional, regional accent.
We grew even more when we also started helping the hospitality industry and companies create their own liquor. We tried to translate the values of the company into a unique product.
As the specialist in producing Private label liquor, we moved from the garage in Sint-Lenaarts to a contemporary industrial site at the Veilingstraat in Hoogstraten in May 2018. The distillery kettle was increased to a capacity of 2000 litres per run.
Jenever, whisky, rum, elixir, vermouth & vodka
Because of our inquisitive nature there’s nothing we’d rather do than experiment. On the advice of international colleagues we made our first cask of whisky in 2013. A cask which will not be bottled and sold. Perhaps one day visitors will be given the privilege to taste it. Oude jenever, rye malt wine and rum also mature in casks for quite some time. The first bottling of a matured rum cask became the limited edition rum: Jack Fox.
Next to our own products, we also produce Private Label liquor, both small and large batches. With Thomas & Karin as managers, Patrick & Lorenz in sales and Els in production, Sterkstokers specializes in creating unique gin, jenever, elixir, vermouth, rum, vodka & whisky of top notch quality.
Sterkstokers has shown a strong growth. Our mastery, our small-scale production and passion motivate us to keep improving ourselves. We like to challenge ourselves and to innovate. We’ve taken the first steps towards export. Foreign clients book a week in Antwerp and come here to develop their own recipe which they then import in their own bottles. This way we combine our traditional craftmanship with their own local wishes.