A Toast To The King
Ketel One honors Arnold Palmer’s legacy with a special Collector’s Edition bottle.
You’d be hard-pressed to find another man who better exemplified a life well-lived and a life well-played than Arnold Palmer. Known for his kindness and selfless heart, Mr. Palmer imprinted a lasting legacy on all those who knew him. This year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational PGA golf tournament, held at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida, was for the first time without Mr. Palmer himself. Everyone felt the loss.
Nicknamed “The King,” Mr. Palmer is, of course, one of the greatest players in the history of golf. The Latrobe, Pennsylvania-native was a trailblazer and a soft-spoken superstar who helped open the doors of this traditionally upper-echelon pastime to the middle and working classes. He won 62 titles on the PGA Tour, including four Masters, two British Opens and one U.S. Open. President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004. As someone who appreciated respect and manners more than anything—hence, “Mr. Palmer”—he became a household name with a relatable sense of humor and an unrelenting determination to excel. He appealed to everyone from presidents to children to CEOs and was accessible to his fans.
True to his generous spirit, Mr. Palmer was known for celebrating life and making time for those most important to him. After each round of golf, he would head to the 19th hole, where he enjoyed a Ketel One on the rocks with a lemon twist.
It comes as no surprise, then, that longtime friend and 11th-generation patriarch Carl Nolet Jr. and his brother Bob of the Nolet distillery in the Netherlands, producer of Ketel One vodkas and other spirits, have dedicated a bottle of the famed Dutch brand to their dear friend Mr. Palmer, known to them simply as “Arnie.” Using the Arnold Palmer Invitational as a launchpad for Ketel One’s limited-edition tribute bottle, Nolet was on hand to toast to The King.
“I felt compelled to do something, to continue his legacy [which is] even more important today than when he was alive,” says Nolet. “Together with his daughter Amy [Palmer Saunders] and many other wonderful folks around us, we want to continue what Arnie stood for.”
The bottle, which comes in 750ml and 1L sizes, features a nostalgic black-and-white vignette of Mr. Palmer on the course and reads: “Dear Mr. Palmer, This one’s for you.” It’s accompanied by Mr. Palmer’s iconic signature and the open golf umbrella in red, yellow, white and green that has been his company logo since 1961.
On the bottle the 10th-generation Carolus Nolet’s signature is replaced by Mr. Palmer’s. “It was always about the family for 325 years, with one exception, which is why this one is so special,” says Nolet.
Nolet recalls that the best life advice he ever received came from Mr. Palmer when the two had the opportunity to sign Ketel One bottles together. “I grabbed a Ketel One bottle and I put what I thought was my signature on it,” he says. “He looked at it, then looked me straight in the eye and goes ‘What is this? It’s chicken scratch!’ He gave me the life lesson right there to make sure your name is legible. If you look at his signature, it’s absolutely perfect. He is the master of that. He said, ‘Nobody is going to remember who this was in three months from now or five years from now.’ When you have the opportunity to share a family legacy, respect it and make sure it’s legible. From that moment on, I wrote my name legibly on every bottle.”
To honor their friendship, Ketel One constructed a tent on the 18th hole at this year’s invitational, calling it Club Ketel One. The massive tent featured a Ketel One bar, along with an array of captivating Arnold Palmer memorabilia, including his Masters’ win medals, 1960 U.S. Open winner’s trophy, winning scorecards and original photos. It also featured memorabilia from another of his passions, flying.
In addition to honoring Mr. Palmer with the bottle, Ketel One donated a $100,000 check to Arnie’s Army, the charity Mr. Palmer founded that supports children and families in need. The company presented this check to his daughter, Amy Palmer Saunders, who was present at Club Ketel One.
“He’s missed,” says Nolet of this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. “You come to the realization that when you walk here, you see his likeness placed everywhere, and you can’t just walk up to him.”
The Nolet family’s friendship with Mr. Palmer started about 20 years ago when his late-wife Winnie said in an interview that Mr. Palmer’s favorite meal was his meatloaf, his mashed potatoes and his two Ketel Ones. Although a friendship kindled, it wasn’t until Winnie asked the Nolet family to do something special for Mr. Palmer’s 70th birthday that they forged a truly memorable relationship. Winnie called up Nolet asking what Ketel One could do for Mr. Palmer’s birthday since he was a man who had everything. “She sent us his 9-iron, golf balls and other clubs, and we had it frozen into an ice bar,” Nolet says. “He was mesmerized by the entire thing.”
Nolet said their friendship was family based and thrived on “integrity and authenticity,” things Mr. Palmer stood for. “This [relationship] is something that’s going to last many years,” Nolet says. “As long as I’m on this planet, he will be at the forefront of my thinking and the forefront of what we’re doing. We will continue to help out his wonderful charity [Arnie’s Army] and his fantastic golf tournament.”
Nolet, who had the privilege of golfing with Mr. Palmer, says that despite the legend’s iconic golfing accomplishments, he was a charitable family man. “If you start peeling back the onion, there’s nothing but an incredible heart,” says Nolet.
Mr. Palmer was a private man, but the fun was never done. Nolet recalls one of the last times he golfed with Mr. Palmer at a private course they frequented in Southern California. Mr. Palmer shot a 168-yard shot with a 9-iron that landed eight feet in front of the hole. “I was puzzled because there’s an age difference between the two of us and for him to hit a 9-iron 168 yards, that’s a big shot,” Nolet says with a chuckle. “When we were walking down to the green, the caddy nods [at me] and lifts a club. It was 6-iron.”
If you look past the medals, the trophies and the titles, Mr. Palmer was a family man, a charitable man and a role model through and through. While The King is no longer here with us, we’re raising a glass to toast the legacy he left behind: Dear Mr. Palmer, this one’s for you.