The purpose of the trip was meant as a work basis, but since given the need to spend 14 days away from civilization upon returning, it would be wise to take a sabbatical at the same time. While the previous post has been about my phenomenal experience at Maltstock, the trip in its entirety has been eventful as well. This part of the series will be more malt-centric while the next will be more cocktail focused, as most of it happened at the end of the 12 day sabbatical.
But first, a flashback into the rendezvous of Torsten, Teo, Mikolaj Michal and myself, all of whom I’ve yet to have the opportunity to meet physically, and there’s no better way to get to know one another other than filling our bellies at Harlem Soul Food.
We proceeded to indulge in a little warm up before the weekend to Maltstock, at Whiskycafe L&B, boasting a wide array of whiskies - up to 2,100 different bottlings! With an extensive menu, I had a pretty good idea of what would be the first whisky in my first ever trip to the Netherlands - an Exclusive Malts 20 Year Old Dailuaine bottled by The Creative Whisky Company. A beautiful dessert dram of viscous (and vicious) peach meringue goodness.
I used to travel out of the country and simply indulge in R&R, which usually happens in neighbouring countries, with exception of a couple of bar take-overs. This trip happened with a purpose, and with a good 5 days in between the 2 different festivals, meeting colleagues that are across the world, this R&R has a new meaning attached to it.
As Teo and I bid farewell to Michal and Mikolaj on the trains, we proceeded to Rotterdam to check in to our accommodation, settled down and met up with Torsten once again. The next 5 days predominantly centred around Torsten getting Teo up to speed with this new role, and getting the 3 of us to get comfortable with one another and exchanging ideas. But nonetheless, these days are equally eventful!
Predicting that the weekend has been filled with an overdose of whiskies, Torsten brought us to the institution of craft beers: Brewdog, Rotterdam Outpost .The Netherlands is vibrant and blooming with the consumption of craft beers, this meant that you can find a variety of beers in almost every restaurant or bar, and more often you will tend to find that not all establishments carry the same SKUs.
I had the Subtropic Speedway, a 7.6%abv sour beer with papaya and pomegranate.
Right down the street of our accommodation at Witte De Withstraat lies a bar that caught our attention, and away we head! #wunderbar is a chill and cultural alternative craft beer place, which hosts underground gigs, exhibitions and performances, essentially a test environment where pop culture marries performance arts.
Oedipus’ Mannenliefde which translates to “men-love”, a saison at 6%abv with Szechuan peppercorns, lemongrass and Sorachi ace hops.
One thing Teo loves for a start in the morning is Cafe Freddo - a double espresso shaken with ice and sugar. Not every cafe understands how to do it but the first cafe we went to did a proper one, and that essentially became our staple breakfast place for most of the mornings.
Another point worth mentioning is the culture of fries. We met up at Frietboutique, right opposite of #wunderbar and I tried Friet Oorlog which translates to “War Fries” - fries slapped with mayonnaise, peanut sauce and raw onions.
When in the Netherlands, one must never miss out on the pilgrimage to the storefront of the world’s biggest whisky database.
Founded in 2007 to create a resource of knowledge for whisky lovers, offering a platform where users can contribute ratings and information on new or obscure bottlings, essentially a social media network for enthusiasts, by enthusiasts. The store was opened in 2011 upon realization that many bottlings on Whiskybase.com was not available online. That is also the same year they launched their bottling label, Archives Whisky. Naturally, Teo and I went snooping around in search of a bottle, or two to bring home.
It will be rude of us to enter empty handed, so we shared our TSC 15Y.O. Kildalton along with Malt Grain & Cane’s 24Y.O. Benriach, and C.J. treated us to a BRILLIANT Springbank under their label.
The Malt Vault
We headed to Maltvault in Utrecht, as introduced by our handler, Torsten. As we walk into the bar and as the owner Said, introduced us to the culture and the service style, one could instantaneously feel the effort and deliberation that goes into crafting an experience that reflects his hospitality philosophy. In a sense Said has made the entry to whisky much easier, and in my opinion he has cracked the language of serving whisky.
The whiskies are arranged in three sections from left to right, light and delicate, rich and intense, peated and smokey. In 3 long shelves, with the bottom, medium and top shelves named as Lust, Bliss and Ascendance respectively and differentiated by pricing, bottom being economical. In this way, a guest can choose to journey through a flight or by individual drams. In this case I’d definitely recommend a flight. What better way to go on an adventure other than to leave your options in the magical hands of Said and The Malt Vault’s Bar Manager Giusi?
Working with the theme of “creamy”, Giusi curated this flight starting with Dailuaine, to Tormore and finally Bunnahabhain
The bar is located by a canal, housed in a wharf cellar along Oudegracht with the shelves fitted along with the curvature of the cellar. The copper tables and bar top, along with the warm lighting gives off a cozy but enigmatic atmosphere which induces a sense of curiosity. The cocktail menu is in service of the bar’s concept as well, with barrel-aged cocktails and a flavor guide which helps one with decision. The team loves obscure distilleries as well, championing the lesser known guys in the spirits world and one such example is a cask of 7 Y.O. Dailuaine that they’ve bottled - a massive beast of raisins and velvet.
The alfresco seating of The Malt Vault with a crowd of pedestrian ducks.
The experience at The Malt Vault is surreal, especially upon hearing about them from Brendan 2 years ago and again from Torsten. It is without a doubt that this will definitely be a vital pit stop for anytime I’m in the Netherlands in the future.
Read Part 2 , Wei De's journey: WTF (Whisky Tasting Festival...)