Pot Still Festival 2014

The Potstill Festival is a whisky and spirit festival organised by importer and distributor van Wees in Amersfoort, where we already have been to for some years, and has grown into a tradition with a growing group of friends.

Besides whisky, they have a wide selection of cognac, eua-de-vie, armagnac, grappa, rum and other distilled products available, most of them represented by the distillers themselves.

This year was the twelfth edition of the festival, and we were lucky enough to go there for two three-hour sessions on the Saturday. Since a couple of years, the event takes place at the wonderful location Het Klooster in Amersfoort. This is a monastery founded in the fifties of last century, and was since the built focused on educating in the area. After the monks left it is turned into a school for all sorts of hospitality training. The building has been build in a traditional medieval floor plan and around a monastery garden. The bell tower is originally build to be a water tower, because of being build on a location far up the hill and out of reach of the municipal water system, it was more cost effective to source their own water well.

The Festival shows us the products that are available in van Wees’ store, where the main focus of the products they sell is not on the mainstream products, but the craft and boutique products, where quality stands above quantity. Once inside, the festival offers the visitors all products free of charge, including some of the more rare and expensive products the producers have brought with them to try, before you buy.

With this philosophy, the visitor gets the chance to find out about the great variety of products straight from the source, see the products up close and personal, and talk about the products with the people behind the stands with more in-depth details.

Upon entering the festival floor, the visitor is handed a small, useful booklet where all brands and bottles can be found, via a small map and a listing of the specified bottles. When chatting with some of the stand owners, there sometimes appears a bottle from underneath the table, where a sip or two of something special or yet unreleased product gets poured into the visitors’ glass. If a tasted product is really to someone’s liking, van Wees’ shop prices are in the booklet as well, so the visitor immediately knows where they want to have a better look at and visit the nearby shop (which has extra opening hours), to immediately take the product home with them.

For the first time, we decided to go two sessions in a row, so we could give ourselves a little more time to explore the vast array of products and have more time chatting to friends and stand holders. We should have done two sessions in a row years earlier! We have been trying to look outside whisky for a while with spirits like rum, cognac, jenever, armagnac, calvados, and the likes. Festivals like this give us a chance to explore more of these products, and with two sessions we can be more aware of ourselves not mixing too many different distillates. Going to different festivals we see that every producer has their own signature and we are slowly, but surely developing a broader view of the various products available.

It was very nice to have the possibility to have a chat with Han van Wees at the end of the festival, who has been in the business over 50 years. The true patriarch of the Dutch whisky world who build one of the biggest and most influential whisky importers in the Netherlands. An inspiring man with great stories and anecdotes to share.

Many thanks to the people at Van Wees for another great festival!

More photos of the festival can be found on our Facebook page.

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