|Wullie & Gerie MacMorland|
When you are alive and breathing in the Netherlands and are in one form or the other enthusiastic about whisky and passionate about good food, there is a good chance you have heard about Wullie MacMorland from Hielander Scottish Restaurant in Alkmaar. Besides running the restaurant & whisky bar, he is a founding member of the Ben Nevis Whisky Club and chief of operations at Hielander Whisky Festival in Alkmaar.
The Hielander festival in Alkmaar is always a nice place to go to, as you might have seen in of our posts in the years before (2013, 2014 and 2015). We can tell you all about the festival with the 3000m² venue in a lovely church in Alkmaar, attracting over 3000 visitors each year, with the tables with clothing, books, knick knacks and lots of whisky, Describing this would be confirming that this is just another festival, and we are pretty sure that this is not what you want to read about. Looking at what makes this festival different from the large amount of other festivals, we decided to go back to where it all started.
In 1989 Wullie and his wife Gerie became owners of the restaurant and have gathered many awards for their hospitality, gastronomy, and their very well stocked whisky bar over the years. Wullie, unmistakable Scotsman with his (fading) red hair, although trained in French cuisine, most of the restaurant’s dishes are influenced by his Scottish heritage. Add 1400+ bottles of whisky, hundreds of knick-knacks and hunting trophies, and you are almost sure you just stepped into a small restaurant in the Scottish Highlands.
|Dennis Mulder & Isobel Gardiner|
In 1994, together with some whisky friends wanting to share their love for whisky, Wullie started the Ben Nevis Whisky Club, sharing his passion for whisky beyond his restaurant and bar. In 2011 Willie and Ebbo Voorhout, proprietor of the big Church in Alkmaar, decided to organize a whisky festival to broaden their reach even further. During the festival the restaurant closes since the food served at the festival comes from the restaurant’s kitchen, and the Ben Nevis club volunteers to lend a helping hand. This sharing passions has reached a new high, now Wullie is being inaugurated in the Order of the Keepers of the Quaich in April 2016.
So, when entering the festival, Wullie, Gerie, the whole MacMorland Clan including the restaurant staff, the Ben Nevis club and the proprietors of the Church bid you welcome to their domain. You are one of the family the moment you walk into the door, get a glass that is kept wet during the remainder of the session. Tables were set modestly, without bouncing castles, half naked women or loud audiovisuals. There were quite a few people in the church, but because they keep far below the maximum allowed, the atmosphere was good, we could reach most tables without any trouble and have a chat with the good humoured exhibitors.
The aforementioned food was great again, and although the servings could have been a tad warmer, we helped ourselves to a second serving. At the main ‘food court’ a nice band was playing at a pleasant volume during the sessions, which added to the already relaxed atmosphere. Besides the snacks for sale at the main area, there were girls with balls, platters with cheese, and a chocolatier for Valentine’s day (optional), there was an ample and continuous supply of bread slices, and water coolers to rehydrate yourself or rinse your glass at just about every pillar.
|Rachel MacNeill &
This year, the masterclasses were provided for by three Scottish redheads; Isobel Gardiner, Rachel MacNeill and Ginny Boswell, quite possible a first ‘ladies only’ company at a Dutch festival, for sure a first ‘redhead only’ panel of whisky women. We have heard that all these sessions were marvellous, just like their presenters. Timetables of the masterclasses and maps of the church of where to find these masterclasses and the location of the many exhibitors, were clearly visible throughout the venue.
Wullie asked us to write something with all scars and pimples, which seemed very hard to do, when everything is clearly taken care of and completely under control by a professional staff. No improper word, obnoxious drunks or falling bottles and glasses. It was just relaxed and fun. All our expectations were met. Again.
Photo’s Hielander Whisky Festival 2016
Copyright notice: Photo Wullie & Gerda and photo Wullie (cover) from Wullie MacMorland. Rest photos by WhiskySpeller