We're going to use the special blog time machine today to jump back to March and revisit Dave's training trip to Amsterdam. And before I forget at the end, the training was through iStill and the classes are open to anyone - distillery owners and 'just' aficionados are both welcome. The 3-day certification courses cover quite a bit of general distilling science and process, though the machinery part of the course is specific to the iStill equipment. Future sessions get posted here: http://www.istill.eu/workshops. These are usually at iStill headquarters in Woerden (about 45 mins from Amsterdam) but there is one this coming September out in Utah at New World Distillery. The New World owners are also engineers and great people, so that should be a very well run course.
Things Dave Learned While in Woerden
Those of you that know Dave understand that he's generally not one that tends toward wordiness and so writing a blog post about his experiences when I wasn't there myself proved to be a bit of a challenge. As such, I am invoking Section 4.a.i. of the "Being Married to an Engineer" contract and distilling (you knew I would say it!) the trip into a list.
1. The bells at the church next door to the Stadshotel Woerden ring every 15 minutes, 24/7. It is a great hotel otherwise and very reasonable, you just might want to ask for a room that doesn't open onto the Town Square when trying to recover from jet lag. Also, the Dutch enjoy unusual artwork.
2. Taking a class with an international group is a great way to make a new list of future vacation destinations. Dave's classmates included folks from Belgium, Scotland, England, and Central America. All of them either had or were planning to purchase iStill equipment and were at various points in their distilling experiences. By the end of Day 3, all were good friends and there have been a number of post-training recipe collaborations that have happened across the time zones. A special congratulations to classmate Kevin of Loch Ness Gin, who won a prominent Scottish distilling award recently.
3. Gin is typically flavored with juniper berries and coriander seeds. Coriander seeds are the seeds of the cilantro plant (and cilantro is simply called coriander in Europe) and if you are part of the 20-ish percent of the population that thinks cilantro and coriander taste like soap, you are not likely to enjoy most gins. Dave is one of these people and had an Oprah-style "aha!" moment during the training, which has kicked off work on a recipe that should be equally-enjoyable by all.
4. You never know what you'll find in a windmill. The distilling crew had a great dinner in the base of one on the second night.
5. For certain spirits that are intended to be flavor-intense, particularly rum, the distilling team will purposely infect the batch with bacteria to develop a flavor-packed oil. If you're feeling brave, look up Dunder Pits on Google. Maybe not immediately before pouring a drink.
6. On inaugural flights, your airplane will get an extra-special welcome. Dave's return flight was the first KLM direct flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis in over a decade. They put special flags on the plane at the gate and the fire department gave them a celebratory bath after landing, for reasons unclear to all of us.
7. The bike-friendly culture of Woerden made the commute to class very enjoyable and was also well-suited to the post-tasting return trip.
8. Different still shapes work best for different alcohols. Bubble plate stills work best for fruit-based drinks like brandy and pot stills work best for whiskey. When you're shopping for drinks, it's helpful to know the equipment because of those kinds of factors. [Luckily, iStills work really well for everything because we can control the vapor speeds. That's for a different post.]
9. Anything that contains sugar can be distilled. This also goes for starches that can be converted to sugars - a point they proved by making a vodka from artichokes on the last day of class.
10. Overall, business trips are more fun when they involve gin and stroopwafels.