When you’ve been to a lot of tastings, they all start to look the same, which is… fine, I guess. Except for the bad ones. You know, when the guy in front of you has no heart, nor interest in the product he is presenting to you. Yet occasionally, you experience these great tastings given by unique personalities.
For this tasting I was abducted. Seriously, sometimes people have to, to get a hold on me. I was abducted by people from JCI, a secret cult that wants to take over the world. They already have the United Nations emblem in their shield. No, I’m joking (I think). JCI is short for Junior Chamber International, a huge organisation of young enterpreneurs which provides development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change. It’s a great bunch of people whose enthousiasm and creativity is very catching. So I ended up in a car with the President of JCI Aalst to go to a tasting organised by JCI Antwerp.
The tasting was held at House Verloo. This ‘spirits and cigars’ shop is a family business since 1893, resulting in the largest possible choice of cigarbrands in Belgium. The owner Frank Evens and his wife are the beating heart of the shop and they are very passionate of their products. Frank told us that their previous shop had burned down and the first thing that came up in my head was: “that must have smelled amazing”!
The spirit part of the tasting took the form of a blind tasting competition. Which is of course right up the game for the JCI members and me too of course. I loved it. You had 6 tasting glasses filled with different spirits and a piece of paper. Then you were free to taste and you had to write down which spirit you thought it was. The competition was a drop-out race, so if you had the first one correct you were still in the running. If you had it wrong you were out. And so on. This proved to be quite challenging, because after the second spirit (an aged grappa) there were only 2 persons still running. One by one the bottles were revealed and Frank explained what spirit it was, the making proces, history and a small anecdote. It was very exciting, we had whiskey,2 rums, Drambuie, gin & grappa. The blind tasting also forces the people to try to detect certain tastes and not just chucking it down their throats. The game formula creates expectations and the revealing of each bottle was like unwrapping a Christmas gift.
The second part was all about cigars, how you make them, how to light them, how to taste them and so on. Much more like a regular tasting, but very very interesting, because I didn’t know much about cigars. Did you know that Dutch cigars are worldfamous? And that apparently most of them are all made in Belgium? I asked him if Bols had cigars and Frank answered “don’t think so”. After that we received the chance to take a look at the ‘humidor’. I always thought a humidor was a small box with a lid on. This box had a door and you could walk in it! The only other place were I had seen so many cigars together was Cuba.
I had an excellent and interesting evening and left the House Verloo with a small tobacco plant.
House Verloo, Amerikalei 158, Antwerp.