Building something special in Breda
While the idea of a mixed concept distillate establishment in the Netherlands had been in the minds of Mark van Kollenburg and Pauline Mol for several years, they never found the opportunity to make it happen. Last year a move from Amsterdam to the city of Breda offered the chance to change things up. When a unique old building came onto the market, they decided it was now or never
PHOTOS: KARSTEN DAVIDEIT
Whisky & Gin is The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s newest partner bar, in a stunning building brimming with art nouveau character.
The location provided ideal for owners Mark van Kollenburg and Pauline Mol and their plans for a space that could be adapted for different uses.
“Our venue dates back to 1884, built for a Breda army officer. In the early 20th century, the house was reformed and decorated in neo-renaissance style with heroic details, stained glass windows and hand-carved ornaments in oak,” says Pauline.
“The different rooms are excellent for our mixed concept: the whisky bar in the main lounge, a liquor store in the former waiting room and a gift shop with distillate-related items and gadgets in the former ‘salon’.” With over 450 bottles on the shelves, there’s a vast selection of whisky and gin to choose from, not to mention grappa, rum, cognac, mezcal and other spirits.
“We serve by the glass and by ‘flight’ so guests can enjoy an individual tasting session,” says Mark. “They often choose their whiskies from our menu themselves, but many times leave it up to us to surprise them with a fine selection.”
While the collection of spirits is vast, the focus at Whisky & Gin is on the personal experience of each guest. “We want to meet the demands of the curious and starting whisky drinker as well as the professional connoisseur. We take time to explain our guests all about the whiskies they are going to taste,” says Pauline. “Each whisky flight is constructed with care and in deliberation with our guest. Each glass is accompanied by a complementary snack that adds up to the tasting experience. This is our strength – offering every client a unique and custom-made tasting experience!”
Mark’s work as quality assurance manager at a large international manufacturer of biopharmaceutical equipment has shaped his approach to whisky both in his own enjoyment and in sharing his knowledge with guests. “With my educational background as a chemical engineer, I’ve been particularly interested in the technical aspects of distillation and the fact that all beverages with high alcohol content in the basis follow the same production process while still resulting in so many varieties in taste,” he says. He’ll often include an explanation of the distillation process to customers, adding yet another level to Whisky & Gin’s tasting experience.
“Each whisky flight is constructed with care and in deliberation with our guest. Each glass is accompanied by a complementary snack that adds up to the tasting experience”
Pauline used to be a teacher in English and International Travel & Hospitality Management and is now fully dedicated to Whisky & Gin. “I learned to enjoy the taste of whisky but also fancy wine distillates such as cognac, armagnac and grappa,” she says.
This interest in diverse spirits is something she shares with Mark. “We found out that whisky is addictive in a special way: if you step into the world of whiskies there is so much to explore. One becomes curious, something we also see with customers in our bar.”
The bar plans to have at least three bottles from each Society flavour profile and can’t wait to share drams with members and those who might not yet have experienced a Society dram. “We are curious to meet the SMWS members who can no doubt be classified as the more advanced and critical whisky drinkers,” says Pauline. “Here lies a challenge for us and an opportunity to extend our whisky knowledge. Since our guests in the bar often leave it up to us to create a fine line-up of spirits, this is an excellent way of introducing them to SMWS bottlings.”
“We found out that whisky is addictive in a special way: if you step into the world of whiskies there is so much to explore. One becomes curious, something we also see with customers in our bar”
MARK VON KOLLENBURG