History

Façon or Holland Cognac

The name ‘Voerman’ means koetsier (coachman), which was the nickname for a glass of vieux. Vieux was called koetsierscognac or a koetsiertje in Dutch. Vieux has a long tradition as imitation cognac, it was the clever, low cost, and easy drinkable alternative for the expensive French stuff. Born somewhere halfway in the 1800’s, Dutch or Holland cognac was first known as a 50/50 mixture of cognac and muscat wine (koetsierscognac, façon-cognac or during the 1930’s revival itwas called wine cognac). 

1850’s

Voerman Vieux history
© Stadsarchief Amsterdam

1890’s

Holland Cognac from sugar beet molasses and flavouring

At the end of the 19th century the standard for Holland cognac became neutral alcohol (of sugar beet molasses), colouring, flavouring (cognac essence – locally produced industrial flavouring) and sugar. If you managed to get your hands on the fancy stuff, they might have chugged in a splash of actual cognac. Lots of Dutch spirit and wine traders sold imitation cognac as real cognac, resulting in much dispute within the industry – often decided upon in court.

The famous Maastricht court case

In 1893 a famous Maastricht distiller A.K.A. bootlegger was taken to court for fraud, where he proudly demonstrated how to transform young genever into Dutch cognac. The adding of ‘cognac-essence’ or ‘cognac-aroma’, produced industrially in the Netherlands, mainly did the trick.

1893

1900 – 1959

The French finally get their recognition, after half a century

Halfway through the 20th century, we can easily say that there wasn’t a single drop of grape distillate nor barrel ageing involved in the 95% of all ‘Holland Cognac’ on the market. After multiple attempts to regulate the usage of the name cognac in 1919 (Verdrag van Versailles), and the Traité of Commerce et de Navigation (1935),  the French finally started to successfully pressure the government of The Netherlands in 1949. The aim was for The Netherlands to recognize the Appelation D’Origine Controlee (AOC) Cognac and forbid the usage of the name for imitation. In 1959 het ‘Wijnbesluit’ determined strict rules for the products to be called Cognac, Calvados and Armagnac in The Netherlands. 

A new name for Holland cognac: Vieux

In 1961 the Dutch spirit producers figured out a new name for this spirit: Vieux. Vieux translates as old in French and was already present on (Dutch) cognac labels. Most Vieux-labels included the iconic 3 star, which was also used as classification and decoration on cognac-bottles. As a third, brands often used French names for their product, which is still common practice in modern times. You will even find vieux on the shelves anno 2022 using ‘with the genuine French taste’ as a slogan on their bottle.

1961

1961 – 1985

The birth and rise of the ‘new’ spirit vieux

And the Dutch drinkers? They didn’t care, the consumption even grew and grew bigger with the new name. After the introduction of ‘vieux’ in 1961, sales already tripled within 5 years as compared tot the old Holland imitation-cognac.

Decrease in vieux sales

Up to 1985 vieux was the No.2 spirit of the Netherlands (after Genever). From there on, genever was surpassed by whisky, and vieux became more and more old fashioned and front runner amongst the cheapest of Dutch spirits in the liquor stores.

1985 – now

© Ming Chao
Voerman_Vieux_Tess_Posthumus_-_Ming_Chao
© Ming Chao

2021

The first craft vieux: Voerman Vieux

Since its official lunch in October 2021, vieux has been embraced by the best cocktail bars of the Netherlands – from Amsterdam to Roermond, from Groningen to Rotterdam. We take great pride in this and will always keep supporting these bars and the amazing drinks they create.

Listing at 370 Gall & Gall-stores

Next to a list of many respected independent liquor stores as Library of Spirits in Rotterdam, Cane & Grain in Amsterdam and Slijterij Wigbolt in Heemstede, Voerman Vieux is available at 370(!) Gall & Gall- stores nation-wide, and online at gall.nl, from June on. This is a breakthrough for the accessibility of our spirit.

2022

2022

First Donation to the Dutch National MS Foundation (Nationaal MS Fonds)

In June 2022 founders Jos Zonneveld and Ingmar Voerman donate a first cheque of € 1000, – to the National MS Foundation at their headquarters in Rotterdam. The first of many, because we’re only getting started.

this timeline was written with great help of the article ‘Vanavond een vieux’ by Pieter Zwaai (pieterzwaai.nl)