The name ‘Voerman’ means koetsier (coachman), which was the nickname for a glass of vieux. Vieux was called koetsiers cognac or a koetsiertje in Dutch. Vieux has a long tradition as imitation cognac, it was the clever, cost effective and easy drinkable alternative for the expensive French stuff. Born somewhere in the 1800’s, Dutch cognac (as it was originally called) was first known as a 50/50 mixture of cognac and muscat wine (facon-cognac or wijncognac). 

At the end of the 19th century the standard for Dutch cognac became neutral alcohol, 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.

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 ‘Dutch Cognac’ on the market. After multiple attempts to regulate the usage of the name cognac in the early 1900’s,  the French started to successfully pressure the government of The Netherlands in 1949. The aim was for The Netherlands to recognize the AOC Cognac and forbid the usage of the name for imitation. In 1959 het ‘Wijnbesluit’ determined strict rules for products to be called Cognac, Calvados and Armagnac in The Netherlands. 

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 stars ,which was also used as classification and decoration on cognac-bottles. As a third, brands used French names for their product, which is still common practice in modern times. And the Dutch drinkers? They didn’t care, the consumption even grew and grew bigger with the new name. Up to 1985 vieux was the No.2 spirit of the Netherlands (after Genever). From there on, vieux became more and more old fashioned and front runner amongst the cheapest Dutch spirits in the liquor stores. The past decade(s) has shown us that with the rise of craft spirits, almost every spirit has undergone an upgrade in product quality, production process and ingredients – from gin to genever. But one spirit remained dusted and lonely in the corner…. Vieux! We’re bringing Vieux back to modern times, with a high-quality reinvention of what vieux can be – but never was.

© Stadsarchief Amsterdam