Amsterdam's Bols Experience - the Art of Flavour

Bottle Bitches Visit House-of-Bols-scent-room in Amsterdam

 

LET'S START WITH THE TRUTH

Caro here.

When I went to the House of Bols a month ago, following my friends' recommendation, I was pretty much only after the booze and the "Experience" - which this post is all about. I did not read any of the text supporting the various exhibits, but instead wandered through the mix of steampunk and technicolor corridors, taking in the stimulating smells, designs and textures that composed this one-of-a-kind museum.

The tour might well be amazing - don’t know and, quite frankly, don’t care - but despite having not read a single word, I would recommend anyone visiting Amsterdam to take a slight detour to experience this unique place, located right by the city’s famous Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum.

Bols’ entrance ticket comes with an Alice in Wonderland-sized vial filled with a red liqueur, reading “the Art of Flavour”. This boozy sample takes centre-stage shortly after the beginning of the self-guided tour, when one comes across a set of three booths where, as often in Amsterdam, the magic happens (I’ll keep the red light district story for another time). 

Bottle Bitches visit House of Bols in Amsterdam - colourful bottles-sculpture.jpg

THE BOLS EXPERIENCE 

Visitors individually step into a booth, closing the door behind them to be plunged into a darkness where only faint lights reveal the presence of a mirror. I can’t remember the exact words, but the recording of a bassy voice started playing, telling me to look in the mirror, to unscrew the vial’s cap and to take a good sip of the liqueur in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

Then - {lights, sounds, sensations} - Everything. Went. Nuts.

Geometrical shapes from twisted to straight in white and coloured lights, appearing, evolving and disappearing at various speeds, flowing with and against the multiple beats, pitches and instrument sounds filling the booth.

The floor underneath my feet strongly vibrating to a point of slight discomfort and loss of balance. My tongue going through an explosion of sensations it had never experienced before. Tingles - a volcano of fierce popping candy erupting out of nowhere but not going anywhere either. The lava, that red liqueur contained in the vial.

Then everything stopped.

I stepped out, quickly noticing that the newly-discovered sensation on my tongue had followed me out, giving me 5 more minutes of tingly waves filled with WOW’s and FLIPPIN HELL’s, giggling like a kid all that time.

SO, WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Angela introduced us to this science a while ago via a brief yet eye-opening experiment involving a glass of red wine and a Lou Reed song - one that surprisingly triggered tastes that the first, music-less sips hadn’t revealed.

An experiment that shows that, when it comes to taste, our palate is not the only vector responsible for the various messages sent to our brain. Instead, all our senses are involved in the creation of what we define as taste. Remember that drink you fell head-over-heels for during that unforgettable holiday, and how unimpressed it left you the first time you tried it again once back home? Yep, that.

It’s that science that House of Bols skilfully concentrated in a set of futuristic booths destined to blow your mind and senses. 

Bottle Bitches visit House of Bols Amsterdam - Caro in the-mirror.jpg

EXPERIMENT NUMBER TWO

Whilst in the booth, I made sure that the vial in my hand had retained one last sip, for me to compare the sensations conveyed by the liquor in “normal” conditions. I waited just under an hour and tried - slight tingles again!

However, I do wonder to this day whether those were created by the liqueur itself, or were the result of a memory my brain had created during the experience and now associated with it. I guess the real experience would be to take a sip before the booth, too. You know, in the name of science.

PS: Did I mention your ticket also comes with a cocktail, just to nicely round things up?