Holland’s Hidden Hooch
We were out picking when we saw an entire series of miniature Blue Delft pottery houses, each approximately four inches tall. From our travels in Holland we knew these houses had to have something to do with Dutch canal architecture.
We carefully picked one up and looked on the bottom: “Blue Delft exclusively made for KLM by Bols Royal Distiller Holland.” On the back appeared "Bols," along with the KLM logo and the number 41. There was also a sticker that read, “Empty due to customs regulations on this route."
Apparently these were charming little liquor bottles. That was enough to fire my imagination.
The dealer told us he had found the entire collection – scores of tiny Dutch buildings – at a single estate sale. He professed he had no information other than what was on the bottles.
Some dealers like to share the romance of an object and others don’t. We found the houses/bottles so compelling, we purchased a dozen or so; half were still corked and sealed across the chimney/spout.
It turns out that these Blue Delft houses had been presented to business class passengers on Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij; aka KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s.
Many of the miniatures, modeled after actual Dutch buildings, contain (or contained) a Dutch liquor called Genever, or at least they did until 1995. After that, newer, empty bottles were made available. KLM releases a new one every year on October 7. They've come out with almost 100 miniatures so far. Each is numbered. There's lots of controversy among collectors regarding which numbered houses are more valuable. If you would like to know more about these little bottles, you can begin at this website or at KLM's own site. If you are obsessed with them you can Google "KLM Houses" and find plenty to read.
The story of KLM embodies the romance of air travel. Founded on the 7th of October, 1919, it was the first commercial airline, with many pioneering firsts to its credit. If you have an interest in such things you can begin your search at the KLM website.
And if you love Dutch canal architecture enough to want it in your home or office, you can purchase a mural from Numer Art. The image is not on their website and I cannot reproduce it here because of copyright issues but they would love to answer your inquiry.