We taste and review a lot of great beverages every year. On special occasion we encounter a wine, beer, or spirit that is truly exceptional, standing above the crowd. This describes our first encounter with the Rutte Gins.
Rutte is a craft distillery in the historic port city of Dordrecht, The Netherlands (the birthplace of Genever & Gin). Fortunately there are so many good to great Gins available in the market but the unique spirits from Rutte standout. Like eating a great meal prepared by a master chef, you know when you have found a spirit that has been created by a very talented distiller. Such is the case with Rutte.
We were so intrigued by the great Gins from Rutte that we had to reach out to their master distiller, Myriam Hendrickx. She graciously agreed to an interview and we present that Q&A session here.
1. It appears that many of your Gins are made with recipes dating back to the 1800s. Was it difficult to fully interpret the old manuscripts and were there any ingredients that are now available as they were over a century ago?
The gins weren’t around yet in the 1800s. Genevers were! We have books full of Rutte recipes, earliest being from the end of the 19th century. The gins came in the thirties of last century.
Yes, sometimes it’s difficult to understand the old manuscripts. The botanicals are easy to understand; juniper, cinnamon, anise, angelica, it’s all there. It gets difficult when they use products or mixes they made themselves, as they give these mixes a name, that leaves us to puzzle.
2. It appears that the Rutte brand dates back to 1872. Was there a time that the brand was dormant and what led to production stopping and what events revived the Rutte brand?
No, the brand was never really dormant. The Rutte’s did have a hard time during WWII though, as there were shortages of everything. The production during these years was only a third of the normal volume and of everything they produced they had to give half to the German soldiers… so little was left over for their regular customers. But apart from that, it was always a well functioning and respected premium brand. Every generation added products that were hip at the time and along history an enormous collection was created; a treasure to us as we can use that knowledge from generations when we create something today! Rutte progressed from being a local brand to a national brand some 30 years ago and it was only last year that we started to expand outside of The Netherlands; an exciting journey!
3. The Rutte story is very focused on the lovely botanicals but what can you tell me about the spirit? (What are the materials used for the base spirit; is it pot stilled/column stilled?
Rutte uses two types of grain alcohol, a column still alcohol, from French winter wheat distilled to 96%, and an alcohol called malt wine, made from wheat, rye, corn, and malted barley, distilled in a pot still to 50%, with the taste and smell of the grains. The malt wine is a key ingredient for the Genevers.
4. How did you get involved with Rutte? Had you distilled Gin previous to your time with Rutte?
I’m a food technology engineer, so I studied distilling, but also cheese and beer making, food chemistry, and microbiology. I started my career in training and consulting and it was in this role that I got to know the spirit industry; I started to become fascinated by it, wanted to know all about it. I was asked to write a book about spirits for training purposes and then finally was asked to help out at Rutte, where John Rutte was an old man already and had no succession. The chance of a lifetime to put my knowledge and passion into action; a dream job!
5. I love drinking your Gins and Genevers neat as they are so well-balanced and complex. How do you prefer to enjoy Rutte Gin?
Thank you so much! Funny you say that as I couldn’t agree more! There’s a reason for this. The Dutch are used to drinking their spirits straight, sipping it like a Whisky. So as a master distiller, I am used to developing a recipe, keeping in mind it should be perfectly balanced for drinking straight. Now, of course, in the US it’s all about cocktails and this is slowly happening in Europe as well. So our products are going to be mixed. Still, it’s in our DNA, to keep balancing taste and to create a product, perfect to enjoy straight and mixed.
Be sure to check out our Beverage of the Week features for the Rutte Old Simon Genever and the Rutte Celery Gin. Additionally we have BevX Reports for all three Rutte Gins & Genevers. Check them out, download them, and share them with Gin lovers everywhere.