Genever, liqueurs, gin. Rutte Distillers has a distilling tradition that goes back centuries, and the current distillery has been housed in the same tiny building since it was founded in 1872. Situated in the city centre of Dordrecht in The Netherlands, there’s a lot of history in this quaint distillery.
I’ve visited a few times now, and I’ve interviewed current master distiller Myriam Hendrickx once. She is the first non-Rutte to lead the distillery, which is a task she takes very seriously. John Rutte was the last of the family to oversee production, but he died in 2003, just a month after Hendrickx joined the company.
Nowadays the company is owned by De Kuyper, a Dutch company that’s probably better known internationally than Rutte is, in large part because of their focus on producing spirits for bartenders and cocktails. Walk into any bar in the world, and there’s a good chance you’ll find liqueurs from either De Kuyper, or Bols.
Because of the untimely passing of John Rutte, Hendrickx had to take on a lot of responsibility very quickly. When she arrived at Rutte, everything was very old-fashioned. There’s was one computer, which ran on DOS, an operating system that was outdated even 15 years ago. The weighing of botanicals was done on a scale with counterweights. It was a pre-historic operation.
Now this may sound bad, but it actually turned out to be a good thing. Because of the reluctance of John Rutte to adopt new technology, lots of advancements (which often involved cheaper materials and methods) had passed him by. It meant that true craftsmanship was preserved. ‘Recipes were jotted down on scraps of paper, and kept in the safe’, Hendrickx says.
It meant chaos at first, but once order was restored, she realised she was sitting on a treasure trove. Hendrickx: ‘When we develop new recipes, we can always go back and look at our old recipes. Depending on what is going on in our industry, we can for instance study our old gin recipes, and incorporate botanicals that might be a bit unusual now, but were used way back when.’
I’ll explore more Rutte products in due time, but I want to start with this Oude Genever. It is a combination of malt wine, neutral grain spirit, juniper and seven other botanicals. The recipe for this Genever was developed at the start of the 20th century by Anton Rutte, the fifth generation.
Rutte Oude Graanjenever (35%)
Nose: A grainy foundation with light juniper notes, basil, subtle spices and soft floral touches.
Taste: There’s some sweet malt here, as well as coriander, and subtle spices (a touch of pepper). Slightly creamy.
Finish: Ending on greener notes.
Exactly what I want in an Oude Genever, meaning a malty base which is in good balance with the botanicals and the neutral grain spirit. Great with a snack (cheese or dried sausage). Drink at room temperature.