Almost 150 years of distilling heritage.
Made in Dordrecht, Netherlands
The Rutte family has its origins in the province of Brabant. In the 18th century, they moved to Rotterdam, where they joined the profession of distillation.
Members of the Rutte family worked in the distillery until the start of the 21st century, passing on the craftsmanship from father to son.
Sijmon Rutte was born in 1749 and married Trijntje Tessel in 1783. Their son Simon was born in 1779 and he married Catharina Molenschot in 1802. We don’t know a lot about these first ‘Ruttes’, apart from the fact that they formed the basis of today’s distillery and all the knowledge that was gathered throughout the centuries!
Antonius Rutte was born in Rotterdam in 1806. Around 1830, the distiller’s assistant moved from Rotterdam to Dordrecht to offer his services to one of the three local distilleries. In the meantime, he carried out his own experiments with new distillates. Antonius Rutte married Johanna Vogel and they had four children, one of whom, Simon Antonius, chose the same profession.
Simon Antonius Rutte was born in 1844. He married Maria Cornelia Vermeuelen and they had five children. He too started out as a distiller’s assistant, at the Dirk Struijs & Zn. distillery. In 1871, Simon’s wife Maria opened a wine shop in Dordrecht but we don’t know what became of it. What we do know is that the next purchase was the most important event for the Rutte we know today; in 1872, Simon and Maria bought a café in Vriesestraat. Simon set up his own distillery behind the drinking room. The churchgoers of the Catholic church in the city centre often dropped by after mass to enjoy a drink in Simon’s Doorloopcafé. It wasn’t before long that he let them taste his own creations. And successfully so, because this was the start of the five generations who have turned the S.A. Rutte & Zn. distillery into a household name in Dordrecht and beyond.
During the following years, the café was turned into a wine shop, where Simon’s wife sold the drinks. Between 1903 and 1905, Simon installed a special façade against the building in Vriesestraat, which can still be admired today. Art Nouveau was ‘modern’ and by replacing the old, classic façade, the shop suddenly entered the 20th century, pulling in customers.
Antonius Johannes Rutte was born in 1872. On 30 March 1905, he succeeded his father as a partner in S.A. Rutte & Zn. On 19 August 1897, he married Margaretha Jacoba van den Beemt. They had several children, the oldest son being Johannes (Jan) Rutte.
Anton died at the age of 47, leaving Margaretha a widow. She decided to continue the business on her own, with the help of her family. She was very passionate about it and later handed over the reins to her oldest son, Johannes Rutte. Johannes learned most of the subject matter from his grandfather, Simon!
Over the years, we’ve heard many stories about ‘Nan Rutte’. We found photos in the attic but nan’s many descendants also sent in pictures.
In 1921, Johannes Rutte joined the company as a partner alongside his mother, Margaretha Jacoba van den Beemt. In February 1922, Johannes Rutte, usually called Jan Rutte, married Cornelia (Corrie) Petronella Adriana IJlst. For a while, Corrie ran a second Rutte shop in Bosboom-Toussaintstraat, where they lived at the time. They had nine children, but she was looking for more things to do.
Jan steered the company through World War II, a time during which it was particularly hard to get your hands on the ingredients needed to distil drink. This was the only period in the Rutte history that they also used sugar beet as an ingredient.
For some time, business was so bad that Jan had to fire his own brother Anton in 1943 because there was no money to pay his wages.
One of Jan’s daughters told us a story when she turned 80 and paid us a visit: “The children also had to chip in. The daughters worked in the shop and the sons worked in the distillery. Women weren’t welcome at the back, the production unit.” Things are slightly different these days. Rutte now employs more women than men!
There is a wonderful story about the Ruttes hiding their family riches in the nooks and crannies of the old distillery during this period. Unfortunately, despite refurbishments and the recent restoration, the Rutte treasure was never found.
John, whose actual name was Jan, was involved in the distillery from a very young age. He was predestined to take over the business from his father. John really wanted to become an artist but in the end, he chose to be a distiller. After the war, John travelled to France, where he spent two years at wineries in order to learn about the wine trade. In the 1960s, he obtained his distillation master title at the Institut der Spirituosenfabrikation Koln.
John managed to turn anything that grew and flowered into a tasty genever or liqueur. Not only his creative spirit, but his subtle palate and pursuit of perfection have also resulted in special, high-quality products. Whereas others in the previous century started using modern options such as cheaper alcohol, colourants and flavourings, John turned his back on those novelties. And that’s a good thing because all the old recipes remained unchanged. In John’s days, the name and reputation of the small distillery reached far beyond Dordrecht and Rutte secured a spot in the top of Dutch distilleries. In 1992, John sold the distillery to a group of shareholders who loved the product. However, John continued to work for the company until his death in 2003. Despite the fact that the business had now been taken over, he was always busy in the distillery, working with his beloved herbs and still.
Rutte owes the legendary seventh generation a lot.
“Artist, magician, storyteller, collector, alchemist, connoisseur. Here’s to you, John.”
Myriam Hendrickx joined the company in 2003. Unfortunately, she only had a short time to watch John; he died a month after she joined. Myriam reorganised the distillery and invested a lot of time in researching the company’s history but particularly the old handwritten recipes. She made sure the history was cherished and that the family recipes were preserved. Naturally, new recipes are developed regularly. Myriam makes sure that nothing starts at zero; there’s always a link to the past. The principles of her predecessors, making 100% natural and high-quality products, is something she has continued with a passion.
“I have the privilege of using the knowledge gathered by many generations of Ruttes and use their craftsmanship to create the most wonderful distillates that you can enjoy today. That’s not just my job, it’s a wide smile on my face, every day!”
In 2003, Myriam also started activities in the Proefkamer (tasting room) on the first floor, the former living quarters of the Rutte family. These days, many thousands of visitors flock to the distillery for tasting events and workshops every year.