Queen of mixology with Myriam Hendrickx

03 Oct 2016
5 min read
FOUR speaks to Myriam Hendrickx, master distiller at Rutte the Dutch genever and gin brand. With a wonderful passion for her craft, and for food she has partnered with German two-Michelin-star chef Christoph Rüffer, to create some exceptional food pairings with Rutte. FOUR finds out more…

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Breda, a town in the south of The Netherlands, close to the Belgium border.

What did you aspire to be when you grew up?

From an early age onwards I wanted to do something with food. I was always interested in how things were made and I was always tasting and smelling everything on the table.That’s why I choose to study food technology.

How did you find your way to into the world of world of spirits?

After wrapping up my studies in food technology engineering in 1987, I started my career in the world of consulting. During that period I trained production operators on quality, taste, ingredients and technology. In this role, I got to know most of the Dutch food industry, including the spirits sector. As you can imagine, this particular sector caught my special attention. Distilleries are magical to me. Every Master Distiller uses unique methods and ingredients. High-quality spirits are an area with so much secrecy, old-fashioned craftsmanship and natural products with endless possibilities. My passion was born!

Do you think that more women are entering the world of distillery, and if so, why?

They say women have a better sense of taste, but I think in general gender does not matter in the slightest if you find the key to being good at your job and to yourself. What’s needed for this handicraft is a strong mind, passion, an obsession with good taste, and perfectionism. But most of all: love what you do; I have met numerous man and women who have the fit character to do this.

What does it entail to be a master distiller for Rutte, the Dutch Geneva andgin brand?

When I arrived at RUTTE 13 years ago, I realized that time stood still in this beautiful distillery. The magic that has fascinated me all along came to life. This small distillery – by the way the smallest in the Netherlands – is full of memories and stories of the past. The delicious aroma coffee, oranges and of nuts roasted in-house for our genevers fills the air. You can literally smell and taste RUTTE’s rich tradition and heritage here, making it a unique and very special workplace.

As a master distiller I’m responsible for the recipes and I create new products. That means I am lucky enough to be able to combine history and future. I have to protect and cherish the old recipes from the family Rutte; make sure we keep on making all our products in the same artisanal way as our predecessors did.

And when creating new products, meant for young people now and in the future, I will take inspiration and knowledge from the old recipes and combine that with my own ideas and invent something new, but staying true to our principles that have been the same since 1872.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of the company and its products?

The family Rutte came from Rotterdam to Dordrecht, a beautiful old harbour town. Simon Rutte founded the Rutte distillery almost 150 years ago, but, as far as we were able to investigate, he was already the 4th generation of distillers. The art of distillation was passed from father to son for seven generations.Simon started his own place, where we still are today! So the distillation process still takes place in the heritage listed original building.

From the beginning we were botanical distillers, using only natural ingredients; botanicals and fruits brought to Dordrecht by sailing boats from all over the world and special fruits hand picked in the nature reserve adjacent to the town. Every generation added new products to the portfolio. The distillery started out with bitters, liqueurs and genevers. In the thirties the came out with their first gin and they even had ready-to-drink cocktails, such as the Martini!

Today’s products demonstrate the perfect and well-balanced mix of tradition and innovative creativity that has been at Rutte’s core since the beginning. We have a wide range of genevers with different taste profiles, we have our gins and an extensive collection of local products. Our latest innovation, for example, is Rutte Celery Dry Gin. Celery has always been a much-loved ingredient at Rutte and is one of the typical botanicals in our Rutte Old Simon Genever – one of the products that was created many generations ago.

Our quality is valued by internationally renowned bar professionals and shows that Rutte products are innovative and competitive without losing track of our heritage and the almost 150 years old traditions. Our aim is to keep it that way in the future.

What are your latest projects at Rutte?

As our founder Simon Rutte already said: “standing still means taking a step backwards”. That’s why we are constantly in movement and develop new creations and ideas.Lately a very exciting project has been the collaboration with the German 2-star chef Christoph Rüffer for the “Rutte food-drink-pairing”: based on the specific Rutte aroma profile Christoph has developed a couple of superb food recipes to accentuate the versastile aromas of our Rutte gin and genever drinks. Our goal was to express the versatile aromas of Rutte Old Simon Genever, Dry Gin and Celery Gin with sophisticated food. One example is the “avocado tuna roll with curry mayonnaise” to be enjoyed in combination with a Rutte “Negroni” – really delicious and special and not too complicated to prepare!

What interesting trends/themes are going on in the world of wine andspirits?

What’s fascinating for me is to see trends coming and going. Vermouth and bitters are very popular in the cocktail world at the moment. These are products that Rutte started out with, 150 years ago!We are also getting more and more evidence of a renewed interest in genever. I have been giving master classes all over Europe and the US about genever; it excites bartenders to ‘discover’ something new and yet realise genever is the forfather of gin. Our Old Simon Genever symbolises this great history and it is so cool to see bartenders so enthusiastic about this product that is truly an old recipe.

What are your FOUR indispensable collection favourites?

My favorite is the Old Simon Genever, a truly unique product: it combines the maltiness of a young whisky with genever botanicals and very special atypical ones like the roasted hazel- and walnuts. It symbolizes all that we are at the Rutte Distillery: historic, natural, unique.

Now to name 3 other ones, it’s hard, as I love them all. But if I have to choose, I would say the Celery Gin and 2 of our local products: The Koornwyn XO being one of them: a genever, aged on American oak barrels, making it like a bourbon whisky, but with a very own character as, botanical distillers as we are, we added just that to give it a round, full, balanced flavour.

Another local specialty from Rutte: the Paradise Wine, a unique genever: it’s aged in French oak barrels; it also has botanicals, of course, but this time also a lot of fruit is added, making it a very unusual combination: bit whisky-like, bit fruity and sweet at the same time.

What’s next for you?

For us the cocktail world is new. In The Netherlands we are used to drink our spirits straight. We do see a change coming though. Getting to know the international bar scene is super exciting for us. But we also see it as our mission to have people drinking and mixing our great spirits at home. This also means a lot for our developing process. We get inspired and we develop new products that suit well in a mix with other products. It’s an new journey and I love it!

Find out more about Myriam and Rutte here |www.rutte.com