Sloe Picking and the Rutte distillery – a travel report (part 2)
On October 17 and 18, the fine folks at the Rutte distillery in Dordrecht (Netherlands) invited me to join a group of 10 journalists and bloggers for a two day trip packed with lots of educational and fun activities. This is a report on the second day. The report about the first day is in another article.
Day 2: Rutte distillery, tasting session, gin and Genever production, then the Dok Bar
After a fun and activity packed first day , we started with a delicious breakfast and the sunshine illuminating the hotel's rooms. Another wonderful day had just begun.
Welcome to Dordrecht
Right next to the hotel, we embarked on a fast water taxi to take us to the home of Rutte, in Dordrecht. The super fast and bumpy ride lasted some 25 minutes, dashing past various landmarks and many ships on Europe's busiest waterway.
After disembarking in Dordrecht we were welcomed by more people from the Rutte distillery, and our walk through the city to the distillery began. We passed picturesque houses, crossed canals, heard about local history and passed the old mint and the monastery, where the basis for today's Dutch state was laid. If you plan to visit the distillery, be sure to save some time to see the city as well, it really is a great place to wander the streets, enjoying the old houses and small canals.
The Rutte distillery and shop
Right across from one of the oldest cheese shops in Holland you will find the Rutte distillery, which sits in between many other old buildings in the heart of the city. One of the greatest fears for the people working at the distillery is the thought that they might have to move at some point – none of them want to leave this amazing location! And as we learned, they do everything possible to ensure a safe operation. You would be amazed how many precautions can and have to be taken to make distilling alcohol safe : ventilation systems, fire-safety closets, fire-extinguisher systems. After all it is alcohol, which burns, and when you have alcohol vapour, you do not want any uncertainties . But since their beginning in 1872, the safety precautions have worked well, and for that reason we get to experience a distillery in its original location.
When entering the building you first visit the shop, where you can buy many products from the distillery. And the special thing about this is that there are a lot of products on sale which can only be bought at the distillery's shop, they are not even available nationally. If only I had traveled by train and not plane … Make sure to take some specialties home when you visit the distillery. There are also tours and tastings offered, especially at weekends. See their website for details and booking schedules. You can partake in a range of activities, including a tasting session or a Gin or Genever workshop.
Entering the heart of the distillery
Next, Myriam took us on a tour through the distillery. We visited the room with the main (fourth) and the decommissioned second copper, still the same since the distillery was founded. I always love getting to a product's place of origin. It gives you so much more understanding about a product when you see where and how it is produced, what is being done to ensure high quality standards, and what makes it unique and what the people behind it pay attention to. Since Myriam started working at the distillery many things have been optimised and streamlined, but never without paying attention to whether this would affect the products .
Trial, error, and documentation
A lot of knowledge has been gathered since the distillery was founded. Unfortunately, not all of this was conserved in the proper fashion. Up until today, there are books from the early years which reference recipes which are yet to be deciphered or recreated. This job is exciting, and sometimes feels like an investigative exercise, as Myriam puts it.
These days, every experiment and distillate is kept, documented and referenced for future use or non-use. If something turns out not to be too promising or tasty, it is not regarded as an error but rather as a reference point for later on. You would not want to waste time on something like it again, or one day you might need exactly this taste, and so could go back and try things with it without having to distill it again. I love this approach, and it shows how deeply the research and discovery of tastes and ideas is embedded in the companies DNA, from the early days up until today.
Jenever or Genever vs. Gin
After our trip through the holy halls, we tried some different products for comparison. The line-up was:
- Rutte Dry Gin
- Rutte Celery Gin
- Rutte Old Simon Genever
- Rutte Paradise Wine Genever
- Rutte Sloe Gin
Comparing products like this from one end of the spectrum to the other is always a fun thing to do, as it gives you the chance to see how little tweaks to the list of ingredients or their amounts change the product. And no, this was not a day-drinking experience: Personally, I got used to the fact that tasting a spirit does not necessarily mean consuming it as well. It's probably worth mentioning this, because I get asked a lot about whether I drink daily, and how much I drink. Most of the time, tasting means spitting as well. And as Myriam told me, reassuringly, she never drinks at work. Quality control and tasting new products does not mean actually drinking them. On the rare occasion that she wants to actually drink something for evaluation purposes, she takes a sample home for an evening sip. If you want to read more about Gin vs. Genever, there is another article coming soon.
Make your own Gin / Genever
After our tasting, equipped with new knowledge about Genever, we started to create our own Gin / Genever. Basically, we took part in the workshop which other guests can book as well (see above). A fun experience with a bit of math, some funnels, flasks, syrup, malt wine, various distillates, and some bitters, all wanting to be mixed together. What a joy to slowly tweak and craft your own product. And after filling it in 100 ml bottles instead of 200 ml bottles, we were even prepared for air travel (with almost no trouble with the security checks at Schipol airport in Amsterdam). Should you visit the distillery, you should seriously consider doing this workshop, as well as understanding more about taste profiles and their production. And in a world in which more and more gins are popping up, having created your own Genever is something to impress your friends and family with, isn't it?
Farewell drinks at the Dok Bar
After having successfully stowed away our small creations in our bags, we took a short walk through Dordrecht over to the Dok Bar, which had only opened a week before. It was a nice little bar, where you could get small snacks and a wide variety of cocktails. This bar is not part of the Rutte company, although one could think of it as being so, because they decorated the bar with lots of small bits and pieces indicating their good neighbourhood relationship. You'll see for yourself in the images, or when visiting. We enjoyed a few different cocktails like Gin & Tonic or a Gin Celery Smash with Rutte Celery Gin, a gin created by Myriam when she started at Rutte.
With a wide range of flight departure times to take everyone back home to Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Vienna, Milan, and Rome, we left Dordrecht with wonderful memories, a deeper understanding of the amazing craftsmanship present at the Rutte distillery, and the warm feeling of unmatched hospitality and friendliness for everyone who made this trip a memorable experience.
Thanks a lot to everyone at Rutte and partners who made this trip possible, and cheers to all the new friends we made in the Netherlands.
Instagram video stories
In addition to these articles you can visit my Instagram video story highlights from the trip as well to virtually join the fun.
For transparency reasons I'm happy to let you know that this trip was paid for by the Rutte distillery, with no further obligations from them . Due to the naming of brands, I want to make it clear that this is advertising, though it is not a 'paid for' article.