I spent my college study abroad period in the Netherlands, and spent one miraculously exam-free day during finals week on the train to The Hague, disembarking to investigate any interesting towns along the way. That’s how I ended up in Dordrecht for perhaps two hours, where I mostly recall admiring the port city’s lovely canals and eating a ham sandwich. Unfortunately I didn’t have the knowledge then that an outstanding maker of gin was based in the city. But I’m happy to be making the acquaintance of Rutte all these years later.
Rutte’s lineup of gins launched in the U.S. in 2015, but they’ve been distilling in Dordrecht since 1872. They claim that their gin recipe has been passed down from father to son for seven generations. I had the chance to sample three of their varieties: Dry Gin, Celery Gin and Old Simon Genever.
Juniper unsurprisingly dominates the Dry Gin’s nose. In spite of that heavy juniper note and respectable 86 proof, it’s pleasantly light on the tongue. It has a smooth, round mouthfeel and starts with a kick of rosemary and light black pepper. A strong, dry strain of juniper takes over in the middle, and it’s played off by the citrus punch of lemon and orange rinds. The light mouthfeel and exceptional dryness that make it a pleasant sipper also cuts the sweetness of tonic water to produce a wonderful G&T. I’m tempted to call this a perfect dry gin. ★★★★
Celery, spice and carraway join juniper on the Celery Gin’s nose. It starts soft and delicately light on the tongue, and starts picking up more spice in the middle. However, it never reaches the spice-heavy conclusion you may be expecting. Instead it mellows into a soft, round close. Taste-wise, it kicks off with soft lemon zest and a note of juniper that grows in intensity, joined by subtle caraway spice. The namesake celery really emerges in the middle, and develops into an interesting, highly vegetal note that seems to encompass not just the stalk but the whole leafy head as well. The finish is dry, with a hint of salt that deftly plays off of those vegetal notes. When served in a gin and tonic it still packs that nice lemon zest up front, but it’s that salty, celery flavor at the end that really punches through and cuts the sugar and citrus of a G&T beautifully. ★★★★
OLD SIMON GENEVER
This 35% ABV genever has an interesting, warm nose that’s almost yeasty, with subtle baking spices and faint hints of green apple. It’s light and surprisingly cool on the tongue, enough to be refreshing. It contains a heavy helping of juniper, but it’s less bracing than other genevers, and nicely balanced by the cool, sweet citrus notes of candied orange and lemon peel. It gets just a little grassy in the middle, and cool mint leads the way to a rich, creamy finish. Its juniper jolt and creamy mouthfeel are a boon to gin and tonics. ★★★★
The Rutte series demonstrates gin at its best: each possesses real character and distinctive flavor, but remains light and balanced enough to please as stand-alone sippers. All three gins are priced somewhere between $40-44, depending where purchased, and available in markets including NYC, Miami, San Fransisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and now Texas.