The Rutte family originally came from the south of Holland. They moved to Rotterdam in the 18th century. By the middle of that century they were already involved in the distilling business. The Ruttes remained directly involved in the distillery right up until the start of the 21st century, with the craft being handed down from father to son throughout the years. 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 do not know very much about these family members, except, of course, that they laid the foundations for the distillery and began gathering the knowledge and expertise that has been used here ever since.
Antonius Rutte was born in Rotterdam in 1806. Some time around 1830 he moved from Rotterdam to Dordrecht to work at one of the city’s three distilleries. He carried out many experiments with new distillates during this time. Antonius Rutte married Johanna Vogel and they had four children, one of which, Simon Antonius, also entered the distilling trade.
Simon Antonius Rutte was born in 1844. He married Maria Cornelia Vermeuelen and together they had five children. In 1872, he purchased a café in the Vriesestraat and he built a distillery behind the premises. Churchgoers were frequent visitors to his city-center cafe and the Rutte concoctions were a popular tipple. They proved to be a great hit with the locals and this laid the foundations for the S.A. Rutte & Sons distillery. It soon became a household name in Dordrecht and eventually throughout the Netherlands. The café was turned into a liquor store where Simon’s wife sold the products made in the distillery. Between 1903 and 1905, Simon designed an exceptionally beautiful shop front for the premises the Vriesestraat that can still be admired today. Art Nouveau was the ‘modern’ style of the time and by replacing the old, classic style facade the store became ‘hip’ overnight and attracted an increasingly large flow of customers.
Antonius Johannes Rutte was born in 1872. On March 30th 1905 he became a partner in the firm S.A. Rutte & Sons. On August 19th 1897 he married Margaretha Jacoba van den Beemt who not long thereafter gave birth to their eldest son Johannes (Jan) Rutte. Anton died at the young age of 47 leaving Margaretha a widow. She decided to continue the business herself with the help of her family. She put her heart and soul into keeping the firm going until she finally handed the reins over to her eldest son Johannes Rutte. Down through the years we have heard many stories about the great ‘Grandma Rutte’. Many old photos of her were discovered in the attic and also sent to us by members of the extended family.in de firma S.A. Rutte & Zn.
In 1921, Johannes Rutte became a partner in the firm alongside his mother Margaretha Jacoba van den Beemt. Johannes, or Jan for short, married Cornelia Petronella Adriana IJlst in February 1922.
Jan carried on the business through the Second World War, a time when it was extremely difficult to source the raw materials needed at the distillery. This was the only period in the history of Rutte when sugar beet had to be used as a replacement ingredient. Things get so bad that Jan had to fire his own brother, as there was no money to pay his wages anymore.
There’s also a good story, that the Rutte’s hid the family’s valuables in the nooks and crannies of the distillery during this troubled time. Despite thorough searches down through the years and also during recent restoration work, these valuables have never been found.
John (known to all as Jan) was involved in the distillery from a very young age and was thus destined to take over the running of the firm from his father. John actually entertained high hopes of pursuing a career as an artist, but in the end he chose the profession of distiller. After the war John went to France where he spent 2 years learning all there was to know about the wine business. In the 1960s he graduated as master distiller from the Institut der Spirituosenfabrikation in Cologne.
John had the uncanny ability of turning almost any plant he could lay his hands on into a jenever or liqueur. His sheer creativity, excellent taste and perfectionist streak resulted in many exceptional products of the highest quality. John didn’t want anything to do with the modern methods of the 20th century like using cheaper alcohol and artificial flavorings and colors. We have him to thank for the fact that so many of the old recipes were not lost to time.
During John’s tenure at the helm, the reputation of this small distillery grew far beyond the confines of Dordrecht and Rutte was acknowledged as one of the top distilleries in the Netherlands. John continued to work in the firm right up until his death in 2003. Despite the takeover of the business at the turn of the century, he was a constant presence around his beloved still.
The Rutte firm owes a huge debt of gratitude to the legendary 7th generation. “Artist, magician, storyteller, collector, alchemist, connoisseur. Farewell John, we will raise a glass in your name”.
“I get to use the well-kept knowledge gathered by seven generations of the Rutte family’s craftsmanship. I use it every day to distill these beautiful spirits for you. That’s not just a job; that’s a big smile on my face, every day!”