For day 4 we return to the Rutte distillery we already encountered on the first day. This Jenever fits snugly in the “Oude Jenever” category as well, and the addition of the word Graanjenever tells us this was made from grain based spirit only, just like the Zuidam actually. A sign of quality. Together with a maturation of no shorter than 12 years makes me having high hopes for this one. But first, a history lesson and an amazing run of naming children by the Rutte family:
The history of Rutte starts with Sijmon Rutte born in 1749. Next came his son Simon Rutte, born in 1779. The Rutte family moved to Rotterdam. Both are said to have laid the basis for distilling Jenever. Antonius was born in 1806. In 1830 Antonius moved to Dordrecht and started working for a distillery. At the same time he started experimenting with distillation at home. One of the sons of Antonius called Simon Antonius (born in 1844) bought a bar in 1872 and started distilling in a shed in the back. After a while he started selling his own distillates in his own bar. The bar was closed eventually and Simon Antonius turned it into a shop, selling his (and other) distillates.
Next in line was Antonius Johannes (Anton) Rutte, born in 1872. Anton took over the business in 1905 but he died quite young and his wife Margaretha continued the business eventually handing over the reigns to her eldest son Johannes (Jan) Rutte. Jan had a son called… Jan (John) born in 1931. It was this John who started to distill with passion, making the Rutte distillery known far beyond the borders of the city of Dordrecht. John had three children but none of them showed any interest in the distilling business, so in 1991 John sold the company to a group of investors, clients actually, who loved the products of John. Erik Herter, one of them, someone like John himself, was taught the ropes. Even though the business was sold, John stayed around untill his death in 2003. Erik left the business in 2006 leaving Myriam Hendrickx in charge to this day.
Color: Pale gold.
Nose: Very soft and fruity. Definitely grainy. Hints of Grappa and slightly soapy. Very fresh for a 12yo. Hints of butter, warm toffee and vanilla. Warm and soothing, like grandpa’s warm embrace. Yes, smells like something from the past. Vanilla ice-cream. Lots of woody notes you get from American oak. Not only soft, but also slightly spicy. Watercress! The whole is unbelievably soft smelling and introvert as well. The distinct smell of fruity new make spirit, you know, the stuff before it becomes Whisky. The new-make smell has this fruity acidity that is placed on top. It’s a bit dissonant at times. It seems a bit volatile, because for a moment, when sniffing, it is gone and then the whole becomes a lot nicer. Remember that Graanjenever is made with juniper and other spices, so those add to the smell as well. The Jenever has to breathe for a while to get rid of the volatile new-make part. It does help. Breathing makes the whole more coherent and nice. More vanilla sugar-water. I’m actually amazed that even after 12 years of ageing, this new-make aroma is still around, but now you know how to deal with it.
Taste: Starts somewhere between sharp and creamy, but turning quickly into something more chewy and sweet. Refined sugar with a splash of vanilla. Sometimes the sugary part tastes like brown sugar. Nice effect. Quite a mouth full, but also, again, that hint of new-make spirit I don’t really care for. Soft wood, with more of a vanilla pudding note. Quite a short finish and a creamy vanilla part forms the after taste, together with some bread aromas. Well this sure isn’t a Whisky, for those of you looking for an alternative. No, it is a whole new discipline, you might have to grow into. And if you can forget about Whisky for a while, and treat it as such, it can be quite rewarding, getting to know stuff like this, to broaden your distilled horizon.
I have tried more products of Rutte and liked quite a few of them. Beforehand I thought this one would be a favorite, after 12 years of ageing, but actually it starts out as bit of a disappointment. Extremely unbalanced start. I can’t get past the new make spirit in the nose and the taste, and some flavours just don’t seem to mix together well. Luckily there are some parts that are nice, so it’s not a complete let-down.
However, breathing does the trick here. It needs to be decanted. Give it time and lots of air and it becomes significantly better, but to my taste it will never completely recover, no matter how many time you are willing to give it. Still, I don’t dislike it. No. It has its charm and is definitely different from the Zuidam expression I reviewed yesterday. It is different in style and maybe is an acquired taste. For best results, buy a bottle and leave the cork off for two weeks. No, I’m not crazy. Try it for yourself.