When Asked For The Man In Charge, This Dutch Master Distiller Points To Herself


You may have heard of the term “master distiller,” undoubtedly an impressive title to the ear, but what really constitutes such a position? Well, it’s as it sounds; a master distiller is a person who has ultimate control over every aspect of a distillery. They oversee creation and quality control, promote product, manage operations and staff, develop new spirits, and they do just about everything else you can think of. In short, they are the queens and kings of the spirits industry.

15 years ago, Master Distiller, Myriam Hendrickx was thrust into running Rutte Distillery, the previous owner having died a month after Myriam joined Rutte. 100 years of delicious history was dropped into Hendrickx’s lap. “I started at zero,” she says. “For example, we had barrels, but I didn’t know what was in them, so I just had to taste samples of everything and make groups, like ‘this is probably younger and this is probably older.’” She found recipes from the very beginning when Rutte Distillery was founded, handwritten in books from 1872. It was up to her to digitize them, brushing off the dust of antiquity to breathe modern life into the recipes that started it all. This shift didn’t mean completely rewriting Rutte’s history, it was simply preservation intertwined with progression.

“We take the existing product and twist it, but we make sure something of the basics stay there.”

"We had barrels, but I didn’t know what was in them, so I just had to taste samples of everything and make groups"

Prior to taking over Rutte, Hendrickx had dwelled in the dairy world for a while to gain commercial experience, but her taste for spirits could not be satiated. This prompted her to specialize in spirits, so much so that she became a teacher and a writer for the industry. Thus while Hendrickx had to educate herself on the financial side of running a business, the creation side came naturally. Uniquely and exquisitely crafted, spirits stray from the homogeneity found in the dairy industry. “The cream we sold was exactly the same as the competitor’s cream, so it was just about making deals,” she says, her passion lying in diverse products and the creative freedom to innovate.

“In the spirits industry, everyone is doing their own thing, which I love.”

Located in the oldest city in Holland, Dordrecht, Rutte is surrounded by a wealth of history, culture, and rivers. Nearby is a nature reserve that is flooded by the sea coming in, so different botanicals were available to the Rutte family and now to Hendrickx, whose fondness for botanicals is ever-growing. She notes, “The family was really nerdy and passionate about their craft, so they looked up any botanical they could either buy—so exotic botanicals from all over the world—or pick themselves, locally.” Unexpected botanicals enrich the Rutte’s spirits, classic genever given a new twist with hazelnuts and walnuts, or even citrus.

The primary spirits enlivening Rutte Distillery are genever and gin. So what exactly are they? The Master Distiller explains that English gin began as Dutch genever, the difference being that dry gin is made of neutral alcohol plus distilled botanicals, while genever is the same thing but can be made with malt spirits. Gin is herbaceous and flowery with a bite, whereas genever is quite refreshing and tastes like gin mixed with whiskey.

Hendrickx gives us a history lesson of genever, bringing us back to the 16th and 17th century in the Netherlands, during which the Dutch started distilling wine. Once the expense was realized to be too much, they moved on to distilling grain for beer. “The next step was to think botanicals, and juniper was a logical one because of all the medical benefits. The English got to know the product, and as history goes in the Thirty Years’ War, where we battled side by side against the French, the Dutch were apparently fierce and without fear, due to the drink...that’s why they call genever Dutch courage.”

"As history goes in the Thirty Years’ War, where we battled side by side against the French, the Dutch were apparently fierce and without fear, due to the drink...that’s why they call genever Dutch courage"

You would think Hendrickx would have needed some of her own Dutch courage as a woman stepping into the spirits industry. Such a move is not easy; women have long since faced difficulties while forging their paths in the food and beverage industries. Upon speaking with a member of the Rutte family for her 80th birthday, Hendrickx confirmed these challenges. Her predecessor revealed she was not granted access to the back and had no place in the creative, hands-on portion of running the business; women were stuck in the storefront.

Men stroll past Hendrickx when they enter the distillery for an appointment or to purchase spirits, expecting a man, wrongly assuming Hendrickx to be an office girl. Despite these unfavorable interactions with men underestimating the impressive abilities and knowledge of Hendrickx, she took it in her stride, quickly learning to brush off gender bias with a laugh. “I think it’s hilarious, so I don’t mind. [Men] come in and say, ‘Who’s the man in charge?’ and then I go like, ‘Me,’” she says. “I think it’s important as a woman to not get offended if they treat you differently.”

“I think it’s hilarious, so I don’t mind. [Men] come in and say, ‘Who’s the man in charge?’ and then I go like, ‘Me'"

Now Hendrickx is thriving, her inventive spirits intriguing customers old and new. One of Rutte’s signature flavors is their Celery Gin. Bring to your mind’s eye a clean, harmonious blend of botanicals including cardamom, sweet orange peel, coriander, and celery leaf, only the freshest ingredients used. The Rutte family’s former living room acts as a tasting room in which these bold flavors can be experienced on site, once more marrying past and present, honoring the Rutte legacy while simultaneously building upon it.

For the smallest distillery in Holland, Rutte has one of the largest hearts. Genuine passion is poured into every product, Hendrickx overseeing it all as their very first female head after seven generations of men. So if you ever get the chance to visit the distillery, be sure to ask for the woman in charge.

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Choosing the Right Corporate Structure: Which Business Entity Should You Go With?

Business entities can be defined as the corporate, tax and legal structures which an organization chooses to officially follow at the time of its official registration with the state authorities. In total, there are fifteen different types of business entities, which would be the following.

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership or LP
  • Limited Liability Partnership or LLP
  • Limited Liability Limited Partnership or LLLP
  • Limited Liability Company or LLC
  • Professional LLC
  • Professional Corporation
  • B-Corporation
  • C-Corporation
  • S-Corporation
  • Nonprofit Organization
  • Estate
  • Cooperative Organization
  • Municipality

As estates, municipalities and nonprofits do not concern the main topic here, the following discussions will exclude the three.

Importance of the State: The Same Corporate Structure Will Vary from State to State

All organizations must register themselves as entities at the state level in United States, so the rules and regulations governing them differ quite a bit, based on the state in question.

What this means is that a Texas LLC for example will not operate under the same rules and regulations as an LLC registered in New York. Also, an LLC in Texas can have the same name as another company that is registered in a different state, but it's not advisable given how difficult it could become in the future while filing for patents.

To know more about such quirks and step-by-step instructions on how to start an LLC in Texas, visit howtostartanllc.com, and you could get started with the online process immediately. The information and services on the website are not just limited to Texas LLC organizations either, but they have a dedicated page for guiding fresh entrepreneurs through the corporate tax structures in every state.

Sole Proprietorship: Default for Freelancers and Consultants

There is only one owner or head in a sole proprietorship, and that's what makes it ideal for one-man businesses that deal with freelance work and consulting services. Single man sole proprietorships are automatic in nature, therefore, registration with the state is unnecessary.

Sole proprietorships are also suited to a degree for singular teams such as a small construction crew, a group of handymen, or even miniature establishments in retail. Also, this puts the owner's personal financial status at jeopardy.

Due to the fact that a sole proprietorship entity puts all responsibilities for paying taxes and returning loans, it directly jeopardizes the sole proprietor's personal belongings in case of a lawsuit, or even after a failed loan repayment.

This is the main reason why even the most miniature establishments find LLCs to be a better option, but this is not the only reason either. Sole proprietors also find it hard to start their business credit or even get significant business loans.

General Partnership: Equal Responsibilities

The only significant difference between a General Partnership and a Sole Proprietorship is the fact that two or more owners share responsibilities and liabilities equally in a General Partnership, as opposed to there being only one responsible and liable party in the latter. Other than that, they more or less share the same pros and cons.

Registration with the state is not necessary in most cases, and although it still puts the finances of the business owners at risk here, the partnership divides the liability, making it a slightly better option than sole proprietorship for small teams of skilled workers or even small restaurants and such.

Limited Partnership: Active and Investing Partners

A Limited Partnership (LP) has to be registered with a state and whether it has just two or more partners, there are two different types of partners in all LP establishments.

The active partner or the general partner is the one who is responsible and liable for operating the business in its entirety. The silent or investing partner, on the other hand, is the one who invests funds or other resources into the organization. The latter has very limited liability or control over the company's operations.

It's a perfect way for investors to put their money into a sector that they are personally not experienced with, but have access to people who do. From the perspective of the general partners, they have similar responsibilities and liabilities to those in a general partnership.

It's the default strategy for startups to find funding and as long as the idea is sound, it has made way for multiple successful entrepreneurial ventures in the recent past. However, personal liability still looms as a dangerous prospect for the active partners to consider.

Limited Liability Company and Professional LLC

Small businesses have no better entity structure to follow than the LLC, given that it takes multiple good ideas from various corporate structures, virtually eliminating most cons that are inherent to them. Any and all small businesses that are in a position to or are in requirement of signing up with their respective state, usually choose an LLC entity because of the following reasons:

  • It removes the dangerous aspect of personal liability if the business falls in debt or is sued for reparations
  • The state offers the choice of choosing between corporation and partnership tax slabs
  • The limited legalities and paperwork make it suited for small businesses

While more expensive than a general partnership or a sole proprietorship, a professional LLC is going to be a much safer choice for freelancers and consultants, especially if it involves risk of any kind. This makes it ideal for even single man businesses such a physician's practice or the consultancy services of an accountant.

B, C and S-Corporation

By definition, all corporation entities share most of the same attributes and as the term suggests, they're more suited for larger or at least medium sized businesses in any sector. The differences between the three are vast once you delve into the tax structures which govern each entity.

However, the basic differences can be observed by simply taking a look at each of their definitive descriptions, as stated below.

C-Corporation – This is the default corporate entity for large or medium-large businesses, complete with a board of directors, a CEO/CEOs, other executive officers and shareholders.

The shareholders or owners are not liable for debts or legal dispute settlements in a C-Corporation, and they may qualify for lower tax slabs than is possible in any other corporate structure. On becoming big enough, they also have the option to become a publicly traded company, which is ideal for generating growth investments.

B- Corporation – the same rules apply as a C-Corporation, but due to their registered and certified commitment to social and environmental standards maintenance, B-Corporations will have a more lenient tax structure to deal with.

S-Corporation – Almost identical to a C-Corporation, the difference is in scale, as S-Corporations are only meant for small businesses, general partnerships and even sole proprietors. The main difference here is that due to the creation of a pass-through entity, aka a S-Corporation, the owner/owners do not have liability for business debt and legal disputes. They also are not taxed on the corporate slab.

Cooperative: Limited Application

A cooperation structure in most cases is a voluntary partnership of limited responsibilities that binds people in mutual interest - it is an inefficient structure due to the voluntary nature of its legal bindings, which often makes it unsuitable for traditional business operations. Nevertheless, the limited liability clause exempts all members of a cooperative from having personal liability for paying debts and settling claims.

This should clear up most of the confusion surrounding the core concepts and their suitability. In case you are wondering why the Professional Corporation structure wasn't mentioned, then that's because it has very limited applications. Meant for self-employed, skilled professionals or small organizations founded by them, they have less appeal now in comparison to an LLC or an S-Corporation.