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

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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.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.