I’ll be honest: Recent unfortunate events have made it difficult to find appreciation for Philippine craft spirits. These events have hit the industry hard and even legitimate, quality distillers are unfairly suffering.
Having said that, I thought about coming up with articles on really good, absolutely safe, globally renowned pinoy craft spirits.
As luck would have it, fate intervened with a very timely invite to the ARC Botanical Gin Appreciation Night last 17 August at STILL Marriott, Resorts World. There, we learned about ARC Gin and signature cocktails by David Ong.
I first heard tried ARC Botanical Gin (and their distillery, Full Circle Craft Distillers Co.) in Whisky Live 2018, and I remember thinking that the gin had a particular pinoy flair to it… Probably because part of the distillation includes local products such as calamansi, Benguet pine, sampaguita, and Philippine mangoes (have I mentioned that there is nothing on earth like the Philippine mango?). The distillers also decided to use small batch distillation in copper stills and keep the gin unfiltered to keep it more characterful. Another key element is the use of pure Laguna water, which is pure spring water from the Mount Makiling Nature Reserve (it’s not all hype: The quality of water matters in making spirits).
We have since learned that this focus on quality, detail, precision, authenticity, and brilliant use of local produce was no accident, as part of the distillery’s aim is to celebrate Philippine terroir and the Filipino spirit (pun intended). Being one of the first pinoy craft distilleries to infuse a world-class feel to their products, they have won multiple international awards*. We also learned that the tedious process of coming up with the recipe for the gin involved four to five years of trial and error, which resulted in finding mangoes as the key ingredient to give the gin its unique flavour. It’s fantastic to drink as part of a classic Gin and Tonic, as demonstrated by David Ong during the event.
Another interesting tidbit: Matthew Westfall, the man behind the Laguna based distillery, has beverage making running through his veins… His grandfather, Peter Westfall, was actually the chemist and flavour expert who came up with the formula for Royal Tru-Orange in the 1920s. Peter Westfall first arrived in Manila with his family in 1918 to escape the Russian Revolution. After falling in love with the Filipino warmth and hospitality, he decided to stay and, using his knowledge in making beverages, made significant contributions to the industry.
Speaking of beverage formulations, Full Circle’s ARC Barrel Reserve Gin – their signature gin that rested in new, medium-toasted American oak barrels – is worth trying because of its seamless infusion of baking spice and fruits (IMHO, a perfect Christmas gin). Ong used this as part of his cocktail Okie-Dokie, which was refreshing and had cucumbers. The crisp, clean Lava Rock Vodka is also a must-try. Something to watch out for: Full Circle’s Distiller’s Series, which they are currently working on.
Thirsty for more? Try a little bit of ARC Gin (and the rest of Full Circle Craft Distillers Co.’s offerings) in the next Arte Fino in Rockwell. Details below:
Couldn’t make it to ArteFino? The whole line of Full Circle Craft Distillers Co.’s spirits (ARC Botanical Gin, ARC Barrel Reserve Gin, and Lava Rock Vodka) are available in on Boozy.ph, SM Kultura, and Duty Free (yup, I can fly out of the country with good local gin!). Cheers!
*World Gin Awards 2019,London – Gold Medal
SIP Awards 2019, USA – Gold Medal
World Spirit Awards 2019, Austria – Silver Medal Asia International Spirits
Competition 2018, Hong Kong – Silver Medal
Photos courtesy of Jean Park
Special thanks to Ms. Justa Bautista del Rosario