Most people know that I took an indefinite hiatus from blogging to focus on videos and my overall well-being during this pandemic. I also wasn’t particularly happy with how the industry has been treated – what with the largely unnecessary liquor bans that kept being imposed (meanwhile, we’ve got the largest number of cases in ASEAN… So really, who did we honestly try to fool?).
That led to me becoming too demotivated to write… and I wasn’t looking to pick up the proverbial pen (or keyboard) for a while…
…until one of my favourite people got ahold of me and asked me to write about something I could easily get excited over (and effectively get me out of my funk): A proper gin tasting event put together by Kévin Charuel of The Tasting Club, in partnership with CCI France Philippines.
So after very little convincing (in French, because he knew my grasp of the language was rusty), he managed to get me to re-visit one of the gin brands I love, Arc Botanical Gin by Full Circle Craft Distillers.
During the event, he took us through a brief tour of gin basics (I got particularly interested in how botanicals attach themselves to alcoholic molecules upon distillation… I know, #geek), then turned over the screen to one of Manila’s legendary barmen – known for his equally celebrated bars OTO and The Curator – David Ong.
He took us through Full Circle’s three spirits:
Archipelago Lava Rock Vodka
The common notion about vodka is that it shouldn’t taste like anything. But as Ong pointed out, you could distinguish one vodka from anther during a blind tasting. That’s because each one would have its own unique characteristic, which if one really thinks about it is the distiller’s unique signature.
Having said that, what makes Archipelago Lava Rock Vodka unique has to do with its distinctive flavor profile brought about by the way it was made: It is copper distilled in small batches then naturally filtered over lava rocks from the Taal and Mayon volcanoes, giving it clean, crisp, chalky mineral flavors with a hint of sweetness and caramel.
Archipelago Botanical Gin
The distillery’s flagship gin has been reaping awards since it was first launched. In fact, Matthew Westfall – the man behind the distillery – named so many when he started talking about his spirits that I lost track of a number of them… but they’re pretty much updated in their website. I love the fact that 22 out of the 28 exotic botanicals used to create them are foraged from across the Philippines, including lemongrass from Westfall’s family farm, Benguet pine, sampaguita, ylang-ylang, dayap, calamansi… and it wouldn’t be truly pinoy without using some of our world-renowned mangoes.
Just when I thought I wouldn’t learn anything new about the gin, I found out that it clouds up with ice (and/or other mixers) because it’s unfiltered, keeping its essential oils intact and giving it rich, heady citrus and floral aromas.
Archipelago Barrel Reserve Gin
Talk about a collaboration between Filipinos, Americans, and the French: Westfall took their flagship gin, rested it in medium-long toasted new American Oak barrels made by Seguin Moreau Napa Cooperage (who also makes barrels for Remy Martin)… giving the gin a rich complexity, great finesse, and toasted aromas of vanilla, brioche, and white nougat, plus a beautiful pale tawny colour and a smoother texture.
Because of its characteristics, Ong recommended using it as a mixer for typically Bourbon-based cocktails. He also commented that using it for a Negroni makes it a delicious halfway point to a Boulevardier.
Speaking of cocktails, the pièce de résistance: Charuel demonstrating how to create a few cocktails at home using the spirits we were sent… and may I just say, it’s one of the most well-thought kits I’ve ever been sent…? I mean, check this out:
Gin and Tonic
Charuel’s take involves a 1:1 ratio of Archipelago Botanical Gin versus Fever Tree Tonic Water (strong stuff!). He taught us how to play around with the dried garnish that came with the kit, improving its appearance and adding several dimensions by muddling juniper berries and cardamom. The G&T went so well with the creamy cheese dip and salmon rillette we were also sent.
Bringing in the idea of using Archipelago Barrel Reserve Gin instead of a Bourbon for cocktails, Charuel came up with a delicious looking Negroni using the gin, Campari, and sweet Vermouth. Charuel said that the gin lends texture, a lingering taste, and sophistication to the classic Negroni, which he served in a rock glass from the freezer and with orange essence.
Westfall then proceeded to talk about how the distillery is slowly fulfilling its mission to promote The Philippines and put our spirits on the global map. Apart from winning a multitude of international awards, the spirits are presently included in a number of top bars around Asia (including the legendary Singapore bar Manhattan) and is being sold in France, the United Kingdom, and pretty soon, in Germany as well.
Locally, Full Circle Craft Distillers’ spirits are available in leading alcohol websites, so people could try them out or experiment on homemade cocktails with them from the safety of their homes.
Merci beaucoup à Kévin… T’es le meilleur !