By Jenina P. Ibañez

A BRITISH gin school and distillery is setting up headquarters in the Philippines as it expands throughout Asia in the next two years.

Nelson’s Distillery & School founder Neil Harrison said in an interview on Monday that the move is the first time the company has ventured outside the UK.

“The Philippines is the biggest gin drinking country in the world,” he said. “We’re hoping to put in another three or four (more schools) in the Philippines and then use this as a hub to expand through Asia, Middle East.”

The schools are targeted as leisure activities for a wealthy market and corporations.

Mr. Harrison said gin distilleries in the UK now number 600. He plans to set up shop in the Philippines to corner the local market.

“In the UK at the moment gin is extremely popular, but that’s now starting to level off, slow down a bit. So to keep our expansion going we’ve got to move countries,” he said.

After the Feb. 15 launch of its £500,000 investment in a school in Hilton Manila in Pasay City, the company is looking at building gin schools in Bonifacio Global City, Clark, and Cebu. He expects £10,000 weekly revenues from each gin school.

Next to its entry in the Philippines, the company is studying setting up shop in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Dubai. These expansions span until 2021.

They also plan to build a £500,000 distillery in the Philippines to supply high-end gin to affluent markets.

Mr. Harrison said the Philippines is a convenient logistics hub to access markets in Asia.

“We’ll use the Philippines as a hub to supply to the countries we’ve talked about, so the rest of Asia really. It’s a lot more tax efficient to make it over here than it is in the UK,” he said.

He said he was not concerned about the new sin tax reform law that raised excise taxes on alcohol.

“If you bother about price, our gin is not for you. Our gin is very, very high end,” he said.

After the UK’s exit from the European Union, Mr. Harris said investing in the rest of the world becomes equal to investing in Europe.

“There were some breaks to invest in Europe when we were part of the European Union. Now there aren’t, so the maths makes a lot more sense to invest in other countries,” he said.

The company also plans to expand to Australia, Canada, and the US.