GIN IS a drink that transcends classes and space. It could be found in the hands of cosmopolitans sipping classic G&Ts, or spilling on the streets from shots taken after work. A new gin called Archipelago by Full Circle Craft Distillers Co. shows off the full breadth of the Philippines, from all classes and spaces, distilled in a single bottle.
First off, when we say class, COO Matthew Westfall includes Filipino farmers in the story. While the juniper berries are imported from Northern Italy, the botanicals that go into the gin, which includes pomelo, dalandan (a Philippine citrus fruit), local flowers, Benguet pine, are all sourced from farmers from North to South. Mr. Westfall comes from a development background, so he was sure to source these ethically and sustainably, paying above-market prices for the farmers’ labor (which he is able to do due to the gin’s upmarket distribution, costing about P2,800 per bottle; 50% of the products are exported).
Speaking about the advantages of distilling gin here (their site is located near Mt. Makiling), Mr. Westfall said, “We have the freshest botanicals. We have the best and most flavorful citrus.”
“Everything grows in this country. That is fantastic.”
The distillery’s name comes from Mr. Westfall’s legacy. His grandfather was a White Russian émigré who landed in the Philippines and joined a beverage company in 1918, right after the Russian Revolution. Mr. Westfall, stepping out of stints in the Peace Corps, USAID, and other such organizations, set up his own beverage company 100 years later in 2018. “That’s full circle,” he said.
Mr. Westfall’s previous life influences his current one as a distiller, bringing a genuine spirit into the, well, spirit. “You think outside yourself. You think about sustainable impact. You think about bringing change to our environment.” This is why Full Circle operates on a zero-waste basis, composting the ingredients after they have been used for extraction, and, as mentioned above, pays above-market value for their ingredients.
While the distillery can only boast of a few months in operation, it has already won the Gold Medal at the World Gin Awards 2019 in London, as well as the World Spirits Awards 2019 in Austria. As a Philippine Economic Zone Authority-registered export-oriented entity, Full Circle is fully licensed and certified by the Food and Drug Administration, and has been granted a License to Operate and Certificates of Product Registration for each of its artisanal spirits. The company is registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue with a license to manufacture alcohol, and with the Bureau of Customs for export and import activities.
Asking about the advantage of being new, Mr. Westfall said, “We’re allowed to innovate… we’re not in an industrial conglomerate where we’re looking at costcutting.”
BusinessWorld took a sip of the gin during its BGC launch earlier this month, and its scent was almost as fine as perfume, as well as a smoother mouthfeel and a livelier taste, competitive with finer gins available abroad.
“The Philippines deserves everything this good,” said Mr. Westfall. “It’s long overdue.” — Joseph L. Garcia