The Hidden Details in Destileria Limtuaco’s Beautiful Bottles Tell a Story
These days, Destileria Limtuaco, the country's oldest distillery, is best known for the Philippine craft spirits, especially the popular Manille Liqueur de Calamansi. When the current company president, Olivia Limpe-Aw, took the reins, she brought her particular eye for detail to the table, resulting in some pretty eye-catching bottles. These days, her products’ proudly Filipino branding and beautifully designed packaging make them a popular souvenir for tourists and Filipinos alike.
We spoke with Aaron Limpe-Aw, business development manager and son of Olivia Limpe-Aw, to talk about the story behind each label.
Paradise Mango Rum
“We developed this because when my mom would join business junkets abroad, they would always ask her what we had to offer,” Limpe-Aw says. “She would say whisky, rum, it’s normal stuff. So she realized buyers were looking for something distinctly Filipino.”
Of course, the first thing that came to mind was mangoes, and thus their first Philippine craft spirit, Paradise Mango Rum, was produced. At first, it wasn’t easy to sell to the local market. “Back in 2002, it was challenging because there was still a strong colonial mentality. People didn’t want to drink local products because to locals, if it’s local it should be cheap,” Limpe-Aw explains.
But eventually, their mango liqueur gained popularity as a “pasalubong” product that Filipinos could give their foreign friends, instead of the usual dried mangoes. The bottle’s attractive packaging certainly made it souvenir-worthy.
“We got a label designer from the UK and brought him in, brought him around the Philippines, then asked him to design a label of his idea of the Philippines based on his travels. So this is a foreigner’s take on the Philippines,” Limpe-Aw chuckles. “Vinta, island, coconut trees, this was his interpretation.”
It looks like touring their designer around the country paid off, since Paradise Mango Rum won the Good Design Award at the ASEAN G-Mark 2004 in Japan.
Amadeo Coffee Liqueur
Destileria Limtuaco’s next craft spirit was named after Amadeo, Cavite, the coffee capital of the Philippines. “We use four different kinds of coffee beans, so we wanted to really show that it was a coffee drink. So we have coffee beans all over, coffee cherries. But we also wanted to be elegant, so we have the katsa bags that they store coffee beans in. Our labels always have hidden elements because my mom likes that kind of imagery,” Limpe-Aw says.
Manille Liqueur de Calamansi and Manille Liqueur de Dalandan
These two brands have always been known for their distinctive bottles. The first batch of Liqueur de Calamansi was sold in vintage 480 ml bottles the Limpe-Aws found in their warehouse. Once they ran out, they patterned their new bottles after the original ones, but made them in 750 ml. If you look closely, you’ll spot the barong embroidery pattern on both liqueurs. “We wanted it to have a Filipino touch because we didn’t use a Filipino word in the name,” Limpe-Aw explains. The bar code on the back is in the shape of a bottle as well.
Very Old Captain Artisan Crafted Dark Rum
While they were at it, the family decided to give one of their older products a Filipino element as well. “The branding wasn’t necessarily Filipino, so we have a Philippine eagle [on the front],” Limpe-Aw says. “We wanted to push a navy theme so we have the ropes here, and then the company seal.”
Since Destileria Limtuaco collaborated with the local government of Ilocos Sur to produce their sugarcane wine, they decided to put the province’s most popular town on the label. They referred to photographs of Vigan, then added sugarcane on the sides.
San Juan Lambanog
“We wanted to make lambanog the most sanitary way we could. When you distill, you take what you call the heart, so the first stuff that comes out, you can’t really drink that. That has high methanol which is what they say is nakakabulag,” Limpe-Aw explains. “Our cut here is very conservative which is the reason for the premium pricing. We wanted to get rid of the acetone-y smells that some lambanog have.”
The source of the sap was San Juan, Batangas, hence the lambanog’s name. They also added coconut trees to the barcode.