DESTILERIA Limtuaco & Co. Inc., the oldest distillery in the Philippines and premium distillers and blenders of whisky, brandy, gin, rum and vodka, among others, has just launched a proudly Filipino liqueur called Manille Liqueur de Calamansi.
Manille Liqueur de Calamansi is a digestif, a specialty liqueur made with calamansi rinds through a process similar to the production of limoncello. It infuses the unique zest of calamansi into a vodka base and is proudly all natural, containing no flavorings or preservatives at all.
The idea to create Manille Liqueur de Calamansi came about as an offshoot of a conversation that Destileria Limtuaco president and CEO Olivia Limpe-Aw and food and lifestyle personality Stephanie Zubiri had about why there weren’t any prominent Philippine liqueurs that could be taken with meals. Zubiri, who was then running her own restaurant, Atelier 317, asked if Destileria Limtuaco could develop something like a limoncello but using calamansi which she could serve diners at her restaurant. Limpe-Aw took the challenge and hooked up with the Department of Agriculture (DA) under the leadership of Secretary Proceso Alcala. She met Undersecretary for special concerns Berna Romulo-Puyat during the opening ceremonies of a trade show at the World Trade Center and approached the undersecretary to talk about the new limoncello-like product Destileria Limtuaco was formulating. Limpe-Aw happened to mention not knowing where to get the calamansi rinds for this.
Undersecretary Romulo-Puyat then immediately called Department of Agriculture-Agribusiness Marketing Assistance Service (DA-AMAS) Director Dax Gazmin to discuss this supply challenge and he ended up linking Destileria Limtuaco with the Mindoro calamansi farmers and the Tugdaan Mangyan Center for Learning and Development (TMCLD).
The TMCLD, incidentally, is a group of Mangyan tribesmen from Oriental Mindoro involved in the production and processing of calamansi, and one of their main products happened to be a calamansi concentrate made through a hand-pressing process that did not damage the calamansi rinds. For its use in the production of Manille Liqueur Calamansi, Destileria Limtuaco purchases these rinds at a price equivalent to the price of the whole fruit, so the Mangyans double their income in effect and their proceeds are used to finance their Mangyan Center for Learning and Development, whose main objective is to educate the children of over 20 tribes in Mindoro and to preserve the Mangyan culture and language.
Quite a noble undertaking in the pursuit of a new product!
With the calamansi rinds, Destileria Limtuaco was able to finalize the formulation of Manille Liqueur de Calamansi and so Limpe-Aw got back to Zubiri and presented her with a prototype product that utilized calamansi rinds in an alcohol base.
“It came out to be exactly what I was looking for, a digestif that perfectly captured the zesty freshness of calamansi,” says Zubiri, who now serves as the product’s brand ambassador.
As for the marketing of the product, Manille Liqueur de Calamansi, again it was a collaboration between Limpe-Aw and Zubiri. Manille Liqueur de Calamansi is packaged in a retro design bottle with a French country style label with Filipino design elements, and comes in gift bags made of cheesecloth as well as in tin cans, both of which have been designed to be consistent with the brand’s identity.
Now that Manille Liqueur de Calamansi is out in the market, Undersecretary Berna Romulo-Puyat is all set to promote this proudly Philippine made product in international food shows scheduled this year. These include the International Green Week Berlin, which is the world’s biggest fair for food, agriculture and horticulture, as well as the Natural Expo West in Anaheim, California, the Salone Del Gusto in Turin, Italy, and the BIMP-EAGA Consumer Sale in Davao. The Department of Agriculture is also including Manille Liqueur de Calamansi in its roster of showcased products in four fairs in neighboring Asian countries, 14 local fairs and five other international fairs to be held in the Philippines.