MANILA. Limtuaco Distillery - where whisky is born from an erotic dream
Deep in the tourist mecca of Intramuros, stands the weather beaten 'wouldn't look out of place in a David Lynch film' Limtuaco Distillery Museum. Limtuaco is the Philippines' oldest distillery and its museum is an atmospheric wander back to 1852 when a Chinese immigrant named Lim Tua Co brought his"dark energy drink" to Manila, and eventually went on to produce a whisky inspired by an erotic dream of a bikini clad maiden.
Housed in the family home, this is one of those independent museums that owe their charm entirely to the enthusiasm of the staff and an eclectic collection of weird artefacts. From the wide eyed plastic buffalo that greets you at the door to ancient brewing equipment such as the "semi automatic crowner" and glass pipettes, along with numerous typewriters (?) and the original Chinese herbs and spices used in Lim's dark potion, "Kung Fu Siok Tong", with its promise to deliver "vigour and vitality" to all who drink it.
I'm shown how sugar cane is ground into molasses and dip my finger into a fresh jar of the thick dark liquid for a taste. I learn about the "head, heart and tail" of alcohol production (note: the head and tail are expendable, it's the heart you want) and shown giant glass containers used to ship their liquor around the world since the 19th Century.
Portraits of Lim and his heirs loom from the walls and upstairs personal family artefacts are carefully laid out. Bejewelled dresses belonging to Teh Siu Yong the wife of Lim's grandson, James Limpe, hang next to his personal collection of telephones (?). Teh Siu Yong had a great influence over how the factory was operated and insisted on an all female workforce, claiming they had the greater stamina and strength needed to perform efficiently on the factory floor.
Over the years Limtuaco has produced fine whiskies, gin, rum, wines and liqueurs (their mango rum liqueur is particularly good). But their most famous product by far is White Castle whiskey - a huge hit not just because of the taste but the famous ad campaign that accompanied its release. So the story goes, Julius Limpe (great nephew of the founder) dreamt of a woman riding a horse in front of a white castle, wearing nothing but a red bikini. Julius awoke inspired, and a brand new ad campaign was born - with one small difference, the woman was now obsessed with White Castle whiskey.
I finished my tour by getting slightly drunk on their many excellent products - just 100 pesos for 8 tastings. This quirky little place is well worth a visit.