The fresh tang of locally-grown citrus is overlaid with the fragrance of lemongrass and a woodsy-spicy touch of cinnamon on one’s palate— an exquisite melange of flavours that winds down to a finish redolent with juniper berries and lush, ripe mangoes.
This is the mix of flavours one encounters with each sip of ARC Gin, the impressive opening salvo of Full Circle Craft Distillers Co, the Philippines’ first-ever craft distillery.
Located in Laguna, the distillery is the brainchild of Matthew Westfall—a man who could truly be said to have the beverage industry in his blood as his grandfather, Peter Westfall, was the chemist and flavours expert who developed the popular soft drink Royal Tru-Orange for San Miguel in the 1920s.
“There are three main inspirations behind [the company,]” he says. “The first involves my own experiences in the Philippines over the past 35 years, as well as a desire to give something back. The second is a family narrative about my grandfather who became a Filipino citizen in 1926. He was a distiller and chemist who extracted the flavours of tropical fruits for a line of soft drinks. The third is the rich history of the Philippines and its wondrous array of exotic botanicals which were first documented by the Spanish priest Fray Miguel Blanco in his thesis Flora de Filipinas in 1837.”
Full Circle Craft Distillers is, for Westfall, both a passion project and a family affair: aside from his grandfather’s legacy in the industry, it’s also a husband-and-wife endeavour as his wife Laurie’s international experience in management and finance has been instrumental in the company’s growth over the past decade. Today, the Westfalls’ efforts are paying off with the launch of their products into the market.