When people talk about premium Philippine-made spirits or well-crafted cocktails using fine local ingredients, you can bet that Kalel Demetrio’s name will be thrown into the conversation. He has built his reputation in the local beverage industry as the mad mixologist/arbolario in popular Poblacion haunt Agimat, pouring intoxicating elixirs into goblets that sometimes come with chilling incantations. It is a brand that Kalel consistently lives up to, supported by his advocacy of “championing local produce in our country.”
But the recent loud buzz is not coming from the usually-packed confines of Agimat, which has been momentarily silenced by this pandemic in what seems to be the longest lockdown in the world. People are currently talking about his new venture, Destileria Barako, and the delicious and award-winning products coming out of the Malay, Aklan distillery - particularly their Ube Cream Liqueur.
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Founders Tyson Brandz and Brendan Green partnered with Juna Alo and Kalel, along with a few others, to develop products that are emblematic of Philippine culture and at par with the best in the world. Tyson and Brandan had a 100-year old pub that they converted into a distillery in Australia which produced their award-winning Capricorn Spiced Rum, and yet the allure of the archipelago proved to be irresistible. “We decided to open the Philippine distillery for a couple of reasons,” Tyson explains. “Firstly, we’ve seen a great opportunity to help raise the profile of local spirits here. Secondly, the Philippines is abundant in amazing produce, unfortunately, a lot of it is undervalued. By highlighting some of these products, we hope that it will help raise awareness and help farmers start to add value [to their harvests].”
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