Cover be Cream Liqueur | Photo: Agimat at Ugat Foraging Bar Official Facebook Page

The Aklan-based distillery tells a worldly story deeply rooted in Filipino culture.

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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The Ube Cream Liqueur| Photo: Agimat at Ugat Foraging Bar Official Facebook Page
Above The Ube Cream Liqueur | Photo: Agimat at Ugat Foraging Bar Official Facebook Page

With Tyson and Brendan’s profound appreciation for Philippine produce, coupled with Kalel’s dedication to showcase our local beverages on the world stage, it is an immaculate match indeed. They’ve partnered up to open Ugat on the ground floor of Agimat, which has become some sort of research and development space and a flagship for the distillery’s products. “For the longest time it was a dream to highlight a bar that focuses on a lot of indigenous ingredients,” Kalel says. He continues, illuminating his vision of establishing “what a Filipino bar [would look like without] knowledge of the bar scene internationally.” An inspired endeavour, to say the least, and as the head distiller, Brendan notes: “We always push the boundaries with local ingredients and I think that is what gives us an edge.”

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Their Ube Cream, for instance, is causing quite a stir both locally and abroad. “As a Filipino, I told my partners that ube (the delicious purple root crop used in many Filipino desserts and pastries) conjures happy memories. There’s always a feast or some type of gathering if ube is present. Internationally, it is the well-loved ingredient of the moment because of the unique flavour profile and the loveliest colour.” Tyson is truly proud of this product, attributing its success to its perfection - well, almost. “We think it’s pretty close but there are always things we like to tweak and improve.” From the unique ultraviolet colour of the beaker-like vessel to the cream they fly in from Europe— every detail was scrutinised and no stone left unturned until everything reached the level of excellence that made the whole team happy. Having just been granted double gold and the Innovation Award by the Sip Awards, Destileria Barako’s Ube Cream Liqueur is proving that it is as perfect as it can get.

Read More: Where To Order All Things Ube - Pandesal, Baked Goods, And Other Treats

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Destileria Barako craft spirits | Photo from Destileria Barako's Website
Above Destileria Barako craft spirits | Photo from Destileria Barako's Website
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Destileria Barako craft spirits | Photo from Destileria Barako's Website
Above Destileria Barako craft spirits | Photo from Destileria Barako's Website

Considering the well-deserved attention that their venture is receiving, talks of expansion amongst the team are recurrent. Tyson dreams of another distillery in Siargao, or perhaps Palawan. And with the accolades from their Kanto Salted Caramel Vodka, Sirena Blue Pea Gin, the enigmatic Gayuma Liqueur and, the current it girl, Ube Cream, these are not lofty fantasies. While Kalel has his share of realist perspective, he cannot help being the creative romantic: “Movement is a little limited during these uncertain times but our move as always is to stay innovative, united, and take one step at a time while keeping the whole business alive. Basically, we want to be ready when the whole world opens up again. These are exciting times - as for us fortune favours the brave.”

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