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Matthew Westfall

Photo From Tatler Philippines archives

Head Distiller Matthew Westfall is putting the Philippines on the global spirits map with Full Circle Distillery’s ARC Botanical Gin

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The year is 1918. A man escapes the Russian Revolution and travels to the Philippines to work at a local brewery. Fast forward a century later, to 2018: His grandson, Matthew Westfall, starts the country’s first authentic craft distillery, Full Circle Distillery. It’s a legacy 100 years in the making, and one fueled by his own love for the Philippines — cultivated over 35 years of living in the country — and its wondrous array of botanicals vastly underutilized in the world of craft spirits.

“Why were all those people creating a craft spirit, while in the Philippines — where there is a bounty of flavours — we had none?” asks Westfall. He and his wife, Laurie, soon set out to highlight uniquely Filipino botanicals: from Benguet dayap and Davao pomelo to ylang-ylang and sampaguita.

The result is Westfall’s line of Archipelago (ARC) Spirits which continues to promote the local craft spirits scene, garnering recognition from international spirits competitions and gaining popularity around the world. And Westfall doesn’t plan to stop at gin and vodka — rum and whiskey made in the Philippines may soon be a reality.

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Matthew Westfall arrived in the Philippines in 1983 as a US Peace Corps volunteer stationed in San Antonio, Zambales. 

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