Think of gin and the UK comes to mind. While they are certainly the largest exporter of the juniper spirit in the world, the largest market for gin globally is actually the Philippines.
The country alone accounts for roughly 43% of the world’s gin consumption, which is massive. Most of that comes in the form of the domestically ubiquitous San Miguel gin. With so many people drinking gin there, it’s a wonder why Filipino gin isn’t more well-known.
Perhaps wondering that themselves, two native Filipinos, Cheryl Tiu and Carlo Calma, have decided to take it upon themselves to launch a craft gin that’s meant to showcase their local flavours to the world. And it has manifested in the form of the new Proclamation Gin.
It all starts with a drink
From the name ‘Proclamation Gin’ alone, you can tell that the founders are highly proud about their ethos. There’s a message they want to share.
While both Tiu and Calma aren’t gin producers by profession, nor have they ever been involved in the distillation business, they’ve chosen to do this out of a pure desire to spread the word about their country’s unique culture.
“While having drinks three years ago with my good friend Carlo, we were thinking that there was no Filipino craft gin in the market that was, for lack of a better term, ‘world class’, and which championed Filipino culture,” remarks Tiu, a journalist by trade, when asked why she embarked on this enterprise.
“And so we thought, why don’t we create our own gin? At the time, we were thinking of a Filipino flavour that wasn’t yet readily available in the market, and sampaguita came to mind, which is tied not only to the Philippines’ history but also day-to-day life in the country.”
The sampaguita, a type of sweet-smelling jasmine flower, is the key ingredient in Proclamation Gin. An all-female team of farmers gathers these native plants for use in the distilling of the gin.
Calma explains: “We met all of these women farmers who handpick these buds every day and that led to us making a unique product that is artisanal and small batch.
“Sampaguita means ‘sumpa kita’ or ‘I promise you’, so this is our promise to the women farmers to give them a sense of livelihood, and to create a gin that would adhere to excellence and be the representation of the Philippines in a bottle.”
Taste of the Philippines
To create Proclamation Gin, 12 different botanicals, including fresh sampaguita flowers, are used. You’ll find the usual juniper berries and orange peels in there, but also atypical ingredients such as toasted sticky rice thrown in the mix.
Working with a local distillery partner, the pair fine-tuned the blend over three years before arriving at the final product. The result is a gin that begins with a fine floral nose and ends with an unexpected twist not found in most gins.
“Our flavor profile is predominantly the floral notes of sampaguita flower but with a surprise ending of toasted sticky rice,” Calma informs. “While both of these unique experiences are culturally part of the heritage of the Philippines, they actually associate well with people from the whole of Asia too.”
[Read more: The simple guide to Southeast Asian rice wines]
And when it comes to how they like enjoying their gin, Tiu and Calma both have different tastes. While she prefers it neat or on the rocks so that she can better “savour the toasted sticky rice aftertaste”, he likes it in classic gin cocktails or as a simple gin and tonic.
Venues that carry Proclamation Gin have been experimenting with it too, creating newfangled concoctions rarely seen elsewhere. “One of our partner restaurants, Gallery by Chele, has also elevated their welcome cocktail by infusing shitake mushrooms with Proclamation Gin, enhancing umami flavours in the drink,” says Calma.
Southeast Asia and beyond
To get your hands on a bottle of Proclamation Gin outside of the Philippines might be tricky now, however, as the ongoing pandemic has derailed their immediate export plans.
Still, the co-founders are already in talks with potential distributors in Singapore and in Hong Kong, with Europe in the works further down the pipeline.
The idea is that as bottles of Proclamation Gin goes global, so does a better understanding of Filipino culture. “Proclamation Gin is a Filipino gin, made in the Philippines, by Filipinos,” reminds Tiu.
While it’s a craft product, it is the down-to-earth nature of the spirit she wants people to think about while sipping on it.
“It embodies the country’s past, present and future, encompassing history, culture, flavours, design and modernity, while supporting and providing a source of livelihood for women farmers in Central Luzon. Sampaguita and toasted sticky rice are also both symbolic of day-to-day life in the Philippines.”
Proclamation Gin is available directly from them via this form, on Instagram, or on www.proclamationgin.com for pick up at Gallery by Chele in Metro Manila, or by delivery. It will soon also be available on boozy.ph and selected retail stores.
About the Author
Dannon Har is the Managing Editor of Spill. Discovering his innate gift for drinking only at a ripe age, he spares no time trying to find more delicious drops to imbibe during his time on Earth. When he’s not minding every detail at Spill, he spends his time concocting luscious libations and sharing them with folks that visit his home bar.