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In Distill Of The Family Night: A Trip To Distileria Limtuaco Museum in Intramuros

From the street, the Distileria Limtuaco Museum


One of their first products, a medicinal wine


It may have taken all of 39 years since acquiring the Intramuros property to unveil it as the Distileria Limtuaco Museum; but as Olivia Limpe-Aw was proud to say, ‘This was the dream of my late father, Julius Limpe; and it’s finally a reality.’ Set in a very historic corner of the Walled city, on the corner of Real St. and San Juan de Letran St., what used to be a residence has now been converted to this house of memories—chronicling an enterprise that has its roots in 1852, and remembering the family who established and grew the business.


The exhibit of early Distillery machines and equipment


The tasting bar, with the original company plaque


The display of Philippine craft spirits


The ground floor is dedicated to the historic provenance of its distillery business, with exhibits of the equipment utilized in those early days; and the second floor is fascinating family memorabilia, including the first Monroe computer, adding machines, and other office equipment. On the ground floor, there's even an enclosed accounting section that's been converted to a tasting bar. The idea being that just like in wineries in Napa Valley; when the Museum is open to the public, said tasting bar can serve as the center for 'sampling the merchandise' and appreciating the innovative craft liqueurs that Distileria Limtuaco have created through the years, using local fruits such as Calamansi and Mango.


The man who started it all, Don Bonifacio Lim Tua Co


Beginning with Don Bonifacio Lim Tua Co, to his nephew Don Lim Chay Seng, then to his son James Limpe, and on to Julius Limpe—there's a wall devoted to portraits to these men who steered Distileria Limtuaco through its storied past. As Julius had seven daughters, it is now Olivia Limpe-Aw (daughter #5) who serves as Chair and CEO of this five generations enterprise. Looking at the portraits and sections devoted to each CEO, it was Julius Limpe who immediately struck me as a 'character' worth delving into.


The wall of White Castle calendars and memorabilia


A natural for marketing and promotions, it was Julius Limpe who rechristened their Four Feathers Whisky into White Castle Whisky, and literally dreamed up the iconic female model in a red bikini riding a white horse. As it was told to me by one of Olivia's sons, 'The story is my Lolo woke up one morning saying he had a dream of this girl, down to the red two piece and the white horse!' Over the decades, the likes of Lorna Tolentino, Carmi Martin, Cristina Gonzales, Glydel Mercado, and so on, have made White Horse's ad campaign an image any hot blooded Filipino male will know by heart.


A gallery of Limtuaco's past CEOs


Something of a sartorial rebel, Julius was a Renaissance man; and after his retirement, devoted his life to painting—tropical fishes and flowers being among his favorite subjects. One of his daughters (the sixth) followed in his footsteps, and restored and retouched the portraits of the four Limtuaco CEOs that hang on a Museum wall.

Olivia mentioned that it was a flurry of activity over a surprisingly short period of time to get the Museum open. But open it is, and as a result, it is a Father's dream come true. For the general public, for the students, the doors are now open to offer anyone who enters a slice of our country's commercial history. The first distillery was situated across the river in Binondo; but here in Intramuros, is a well curated home for all that Distileria Limtuaco has come to represent for 166 years now.


The distillery's souvenir section


Photographs by Philip Cu-Unjieng

Cover image from Destileria Limtuaco Museum