Meet Olivia Limpe-Aw, CEO Of The Oldest Distillery In The Philippines
With flawlessly blown-out waves, dressed in a crisp modern rendition of the female barong, Olivia Limpe-Aw sits at the head of the table. A powerful energy emanates through her gestures, yet a maternal femininity is conveyed through her banter. Now in her mid-fifties, she shows no sign of slowing down as the first woman in five generations to head the 160-year-old Destileria Limtuaco & Co. Inc.
At the helm of the country’s oldest distillery founded in 1852
The liquor industry is one dominated by men, and not for the faint of heart. Though a male-driven environment is a place Olivia is more than familiar with. As a child, she would spend her summers trailing behind her father Julius Limpe as he would come to work at the famed distillery. Her eyes light up as she reminisces, “I liked to run around the compound and discover things. It was really an extension of our home. It was like our playground. It was also our way of socializing. Because we were always around my father’s staff. They were like family. I would join their business meetings, lunches, dinners, parties. I was really like a shadow! Always there tagging along, watching.”
On vacation with her father, Julius Limpe
While exposed to the ins and outs of running the family business, Olivia admits that as a woman in the industry, it takes more to prove yourself. She credits the strong women in her family as instrumental in cultivating her determination and courage. “My maternal grandmother was a very strong woman. She was a civic leader in the Chinese community. My mom was a very strong woman as well, and my father was very open to women. My sisters and I had the environment that encouraged us to pursue whatever our dreams were, and to excel in whatever we were doing,” she explains.
With her mother, Atty. Lily Limpe
With her father Julius Limpe and sisters, standing from left, Joyce Limpe-Uychiaoco, Isabel Limpe-Chungunco, Linda Limpe, Natalie Limpe-Uy, and Patricia Limpe
Armed with the support of both the men and women in her life, Olivia developed the thirst and confidence to carry on a family legacy. She asserts, “Men will really try to test if you’re cut out for the serious stuff. People aren’t going to give you slack just because you’re a woman. If you want to compete with them, then you must be willing to do what it takes to compete. Don’t expect special treatment.”
With husband Benny Aw who handles international sales for Destileria Limtuaco
With company staff, including son Aaron (center, 2nd row) who plays an active role in the business
After restoring the distillery following a perilous strike in 1989, Olivia made it a point to remodel the company’s systems while staying true to her roots. She pushed her family’s company forward with innovative new products that highlight local flavors and ingredients. Paradise Mango Rum is an international favorite and an authentic taste of home. Amadeo Coffee Liqueur is a fitting challenger to the famed Patron XO, while Manille Liqueur de Calamansi stands as the Philippine’s version of the Italian limoncello.
Launching Manille Liqueur de Calamansi
Olivia reveals that her motherland is the inspiration behind the colorful, eye-catching packaging of their bottles. “I try to use Filipino elements: fashion, culture, food, landscape. So whenever consumers see our product, it evokes a feeling of being close to the country. I feel like I owe it to the Philippines. It’s important for me to work with communities and to promote their stories alongside our products. We promote not just our brand, but also the people that are part of the brand, and the raw materials coming from these places.”
Partnering with dalandan farmers to produce Manille Liqueur de Dalandan
With Destileria Limtuaco’s longstanding success, we can look forward to more exciting flavors and experiences ahead. Olivia gave us a sneak peak of their soon-to-launch Intramuros Liqueur de Cacao, a chocolate inspired spirit that already has us converted into chocoholics (if we weren’t one already).
A sneak peek at Destileria Limtuaco’s latest product highlighting all-natural roasted cacao
We’ve also got our eyes set on natural soaps made from by-products during the manufacturing of craft liquors, along with a collaboration with the Tan family of Sulu in producing mangosteen jams. We can get the full Destileria Limtuaco experience at the ultra-hip Manille Beach Bar in El Nido, Palawan with its heavenly cocktails and scrumptious dishes made with, of course, Destileria Limtuaco’s spirits.
Non-liquor products using local mangosteen and calamansi, supported by Olivia and Destileria Limtuaco
The beauty in Olivia's hard work is allowing everyone the chance to express themselves through the many flavors of Destileria Limtuaco. Though how does the ultimate girl-boss like her drink? She keeps it simple: Amadeo Coffee Liqueur—named after Amadeo, Cavite, the coffee capital of the Philippines—on the rocks. If you prefer to tone down the sweetness, she suggests a splash of cold milk or cream to create your very own silky iced latte with a twist!
With Olivia Limpe-Aw at the helm of the oldest distillery in the Philippines, we foresee a powerhouse transcending generations to come. We find inspiration in a woman who has revitalized a company to get with the times, proving how anything a man can do, she can do better.
For more information, visit www.limtuaco.com.
Photos courtesy of Olivia Limpe-Aw and Destileria Limtuaco
Product shots by Butchie Peña