Filipino-owned gin offers flavors reminiscent of 1920s Manila

Aside from the liquor’s traditional ingredients, Sta. Ana Gin uses local botanicals ylang-ylang, alpina, dalandan, and calamansi to create a subtle floral, citrusy flavor.

The Philippines is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, some of which are finding their way into specialty liquors as a way of celebrating what the country has to offer.

Bleeding Heart Spirits, makers of Don Papa Rum, introduced Sta. Ana Gin, a premium spirit that features the flavors of ylang ylang, alpina, calamansi, and dalandan. Named after a popular dance hall in Manila, the biggest in Asia, Sta. Ana Gin is a reflection of a time in history characterized by progress and potential.

“We were inspired by 1920s art deco Manila, this era of growth, the sights, the sounds, the flora, the fauna, this rich biodiversity here in the Philippines,” says brand ambassador Aaron Goodall. The way that our floral and citrus notes balance the traditional juniper notes, this Philippine flavor, that’s what we’re after and that’s what pulls the brand nicely together for us.”

Gin drinking country

Gin is a clear, usually colorless distilled alcoholic drink that gets its taste from juniper berries (Juniperus communis). What began as a medicinal concoction produced by European monks is now a popular liquor all over the world and is an important ingredient in many cocktails.

The Philippines has a huge gin-drinking population, but it’s only been recently that premium gins have begun to dominate the market. “The super premium gin segment has been growing over the recent years. There are a number of brands that have started coming into the Philippines. There are a couple of great local brands as well and it’s become a bit of a trend,” says Andrew Garcia, managing director and co-founder of the Bleeding Heart Spirits. “But gin has always been around… We are in fact one of the largest gin drinking countries on the planet in terms of consumption.”

Reminiscent of 1920s Manila

Sta. Ana uses two local flowers and two local citruses to create the gin’s distinctive yet subtle flavors: calamansi, dalandan, ylang-ylang, and alpina, a plant from the Zingiberaceae, or ginger family.

Bleeding Hearts Spirits worked with Iba Botanicals, a farm in Zambales, to source the local ingredients. “The team of Iba Botanicals have a couple of thousand acres of farmland where they create an impactful, sustainable model to deliver high quality ylang ylang, and now they’re helping us with alpina, calamansi, and dalandan,” Goodall says. “For us at Sta. Ana Gin, having this partner who really understands this process, who has dedication to high quality local produce, as well as their philanthropic endeavors in helping displaced indigenous farmers, we’re glad to grow together and build this collaboration with Iba Botanicals.”

The gin is distilled in France using the partial vacuum distillation method, which allows the spirit to be distilled at a lower temperature. “[It’s]  a very specific technique that we can’t really find in this part of Asia,” Goodall says. “[The botanicals] are quite delicate, a little bit sensitive to traditional distillation processes so you’ll lose a lot of flavor of your ylang ylang if you use the traditional distillation process. Our distillers in France were able to remove some of the pressure in the distillation, meaning that all of these essences from our botanicals don’t get damaged and we end up with the best gin that possible we can get.”

By using indigenous flowers and citruses in its recipe, Sta. Ana Gin gives a liquor that has European roots a decidedly Filipino twist. As Garica says, “A large part of our story is really all about where the botanicals are from, how they’re farmed and the combination in that recipe that makes the liquid that you have today.”

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Yvette Tan
Yvette Tan is Agriculture magazine's managing editor’s web editor. She is an award-winning writer who likes to eat, travel, and listen to stories about the strange and supernatural. She is dedicated to encouraging people to push for sustainable food sources and is an advocate of food security, food sovereignty, and the preservation of community foodways.

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