Many people usually associate Intramuros with being the center of government and the Catholic faith during the Spanish colonial period and, in modern times, a center of education and where seafarers stay. But recently, a new and “different” facet of Intramuros was unveiled to the public early this year: that of a “liquor hideaway.”
No it is not a liquor distillery that opened in the area. Rather it is a museum dedicated to a liquor distillery. Not just any wine distillery mind you but one of the country’s top distilleries: the Destileria Limtuaco.
If you are not familiar with Destileria Limtuaco, you may be familiar with some of their products. There’s the Chinese herb-infused drink Vino de Kung Fu, more popularly known as Siok Tong, to the (in)famous Napoleon VSOP (AKA the “kinse anyos” drink) and, of course, the liquor that has Philippine advertising legend: White Castle Whisky. Whether we realize it or not, Destileria Limtuaco has become part and parcel of the Philippine landscape.
The Destileria Limtuaco Museum is a product of longtime vision of the company to have a museum highlighting its history and its contributions to the country’s liquor industry. While the distillery has never been located in Intramuros throughout its 166-year history, it chose the Walled City to be the site of its museum, probably because of the historic value of the district which corresponds to the distillery’s long history. After all, it is the oldest distillery in the country.
The structure where the Destileria Limtuaco Museum is located is a more contemporary structure constructed in 1982 as per the Intramuros Administration. It was designed in a way toto conform to the style of architecture in vogue in the area during the Spanish colonial period. Its gray California mission style-inspired architecture makes it less conspicuous in that it does not give anyone the idea that it is a museum unless you see the signage which does not really stand out from the structure.
Once inside though, you feel like you’re in a cellar of sorts, la secret distillery of sorts hidden within the Walled City. Visitors are greeted by the sight of a large oak barrel and other contraptions that are being used before and today in the distillery.
The museum also houses classic merchandise and advertisements of the company’s products. Ranging from the miniatures of its liquor products to the White Castle Whisky calendars that feature the iconic White Castle girls through the years to the classic TV ads of the products, the museum offers a glimpse of how advertising in the country evolved over the years.
One can also find some memorabilia belonging to the 5 generations of the family that runs the business ever since its inception. Beginning with its founder Lim Tua Co, who was later baptized and took the name Bonifacio Limtuaco, to his descendants, the museum also serves as a family legacy.
But perhaps the most interesting part to check out in the museum is its vintage bar. Mind you this is not just a display of a bar. It is an actual bar where, for Php100, you get to drink at least 4 different liquors that Destileria Limtuaco has to offer. Depending on your level of alcohol tolerance, you will be treated to a glass of one of their whiskies or their mango-flavored liquor, among many others. And that is on top of their cocktail drinks which they offer as a complimentary drink.
Entrance to the museum itself costs Php100. The admission may be pricey but the experience is worth it, especially if you choose to have a sampling of their drinks. Indeed, it makes for a unique Intramuros experience at the very least that is unlike any other. In more ways than one.