Destileria Limtuaco or Limtuaco Distillery is considered the oldest distillery in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.
It was established by a Chinese immigrant Lim Tua Co who was born in 1814 in Amoy, China. He immigrated to the Philippines in 1850. In 1852 Lim Tua Co decided to sell a secret recipe that he carried with him from AMoy. It was a concoction of bittersweet herbs that was in the family for five generations. It was first named Vino de Chino, then later Sioktong. It was distilled in 135 Gandara Street, Binondo for many years. It became a bestseller for its legendary qualities of imparting stamina in the same way that energy drinks are consumed now.
The drink soon became popularly known as Sioktong and through the years, this Chinese word has become part of the Filipino language, referring to any locally – made medicinal wine.
Lim tua co took on a Christian name and became known as Don Bonifacio Limtuaco.
Carlos and Andrea, his children, were groomed to take over. Carlos was therefore sent to prestigious Ateneo de Manila for a Bachelor of Arts degree, class of 1889. Shortly after graduation, Carlos sailed for Amoy, China, to visit his ancestral home where he died before reaching the age of forty.
Unfortunately, like his only son, Don Bonifacio Limtuaco died while on a visit to Amoy in 1887. A nephew took over the distillery, steering the company through the turn of the century. It was a period of turmoil for the country, marked by the Philippine revolution and the entry of new allies, the Americans, into Philippine life.
In 1926, Limtuaco’s nephew, Lim Chay Seng, took over the helm of the company. Much needed capital was pumped into distillery and production shifted from the home- brewed concoction of Sioktong, anisados and tintos to other Western type liquors.
In 1937, James Limpe, a son of Lim Chay Seng, was placed at the helm of the company. He graduated in 1924 from the University of Washington in Seattle, United States and he introduced modern management into the business.
In 1939, the distillery was transferred from the heart of Chinatown to the growing industrial center in Grace Park, Calookan City.
The second world war hit the Philippines in 1941 and it found Destileria Limtuaco at odds with invading Japanese forces. Obeying a last minute order of USAFFE ( United States Armed Forces of the Far East) Commander General Douglas Mac Arthur for liquor manufacturers to stop their operations and dump their liquor before the Japanese entered the Open City of Manila, James Limpe was incarcerated in Fort Santiago along with prominent American, Filipino and Chinese leaders of the community. Today a marker stands at Fort Santiago to honor patriots like James Limpe who shared its dungeons during the last war.
With the onset of world peace in 1945, James Limpe rebuilt Destileria Limtuaco and began training his eldest son Julius in the business of running a distillery.
Julius Limpe was sent to the United States in 1946 to study business management at the University of Indiana. In 1958, James relinquished his position of Chief Executive Officer to Julius.
As he grew in the business, Julius Limpe learned the chemistry of liquor manufacturing and became like his father, a master blender of whiskies, gins, brandies, rums, vodkas and wines. Julius Limpe invented, developed and patented formulas and aging processes that are today, part of the closely guarded secrets of the corporation. On the other hand, the manager in him propelled Destileria Limtuaco to its present position of primacy in the liquor industry. The distillery has over 30 different products, which include local blends and foreign brands manufactured locally under license. It has three bottling, processing and aging plants as well as many warehouses in Metro Manila, which constitute the largest stock of aging spirits in oak barrels in the liquor industry.
Today the company is known for White Castle Whiskey and Napoleon Brandy, products that skew to the older generation of Filipinos. Under the management of the fifth generation and Olivia Limpe-Aw the company has launched calamansi and guyabano flavored vodka called R-18— for the young maret. A mango-flavored drink, Paradise Rum, was concocted for the European market and it has been awarded several times: 2004 International Spirits Challenge Seal of Approval from London, the 2002 Asian Ethnic Food Fest award for Trendiest Product and a G-Mark Proof of Acquisition of the 2004 ASEAN Good Design Award. It won in the 2006 International Taste and Quality Institute Superior Taste Awards in Brussels.