5 GENERATIONS OF MASTER BLENDERS
Destileria Limtuaco was established by a Chinese immigrant born of a merchant family in Amoy, China, Lim Tua Co sailed for the Philippines in 1850 with the blessings of the Chinese Emperor. He was then 36 years old and he was a Mandarin trained in martial arts. But Lim Tua Co was also a merchant and had in his possession a secret formula for medicinal wine that has been with his family for five generations. Within two years of his arrival in the Philippines, Lim Tua Co had put this formula into good use. He set up a distillery at 135 Gandara Street, Binondo, the Chinese quarter of the city, beside the Pasig River, and began producing Vino de Chino, a bittersweet brew derived from a variety of Chinese herbs. This wine was known to build up stamina like today’s energy drinks and it became immensely popular among the Filipinos – men and women alike.
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.
The founder of Destileria Limtuaco became an acknowledged leader in the Filipino Chinese business community and in the distillery trade. To complete his integration into Filipino life, Lim Tua Co took on a Christian name and became known to friends, associates and heirs as Don Bonifacio Limtuaco.
Don Bonifacio had two children—Carlos and Andrea. It was his son Carlos whom he hoped would take over the business. 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.
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. James Limpe, a professional manager, graduated in 1924 from the University of Washington in Seattle, United States. It was he who 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, Caloocan 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 fifth generation, headed by Olivia Limpe-Aw, is steering the company into the challenges of the 21st century. Appreciating its heritage, the company’s current management has maintained the wisdom gained from the past generations while utilizing modern advantages and gaining a contemporary edge in the industry. It has reengineered its company into a streamlined organization, computerized most of its operational systems, and utilizes modern marketing and production techniques. However, it has remained true to the integrity and quality of Limtuaco’s products.
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