The fragrant white blooms of sampaguita used to be more present in the rituals of our lives: Sunday mass, graduation rites, a jeepney driver quickly running his fingers through a strand of blooms before the day’s pasada. Over the years, we paid less and less attention to the lowly flower necklaces peddled by kids and lolas on churches and nearby plazas.
Giving us an opportunity to renew our appreciation for what is our national flower is a new homegrown premium gin brand called Proclamation. The name was inspired by General Frank Murphy’s Proclamation No. 652 in 1934 declaring the sampaguita as the Philippines’ National Flower.
The brand’s co-founders are blogger Cheryl Tiu and architect Carlo Calma, both self-confessed gin lovers and culture enthusiasts. They discovered the potential of the sampaguita in their quest to produce a Filipino product of distinction.
The project, three years in the making, first led them to Lubao, Pampanga known as the “Sampaguita Capital of the Philippines.” There, they met the hardworking women farmers who picked the flowers daily, which they later string together and sell in markets and churches.
Working with the Lubao women—and later on women from other parts of Central Luzon—it became the brand’s promise to continue providing a source of livelihood to these farmers even in a small way. Incidentally, says Tiu, “Sampaguita means ‘sumpa kita’ in Filipino which translates to ‘I promise you.’”
Inside each bottle of Proclamation gin are 12 botanicals which include juniper berry, coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, orange peel, lemon peel, liquorice root, cassia bark, almond nut, lemongrass, toasted sticky rice—whut?—and yes, fresh sampaguita flower.
The gin has a smoky, fermented flavor. It initially hits the tongue and evolves into a slightly honeyed overall taste, leaving a warm finish. It smells of toasted grains reminiscent of summer fields, and has a hint of nutty, salty and deep earth aromas.
In an interview with Tatler, Calma says he prefers his Proclamation Gin with either tonic or soda and lemon, lime, or kalamansi for that added citrus kick. The gin goes well, he says, with strong pungent cheeses like Epoisses, pate or edamame.
As for Cheryl, she takes it neat or with a large ice cube so she can savor “the toasted sticky rice flavor”. In the same interview, she recommends having it with sparkling water—plain, coconut or even grapefruit. “I also like making quick cocktails—gimlet, gin sour, negroni. Personally, I prefer to enjoy gin before or after a meal.”