Chances are, if you’ve been out to bars and restaurants lately, you’ve seeing Pisco pop up more and more on menus and creative cocktails. And while Pisco Sour is often the drink that most are familiar with, it’s time to learn a bit more about Pisco, a truly unique, versatile and delightful spirit.
Pisco is a grape based spirit that can only be produced in two countries, Chile and Peru, each version is really unique and with very distinct flavours.
The Chilean version is made only in two regions of the country – the Atacama and Coquimbo regions in the north – where the climate is low-humidity and the terrain desert like. This of course, has a major effect on the final product.
Peruvian Pisco can as well only be made in 5 departments being those Lima, Arequipa, Ica, Moquegua and Tacna where the climate is also very hot and sunny with virtually no rain.
One of the main differences between Chilean Pisco and Peruvian Pisco flavour comes from the different grapes used in each country’s Pisco making process. In Chile, the grapes used are both aromatic- moscatel de alejandria, moscatel rosada and torontel- as well as non-aromatic (Pedro Jimenez and Moscatel de Austria).
Chilean Pisco is generally produced using discontinuous distillation, discarding the feints, only keeping the hearts, which are high proofed. Same versions of Chilean Pisco, like brandy, can be aged (Peruvian Pisco cannot be aged), often in barrels made from American oak, French oak or Rauli, an evergreen beech tree native to Chile. The biggest difference between Chilean and Peruvian varieties, however, is found in the distillation process. After distillation, Chilean piscos add water to lower the ABV while, in Peru none is added to achieve a lower proof. Like other categories of brandy family, the water added must be pure, with no sugar, colouring or other additives.
Peruvian Pisco can only be distilled once, preserving the aroma and flavour while in Chile pisco can have multiple distillations, this means for example if the master distiller is going to make a translucent pisco they may only distill it once, to preserve aroma and flavour, but if they are going to age it in a barrel, they will distill it twice to allow the barrel flavours to shine. All the Peruvian piscos are translucent because they cannot be aged.
The distillers play a bigger role in the making of Chilean pisco, as the distillation can be tailored to the grape blend, they are also allowed to blend their brandies creating a wider more refined flavour profile. For example, the distiller could blend a single distilled pisco with a double distilled pisco and even a third distilled pisco, varying the percentages very similar to wine production. Chilean pisco is also allowed to be aged granting for much more and different flavours and aromas to be seen.
Regardless of their differences, the fact that pisco grapes are grown in low humidity and semi-dessert climate helps to concentrate the sugar content into the grape, allowing the fermentation to be successful later on – less water makes acidic soil, sweeter grapes, more alcoholic wines and better piscos. Pisco is definitely a floral and fruity spirit.
GREAT IN COCKTAILS
“I love pisco like I love my cognac: neat,” admits Saxon + Parole Belfand NYC. “But when it comes to cocktails, I’ve always been a huge fan of sour in general; I really like to make them and drink them. The Pisco Sour is to me the best of them all”.
For Bar SixtyFive’s Creason, it’s a tough decision. “The aging process is so unique in Chilean Pisco, which makes it an exceptionally versatile spirit that can be enjoyed a myriad of different ways and I would be hard pressed to choose between a well-made Pisco Sour or a good reserve served over a large cube.”
Don’t be scared to try pisco in other classic cocktails, either. “My favourite cocktails go from a well-executed Pisco Sour, to a Pichuncho ( Chilean Manhattan),” says Technical Director of Miguel Torres, Almeda. “Chilean Pisco can be mixed with tonic or sodas, and even to remaster classics by substitution. Try a penicillin using Pisco and mezcal for the smoky notes”.
And while Pisco Sour is for sure the most popular in Chile, Piston doesn’t stay behind [ Pis (from Pisco) ton (from tonic)]. Also popular is the Chilcano, made with grape fruit juice, pisco, bitters and strawberry ginger beer.
Mas Piscolas was funded thinking of those who have a passion for Pisco, wherever its origin Chilean or Peruvian. We will aim to offer you the best variety and best recipes so you can decide yourself what is best for you.
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