Piscologia • Blog • Everything You Need to Know About Pisco
From Peruvian vs. Chilean pisco, distillation and aging processes, cocktail recipes, pisco grapes, and the Denomination of Origin of pisco, our blog covers everything you need to know.
Piscologia, acholado, quebranta, pisco grapes, pisco, pisco cocktails, Peruvian pisco, what is pisco, pisco brandy, pisco sour, best pisco, craft pisco
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Mai Nikkei Tai, Peruvian Mai Tai

mai tai, nikkei,

The influx of Japanese immigrants to Peru at the end of the 19th century greatly enhanced Peruvian cuisine through the development of Nikkei, the fusion of Peruvian and Japanese food. New ingredients such as ginger, soy, wasabi and raw fish and seafood slowly assimilated into Peruvian cuisine, eventually creating delectable dishes such as tiradito, pulpo al olivo and acevichado sushi.

In her Mai Nikkei Tai, Kami twisted the traditional Mai Tai recipe to nod to this culinary movement. A touch of ginger represents the Nikkei and Quebranta pisco replaces rum, embodying a truly Peruvian cocktail. The result is a delicious blend of Japanese and Peruvian flavors.

Mai Nikkei Tai 

  • 2 oz Pisco Quebranta 
  • .5 oz Fino sherry 
  • .25 oz Sesame Orgeat 
  • .25 oz (strong brewed) ginger syrup
  • .75 oz fresh lime juice 

Shake & strain over ice

Garnish with mint bouquet, lime & seasonal fruit 

Source:

Walhout, Hannah. “How Japanese Immigrants Shaped Peruvian Food.” Food & Wine, 17 Apr. 2019, www.foodandwine.com/chefs/nikkei-peruvian-japanese-food.

Following the etymological trail of pisco

linguistic pisco, pisco meaning, pisco quechua, pisco bird

The word “pisco” and its many variations (pisku, pisccu, phishgo, pichiu etc.) have been documented in Peru for almost 5 centuries. We have summarized the research of historians Guillermo Toro-Lira Stahl and Gonzalo Gutiérrez in this blog post, following the evolution of the word since its first inscription to its current connotation: the clear brandy we drink today.

Quechua Word For Bird

The Incas had no formal written language; instead they used knotted strings known as khipu. Consequently, the Quechua word “pisco” (bird) wasn’t recorded in Peru until the arrival of the Spaniards. Here are two of the first references to winged creatures:

«Piscos […] that is the name of birds […]». Pedro Cieza de León, Crónica General del Perú, 1550.

«There are some small birds […] they call them Pichiu […]».Garcilaso de la Vega, Comentarios Reales, chapter XX, 1609.

Quechua speakers in the Andes still describe birds using different forms of the word “pisco”. “Pichinko” (sparrow) and “piscala” (bird) are two examples. In addition to associations with avifauna, the word has acquired many other meanings over the years.  

Geographical Region

Because of the sheer quantity of birds that populated the coastal waters near Ica, people began to call the entire area “Pisco”. The earliest evidence of this is a map of Peru drafted in 1574 by geographer Diego Méndez, where the port of Pisco is clearly delineated. However, it wouldn’t be for more than 300 years later in 1900, when the province of Pisco was officially created with a capitol of the same name.  

Pisko People and Clay Vessels

The people who lived in the geographical area of Pisco were also called “piskos”. They transported chicha and other alcoholic beverages in clay pots (seen below). Over time, the vessels also took the name “piscos”. To this day, some producers use these pots to age their pisco.

clay pots, piscos, tinajas, traditional pisco method

The Spaniards started distilling wine in Peru at the end of the 16th century/early 17th century, but the clear brandy wasn’t called “pisco” for quite some time. According to Gonzalo Gutiérrez, the oldest documentation of brandy production seems to be from 1613, in a will of a man named Pedro Manuel. Among the deceased’s possessions were several containers of aguardiente (brandy). This proves that brandy production had started in Peru. However, the first reference to “pisco” as a brandy didn’t appear until 200 years later.

Pisco As Brandy

Guillermo Toro-Lira Stahl discovered what he believes to be the first association of pisco as clear brandy. In a customs document from Lima dated in 1808, 42 containers of pisco were received from Ica. Below you can see the diminutive word, “pisquitos”. Mr. Toro-Lira Stahl believes this document marks the new nomenclature for the term we use for the clear brandy today.

pisquito, pisco, pisco customs document
Credit: Guillermo Toro-Lira Stahl

From that point on in the 19th century to present day, there are thousands of references to Peruvian pisco as a brandy. Two examples are below:

Pisco […]  is so good and much stronger than Cognac” Jullien Mellet, Voyages dans l ‘interieur de la Amérique Meridianale, 1808- 1820, 1824.

Pisco Punch is “compounded of the shavings of cherub’s wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset and the fragments of lost epics by dead masters.” Rudyard Kipling, From Sea to Sea, 1889.

The name “pisco” has had many connotations over the course of 5 centuries. Chronicling the etymological trail of the word leads us through an interesting historical journey in Peru, starting with Pre-Colombian tribes and ending with our favorite clear brandy.

Sources:

Gutiérrez, Gonzalo. El Pisco, denominación de origen peruana. 19th ed., vol. 10, Agenda Internacional, 2003, pp. 245–298.

“Quechua.” MustGo.com, www.mustgo.com/worldlanguages/quechua/.

Toro-Lira Stahl, Guillermo, Luis. (17 may 2019) In Facebook [Personal Page]. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from https://web.facebook.com/guillermo.torolirastahl?fref=search&__tn__=%2Cd%2CP-R&eid=ARBwZeAEE5DlNFetvz_Ro51kTEjGyLFMxOr-wQSIkfBwvolSl1Y5AflX85wR57EXvGxj_rzXCSPC5yyM


						

PiscoLogía Pisco Quebranta Tech Sheet

A RICH PERUVIAN TRADITION

Artisanal production. Estate grown in Azpitia. Terroir driven.

Our vineyards are located on the northern precipice of the lush Mala River Valley, a short distance from where the Mala River meets the Pacific Ocean. This proximity to the sea means the grapes are nourished year-round by a certain level of salinity, adding to their complexity. Our Pisco Quebranta has aromas of grass, herbs, and sweet caramelized banana with hints of toasted almonds, pecans and tart green apples.

GRAPE USED: 100% estate-grown Quebranta

PROCESSING: Grapes are harvested from estate vineyards, first pressed traditionally by foot, then with an automated press without the seeds.

FERMENTATION: The freshly pressed grape juice drops directly into a cement well where the wild fermentation begins. Contact with the grape skins (approximately 24 hours) and vintage yeast strains jump-start fermentation. Once active, fermentation completes its cycle in neutral vats.

STILL TYPE: Copper Pot Still

STILL SIZE: 300 Liters; direct flame heated

DISTILLER: Nati Gordillo

DISTILLATION: Single (Peruvian Pisco must be distilled to proof)

ALCOHOL: 42.0 %

FORMAT: 750 ml

COUNTRY: Peru

REGION: Lima

SUB-REGION: Azpitia, “Mala” River Valley

PiscoLogía Pisco Acholado Tech Sheet

acholado, pisco acholado, pisco, peruvian pisco

A RICH PERUVIAN TRADITION

Artisanal production. Estate grown in Azpitia. Terroir driven.

Our master distiller, Nati crafts our Acholado to be both mixable in cocktails as well as enjoyed neat. It is balanced, with flavors of matured dried currant and banana and aromas of pecan and orange blossom. Akin to wine, try letting your pisco breathe before enjoying!

GRAPES USED: 95% Quebranta, 5% Italia

PROCESSING: Grapes are harvested from estate vineyards, first pressed traditionally by foot, then with an automated press without the seeds.

FERMENTATION: The freshly pressed grape juice drops directly into a cement well where the wild fermentation begins. Contact with the grape skins (approximately 24 hours) and vintage yeast strains jump-start fermentation. Once active, fermentation completes its cycle in neutral vats.

STILL TYPE: Copper Pot Still

STILL SIZE: 300 Liters; direct flame heated

DISTILLER: Nati Gordillo

DISTILLATION: Single (Peruvian Pisco must be distilled to proof)

ALCOHOL: 42.0 %

FORMAT: 750 ml

COUNTRY: Peru

REGION: Lima

SUB-REGION: Azpitia, “Mala” River Valley

Capitán Cocktail, the Peruvian Manhattan

capitan cocktail, pisco, pisco cocktail, peruvian manhattan

Today we present to you another classic Peruvian cocktail, the Capitán. Also known as the “Manhattan Peruano”, this mix of vermouth and pisco represents the fusion of Peruvian and Italian cultures in Peru.

According to “¡Que pase el Capitán!”, vermouth was first imported to Peru from Italy in the year 1859. However, its popularity peaked after WW1 when Italian immigrants in Lima started consuming the botanical fortified wine with Peruvian pisco. The economical cocktail was named after its price, “20 centavos” (20 cents).  

When the 20 centavos’ popularity spread beyond the circles of Italian immigrants, its name evolved to Capitán. High in the Andes of Peru in the city of Puno, military captains used to stop in bars during their nightly patrols on horseback and order the 20 centavos cocktail. The bartenders would pass the drink to their uniformed customers saying, “For you, my Captain” (“Capitán” in Spanish). The name “Capitán” soon caught on and has been a part of Peruvian cocktail culture ever since.

Now you can now ponder that bit of history while savoring Kami’s version of the Capitán with PiscoLogía Pisco Acholado and sweet & dry vermouth.

Capitán Perfecto 

  • 2 oz Pisco Acholado 
  • 1/2 oz. Dry Vermouth 
  • 1/2 oz. Sweet Vermouth 
  • Nori Wrapped Kalamata Olive 

Stirred, served up 

Source:

Santa Cruz, John. “¡Qué Pase El Capitán! Crónicas Desde Perú .” Gastronomía Alternativa, www.gastronomiaalternativa.com/ga-23_19-que-pase-el-capitan.html.

A sommelier talks Peruvian Pisco: Part 3

pisco, piscologia, pisco grapes

This is part 3 of a series of interviews with Fernando Gonzales-Lattini, a sommelier specialized in pisco, vigneron and producer of premium wine in the Peruvian Andes.

You are interested in terroir and how it affects a wine. What can you say about the terroir at Azpitia?  

“Azpitia is interesting because it has sandy soils that can be extremely challenging for viticulture. Nati does an excellent job of working with the conditions there to grow high quality grapes. PiscoLogía’s vineyards in the Mala Valley are at a higher altitude and they are strategically located to allow them to be cooled by the Pacific Ocean breeze. This effect gives the grapes more concentrated flavors and better acidity. Higher quality grapes make a better quality wine, which in turn, makes a better pisco.

I also appreciate Azpitia because it is a very small production region. There are maybe 100 hectares maximum of small farms. That small size, in addition to its unique terroir, makes the pisco crafted there even more rare and special.”

What’s your favorite pairing with pisco?

“My favorite pairing is a quebranta pisco with suspiro a la limeña, a famous Peruvian dessert. In this combination, the sweetness and creaminess of the suspiro are balanced out with the alcohol from the pisco. It’s a perfect fusion between the sugar in the dessert and the fruitiness of the pisco.”

Finally, you have observed Nati during production and you have tasted her pisco. What can you say about Nati as a professional?  

“I admire Nati for many reasons. First, she is so meticulous in her viticulture practices. In the winemaking world, everyone knows that to make a good wine, you must start in the vineyards. Only high-quality grapes can make a good wine. In the case of pisco, distillation is just one step further in the process. That means the way you care for your grapes translates directly into your pisco. Many pisco producers in Peru buy grapes, but PiscoLogía is made from 100% estate-grown grapes. That allows for Nati to have strict quality control throughout the entire process.

I also like how Nati adheres to tradition and she strictly follows the Denomination of Origin. By demanding a high quality product and never compromising her standards, she is setting the bar for other producers in all of Peru. 

Finally, Nati and her team hand select every grape that goes into every bottle of pisco. They also use selective pressing techniques to maximize each grape, but without adding bitterness from the seeds. Nothing is arbitrary in her process. The methodical steps she takes really shine through in the final result- a pisco of Premier Grand Cru quality.”

A sommelier talks Peruvian Pisco: Part 2

best pisco, how to make pisco, pisco harvest

This is part 2 of a series of interviews with Fernando Gonzales-Lattini, a sommelier specialized in pisco, vigneron and producer of premium wine in the Peruvian Andes.

How would you explain what pisco tastes like to someone who has never tried it?

“Pisco tastes like grapes because it’s made from grapes. There are more than 15 pounds of grapes in every bottle of regular pisco. It would be impossible for this immense amount of fruit to not express itself in the final product. When you taste pisco, you should also note other nuances like fresh fruit such as banana and mango.”

In your opinion, what makes Peruvian pisco special?

“Pisco is unique because it comes from very high-quality, aromatic organic material: grapes. Compared to other liquors made from grains or potatoes, grapes are so much more aromatic and flavorful in their raw form. The single distillation method used to make Peruvian pisco also allows the full gamut of flavors and aromas to show up in this high quality spirit.

I am a sommelier and I own my own vineyard. Needless to say, I love wine. I think pisco should be appreciated like a fine wine. There are more than 300 descriptors for wine. When you distill wine to make pisco, you concentrate those flavors and aromas even more. The terroir of the vineyards should also be appreciated in every bottle.”

What do you want the world to know about Peruvian pisco?

“People need to try this premium spirit. I guarantee they will be impressed, especially if they are wine-lovers. I can’t emphasize enough the parallels between the two. Just like wine, one can distinguish the characteristics of different grape varieties, vintages, and terroir of pisco. It also pairs beautifully with food.

Tradition is also very important in Peru. We have been making pisco for hundreds of years, which has many benefits. First, we have traditions passed on from generation to generation. Second, we have been perfecting the art of pisco making and selecting the vest vines for centuries. We know what regions are most apt for grape growing and what production methods are best. It’s like winemaking in France- their current methods are based on hundreds of years of tradition.”

Learn About All the Peruvian Pisco Grapes

In Peru, the eight grapes used in pisco production are separated into 2 categories: aromatic and non-aromatic. While the latter categorization might imply that some piscos lack aromas, we would like to clarify that all varieties of Peruvian pisco are highly aromatic. This is due to the production methods required by the Denomination of Origin in Peru. First, Peruvian pisco is distilled one time, which helps bring out the unique aromatic profile of each grape variety. Then it is aged in neutral casks, which enhances the aromas while preserving the original identity of the clear spirit.

In this post, we will list the flavors and aromas of each grape variety used in the production of Peruvian pisco: Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Uvina & Mollar (non-aromatic) and Italia, Torontel, Moscatel, and Albilla (aromatic).

Note: These are general tasting notes, as every pisco is different, depending on the region, the terroir of the vineyards and the methods of the distiller.

Quebranta

Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how make pisco

Origin: The Quebranta grape is a cross between Negra Criolla and Mollar grapes. It is the most common grape used in pisco production in Peru.

Pisco aromas: Banana, hay, lucuma, passionfruit, raisins, orange peel, dried grass & chocolate

Pisco flavors: Apple, hay, vanilla, peach, citrus, syrup, pecans, almonds

 

Negra criolla

negra criolla, listan prieto, pisco grape

Origin: Spain. AKA Listan Prieto. It’s a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and another unknown vitis vinifera.

Pisco aromas: Dried grass, apples, peaches, honey & chocolate

Pisco flavors:  Spices, raisins, cocoa & caramel

 

Uvina

uvina, uvina pisco, uvina grape

Origin: Rootstock from the USA or France (possibly Summer grape or Winter grape) and another unknown vitis vinifera. It is similar to Quebranta, but Uvina is known for its green olive nuances.

Pisco aromas: Green olives, mango & banana

Pisco flavors: Green olives, berries & mango

 

Mollar

mollar, peruvian pisco

Origin: Andalucia, Spain. AKA Mollar Cano, Mollar de Cádiz, Mollar de Granada & Mollar de Huelva. It is very similar to the Quebranta grape.

Pisco aromas: Honey, floral, apple & banana

Pisco flavors: Pear, apple, almond & banana

 

Italia

acholado, quebranta, types of pisco, singani, chilean pisco

Origin: A cross between Muscat of Hamburg and Bican grapes. It was created in Italy in 1911 by Luigi and Alberto Pirovano.

Pisco aromas: Tropical fruit, mango, pineapple, peach, jasmine & rose petals

Pisco flavors:  Lime, mandarin, flowers, orange blossom & tropical fruit

 

Torontel

torontel, pisco grapes, pisco

Origin: Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. AKA Torrontés.

Pisco aromas: Flowers such as geranium, jasmine and magnolia, citrus, orange blossom & tropical fruit

Pisco flavors:  Citrus, honey, tropical fruit & toffee

Moscatel

moscatel, muscat. pisco grape

Origin: There is dispute about the origins of Peruvian Moscatel grapes. One theory is that it comes from the Muscat Rose à Petits Grains grape (Jiménez). This muscat grape is not to be confused with Italia, even though they are from the same family.

Pisco aromas: Vanilla, chestnuts, jasmine & mandarin

Pisco flavors: Peach, apple, flowers, cinnamon and spicy pepper

 

Albilla

albilla, pisco grapes

Origin: Spain. AKA Albillo Real

Pisco aromas:  Lime, lemongrass, peach, apple, vanilla & cinnamon

Pisco flavors: Honey, peach, pineapple & apple

Sources:

“Italia (Grape).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 May 2015, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italia_(grape).

Jiménez, Jorge. “Uvas Moscateles En El Pisco .” Excella by Andrea Bruno, https://www.excella-andreabruno.com/articulo.php?articulo=43.

“Noches De Cata Con Pisco ‘Cata Descriptiva’ .” El Pisco Es Del Perú, Feb. 2012, elpiscoesdelperu.com/web/boletin.php?ver=detnot&id=143&idboletin=101&idC=zoyeca@yahoo.com.

Vera, Nico. “Genealogy of Pisco Grape Varietals.” Pisco Trail, 2018, www.piscotrail.com/.

Tipos de pisco peruano: Acholado y Quebranta

quebranta, acholado, uvas pisqueras, uvas pisco, pisco

El pisco peruano es un aguardiente de uvas que se destila una vez y reposa un mínimo de 3 meses.

La uva quebranta es una de las variedades de uvas pisqueras que se usa para hacer pisco, igual que el cabernet sauvignon y chardonnay son tipos de uva para vino. En Perú, hay ocho variedades de uvas pisqueras: quebranta, negra criolla, mollar y uvina (no-aromáticas) e italia, torontel, moscatel y albilla (aromáticas).

El pisco acholado se hace mezclando un mínimo de dos de las distintas variedades de pisco o dos variedades de uvas antes mencionadas. Nuestra destiladora, Nati hace una mixtura perfecta de uvas quebranta e italia para crear un acholado que se puede usar en cócteles o para tomar solo.

Aquí hay una comparación de los dos:

Pisco Acholado

piscologia, peruvian pisco, pisco, craft pisco, acholado, quebranta

Aromas: Pecanas y azahar

Sabores: Grosella madura y seca, plátano

Maridaje recomendado: Chocolate semi-dulce

“Huevos Benedictinos”

  • 2 onzas PiscoLogía Acholado
  • 1 onza jarabe de piña
  • 1 onza limón
  • .5 onza licor Benedictine
  • Clara de huevo
  • Nuez moscada (guarnición)

Sirve en las rocas

Pisco Quebranta

quebranta, piscologia, pisco, craft pisco

Aromas: Herbáceo, plátano dulce caramelizado

Sabores: Almendras tostadas, plátano, pecanas y manzanas verdes ácidas

Maridaje recomendado: Camembert y manzanas

“Uva encima de uva”

  • 2 onzas PiscoLogía Quebranta
  • .5 onza Jerez Manzanilla
  • .5 onza Vermut Punte E Mes Dulce

Sirve sin hielo en un vaso coctelero

Closing the Gender Gap by Honoring Blanca Varela

Blanca varela

Credit: Stefany2121

We set out to write a blog post about literary references to Peruvian pisco since the word “pisco” was first documented in Peru in the 16th century. It was pleasantly surprising to find that many prominent writers from around the world have written about Peruvian pisco over the course of five centuries.

However, our euphoria soon dissipated when we realized that none of the historical texts we studied were written by women. While we do appreciate the literary contributions of males, especially when the subject is pisco, we decided to scrap our original blog idea. The absence of women in this realm compelled us to discuss a subject that is even more pressing for us: the gender gap.

Gender inequality is not just a historical phenomenon and it is not limited to published works. It is prevalent and oppressive in present day, from the way we divide household duties to the lack of women in management level positions. As explained in Global Issues: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, “Globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation”. This issue affects every country. In fact, it is so ubiquitous that it will take 108 more years to close the gender gap around the world (World Economic Forum).

Although this may seem dire, there are ways to accelerate equality between the sexes. One way is by celebrating the achievements of females. The National Women’s History Alliance encourages people to recognize the dignity and accomplishments of women because it promotes higher self-esteem in girls and greater respect toward women in boys. As a result, girls perform better in school and communities become less violent. Greater self-esteems and appreciation of women are not universal cures, but they are an important part of the process of achieving gender equality.

Taking this advice of the National Women’s History Alliance, we would like to highlight the accomplishments of one admirable female poet, Blanca Varela. As a bonus, we will demonstrate how Peruvian pisco played a role in her artistic exploration.

Considered one of Peru’s greatest poets, Blanca Varela was born in Lima in 1926. Her mother, Serafina Quinteras, was a composer, poet, writer, singer and journalist. Following her mother’s footsteps and with persuasion from Octavio Paz, Blanca published her first poetry book in 1959. She won many awards in her lifetime, including the Federico García Lorca International Poetry Prize in 2006. She was the first woman to ever receive that prestigious award.

In a short note titled “Amigos, fantasmas y recuerdos”, written in 1974, Blanca discussed the pisco cocktails she frequently drank at the Peña Pancho Fierro, a gathering place in the Plaza de San Martín in downtown Lima. She didn’t reveal the “secret recipe” of the pisco concoction with macerated fruit. However, she did discuss how inspired she felt in the intimate company of Peru’s most prominent artistic figures. The “magic circle” included Sebastián Salazar Bondy, Teresa Carvallo, Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Martín Adán, César Moro and Fernando de Szyszlo. In “Amigos, fantasmas y recuerdos”, Blanca sentimentally recalls the time she spent at the Peña Pancho Fierro (Jochamowitz). We are happy pisco was part of that experience.

Recognizing Blanca Varela is a small advancement in closing the gender gap. We hope her accomplishments will forge a path for other females in the future so the next time we revisit written works about pisco, we will find contemporary female’s names next to men’s. We know we can’t change history, but we can influence the future.

To close this post, we would like to share a poem written by Blanca Varela, Curriculum Vitae:

let’s say you won the race
and the prize
was another race
you didn’t savor the wine of victory
but your own salt
you never listened to hurrahs
but dog barks
and your shadow
your own shadow
was your only
and disloyal competitor

Sources:

“Blanca Varela.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Apr. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blanca_Varela.

“Global Issues: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.” Global Issues: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, www.peacecorps.gov/educators/resources/global-issues-gender-equality-and-womens-empowerment/.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2018. World Economic Forum, 2018, The Global Gender Gap Report 2018, www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2018.pdf.

Jochamowitz, Luis. “’Una Pequeñísima Puerta’.” Caretas Ilustración Peruana, www2.caretas.pe/Main.asp?T=3082&S=&id=12&idE=1263&idSTo=774&idA=75746#.XN1kNaZ7mu4.

Varela, Blanca. “Curriculum Vitae.” PoemHunter.com, 27 Aug. 2016, www.poemhunter.com/poem/curriculum-vitae-4/.

“Why Women’s History?” National Women’s History Alliance, nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org/why-womens-history/.