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.
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Peruvian Pisco in Spokane

Peruvian pisco, Meg McFarland, Kami Kenna, Peruvian pisco, boutique distillery peru, Piscologia

 

We would like to thank all the pisco enthusiasts in Spokane who have supported us after reading the recent article about our partners in the Spokesman Review. In her article “Spokane pair are partners in women-run, boutique Peruvian distillery PiscoLogia”,  Adriana Janovich tells the story of how Meg McFarland, Kami Kenna, and Nati Gordillo formed the partnership that now successfully operates our company, Topa Spirits, LLC. Many from the Spokane and Northern Idaho region have contacted us to find out where PiscoLogía is available. To read the article, please visit: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2019/jan/22/spokane-pair-are-partners-in-women-run-boutique-pe/?fbclid=IwAR3EAmbT6IPqVbX8TaF1ZcXnEosXTfOpEKjg4NPH-f89e2UxHWYhyJAICD8

 

Here are some options to buy our Peruvian pisco in the Inland Northwest:

 

Spokane area:

 

My Fresh Basket

Kendall Yards

1030 W Summit Pkwy

Spokane, WA 99201

Ph: 509-558-2100

 

Millwood Grocery and Spirits

3409 N Argonne Rd

Millwood, WA 99212

Ph: 509-926-0380

 

Bulldog Liquor & Wine

1101 N Division St

Spokane, WA 99202

Ph: 509-315-9098

 

 

Other areas in Washington State:

PiscoLogía is distributed by American Northwest Import and Distribution in Washington State. To see where to purchase our Peruvian pisco in Washington, please contact them directly: http://www.anwdistributors.com/

 

Idaho:

Liquor distribution is controlled by the State of Idaho. Please check your local liquor store to see if PiscoLogía is available. If you can’t find it on the shelves, you can request that it be special ordered. For more information, please visit:

 

Idaho State Liquor Division

 

The DNA of Peruvian Pisco grapes

It is widely know that the Spaniards brought the first grape to Peru on one of their voyages across the Atlantic. In this post, we would like to dig deeper into this subject, citing the research of some of the most involved pisco specialists. What exactly was the first grape varietal to be planted in Peru? What are the current variations of this original vine? According to Jorge Jiménez, in his article “Uvas Moscateles en el Pisco” on Andrea Bruno’s “Excella” website, Peru’s first grape was the Negra Criolla varietal. Negra Criolla is the Peruvian name for Listan Prieto, which has origins in Spain’s Canary Islands.

Jiménez further explains that the famous Peruvian Quebranta grape is a cross between this Negra Criolla and Mollar, an Andalusian grape, and that most Peruvian pisco grapes belong to the Muscat family:

  • Torontel (Moscatel de Grano Menudo/Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains)
  • Italia (cross between Bicane with Moscatel de Hamburgo)
  • Negra Criolla o Rosa del Perú (cross between Moscatel de Alejandría and a vitis vinífera)
  • Quebranta (cross between Negra Criolla and Mollar)

 

To clarify the genealogy of pisco grape varietals even more, we would like to share this diagram made by our good friend Nico Vera. Nico Vera is founder of the “Pisco Trail” blog and Pisco Society.

 

 

pisco grape varietals, negra criolla, moscatel, peruvian pisco, craft pisco, piscologia, types of pisco grapes, quebranta, acholado

 

The next time you drink Peruvian pisco, you will know the history of Uvina, Quebranta, Italia, Torontel, Albilla, Mollar, Negra Criolla and Moscatel grapes! Salud!

 

Sources:

 

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

 

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

 

Put some piscologia in your holiday cocktail!

Wondering what cocktails to make for the holidays? Kami came up with a couple wintery recipes that will keep you cozy when it’s cold outside. Stone Pine Liqueur complements PiscoLogia pisco and lemon juice in these tasty cocktails, which are topped with sparkling wine or Amontillado Sherry.

Here are Kami’s creation notes: “For these dreamy holiday drams I use a Pine Liqueur as inspiration.  The Crusta is a classic New Orleans Brandy-based drink. Substitute pisco and you have an instant Peruvian cocktail. Since Pisco is unaged, it is without wood characteristics, creating its delicate, practically ethereal flavors. With that in mind, I added Amontillado Sherry to balance out the pine, the citrus and bitters to concoct this swanky seasonal sipper.

For the Peruvian Christmas Crusta, our Acholado lends itself as a creative replacement in gin-based cocktails. The intensity of the aromatics from the Italia grape blend with our Quebranta. The French 75, with its sparkling wine component, just calls out ‘holidays’ so I swapped the gin for our Acholado, added the Zirbenz Pine Liqueur and Yellow Chartreuse for a serious Christmas tree pop. With the honey simple syrup, bright citrus and sparkles, the PiscoLogia surprisingly prevails. This cocktail is bright, fresh and festive, like a Christmas carol in your mouth!”

 

peruvian pisco, crusta, pisco cocktails, holiday cocktail recipes, garnishes for cocktails, acholado, quebranta, gin cocktails

 

A Christmas Carol

1 oz PiscoLogia Acholado
2 bar spoons Yellow Chartreuse
2 bar spoons Zirbenz Pine Liqueur
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz honey simple syrup
Shake all ingredients and strain into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine

 

peruvian pisco, crusta, pisco cocktails, holiday cocktail recipes, garnishes for cocktails, acholado, quebranta, gin cocktails

 

Peruvian Christmas Crusta

2 oz PiscoLogia Quebranta
1/2 oz Zirbenz Pine Liqueur
1/2 oz Amontillado Sherry
1/2 oz Lemon
2 dash Angostura Bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a generously sugar rimmed flute glass!
Garnish: sugared rim and an extravagantly long lemon twist

 

Milennials, the Craft Spirits Movement and PiscoLogia

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Several recent studies have shown that Millennials are drinking less alcohol in the USA, Australia, the U.K., and many European countries (Pattani). According to Forbes, Millennial drinkers are also paying more for higher quality “craft” beer and spirits (Nurin). We feel Millenials’ demand for specialty booze is setting a positive trend for the future, so let’s discuss what “craft” means and how it relates to PiscoLogía.

 

What is craft liquor? In our opinion, the authority on this subject is Craft Distillers. They describe the craft method as: “the creative individuality of a single human being working with small, hand-operated equipment”. They also mention that these methods are the antithesis of large-production spirits, as they reflect the authenticity, experience, personal attention, and love of one’s work. We apply all these principles when making our quebranta and acholado.

 

The craft nature of PiscoLogía starts from the moment the vines are planted and it ends when our pisco is consumed. Everything is completed by hand, including planting, pruning, harvesting, selecting, crushing, distilling, filtering, bottling and labeling. We believe the process continues when our quebranta and acholado are mixed in beautiful cocktails by an experienced bartender and enjoyed by you. Here are more details about each component:

 

 

Pruning: We prune by hand, usually in July or August (winter in Azpitia). Using manual techniques gives the plants a more gentle & meticulous treatment and avoids overcropping. Many large companies prune mechanically to save money. However, we will always prune by hand because it provides jobs for people we care about.

 

Estate-grown grapes: We personally care for our vineyards to provide maximum quality control of our grapes. Tending to our own estate-grown grapes also ensures that no excess pesticides and fungicides are used on the plants. This investment of time pays off with our high-quality pisco.

 

Harvest: Our harvests are completed strictly by hand in early March. Hand-harvesting gives us the benefit of selecting every grape that goes into our pisco. This also allows us to harvest in small batches so the grapes can reach perfect sugar levels.

 

Crushing process: Crushing our grapes lightly by foot avoids breaking the seeds, which can give the wine we distill a bitter flavor.

 

Fermentation: Nati carefully monitors the fermentation process. She prefers to allow native yeasts to kickstart fermentation. These natural ambient yeasts (also called “bloom” or “blush”) allow the terroir of Azpitia to fully express itself in our pisco.

 

Small batch: Our wine is distilled in small batches in our 300L copper pot still. This allows us to control distillation more easily and it uses less energy.

 

The rest: From hand-labeling each bottle to social media posts, every part of this cycle is carried out by our workers and partners, making PiscoLogía is the most quintessential craft spirit. We can thank Millenials for helping us recognize the value of focusing on quality, not quantity. Hopefully the push toward craft spirits will be a trend that will continue in the future.

 

 

Sources:

Aneri Pattani. New study shows millennials are drinking less, enjoying it more”, Pittsburg Post-Gazette, 7 August 2018, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/health/2018/08/07/New-study-shows-millennials-drinking-less-pennsylvania/stories/201808060166

 

Nurin, Tara. “10 Trends That Will Determine Your Drinking In 2018”, Forbes, 31 January 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/taranurin/2018/01/31/ten-trends-that-will-determine-your-drinking-in-2018/#1b5113c42992

Singani and Pisco- Distillation Methods of New World Grapes

Peruvian pisco grapes, muscat, Italia grapes

 

The indigenous people of the Americas had a tradition of making alcoholic beverages long before the Spaniards brought the first grape plant across the Atlantic. They often fermented corn, strawberries or potatoes, a custom still practiced in many countries. For example, “chicha”, made from fermented corn or fruit, is highly consumed throughout the Andes in Peru today.

 

Although the first grapevines in the Americas were planted at the end of the 15th century, distillation of wine seemed to have begun about 100 years later. Since then, certain grape varieties have thrived in different locations and production methods of distilled wine have diversified.

 

We would like to highlight the characteristics of 3 spirits distilled from grapes in South America: Peruvian pisco, Chilean pisco, and Bolivian Singani. The chart below makes a brief comparison of 3 of the 8 Peruvian pisco grapes (Quebranta, Torontel and Uvina) and their Bolivian and Chilean counterpart, Muscat of Alexandria.

 

Grape Type Distilled Spirit Grape Characteristics Typical Characteristics When Distilled
Quebranta Peruvian Pisco Non-aromatic: Red/Purple color Herbal, nutty, banana, apple and mango.

 

Torontel Peruvian Pisco Aromatic: Golden yellow color Floral aromas such as lavender, tropical fruit, cinnamon, citrus.

 

Uvina Peruvian Pisco Non-aromatic: Blue/black color Olives, fresh herbs, apple, banana.

 

Muscat of Alexandria Bolivian Singani Aromatic: White/yellow/pink Pink peppercorns, citrus and white flowers.

 

Muscat of Alexandria Chilean Pisco Aromatic: White/yellow/pink Floral, with hints of jasmine and green pears.

 

 

The common ground between Peruvian pisco, Chilean pisco and Bolivian Singani is that they are all made from New World grapes, using distillation methods that were introduced at the end of the 16th century in Latin America (and as we mentioned in an earlier post, they are all are types of brandy). They all have unique qualities, depending on the terroir and the distiller who crafts them. Regardless of your preference, it is indisputable that the introduction of the grape into Latin America was a momentous game-changer. Thanks to those viticulturists in the 15th century, we now enjoy Peruvian pisco, Chilean pisco and Bolivian Singani today!

 

Vineyards in Peru? Thank the Humboldt Current!

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Desert Along the Peruvian Coastline

 

Most of the world’s premium wine production takes place between the 30th and 50th parallels of the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, where temperate conditions are conducive to grape growing. In these areas, grapevines generally thrive in warm, dry locations with distinct seasonal changes. The climates found between these parallels fall into 3 categories: Mediterranean, continental, and maritime. For example, the Saale-Unstrut wine region in Germany is located at 51° N and has a continental climate, while Tuscany, at 43.77° N, has a Mediterranean climate.

Tropical zones are defined as the part of the Earth’s surface between the Tropic of Cancer (23.5° N) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23.4° S). Growing grapes in tropical regions can be problematic for many reasons. It is widely known that the tropics are characterized by heavy rain, humidity, and high temperatures, three conditions that promote various diseases in vines, such as mold and mildew. Moreover, while cool nights promote acidity and balance in grapes in temperate zones, in tropical regions, minimum nightly temperatures fall no lower than about 71.6 °F (22°C), making it challenging to achieve that same roundness. Finally, because of the year-round sweltering heat in the tropics, it is difficult to complete a period of dormancy during the winter. Dormancy is crucial because it allows the vine to rest and conserve energy, in preparation for the next season.

Azpitia is located at 12° S in the tropics, so theoretically, it should be extremely difficult to grow grapes there, or anywhere else in Peru. So how are we able to produce healthy pisco grapes in this area of the world? The answer lies in an oceanographic phenomenon called the Humboldt Current.

The Humboldt Current is a cold ocean current that flows north along the western coast of South America. The current extends from southern Chile to northern Peru, bringing frigid waters from the south, cooling the ocean & creating dry, chilled air, which changes the tropical climate. This is why the Peruvian coastline is so barren. Where a dense jungle would normally lie, sand dunes and cacti line the coasts of Peru, creating very favorable wine-making conditions, similar to what you might see in the high-desert vineyards of Washington State.  Days are hot and dry, but nights are relatively cool in Azpitia, creating the perfect conditions for our vines. Because of this fascinating phenomenon, we can grow grapes in optimal conditions and produce the high-quality wine that we distill to make PiscoLogía!

 

The Denomination of Origin of Peruvian Pisco

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alambiques, distillation peruvian pisco, copper pot still, D.O pisco, denomination peruvian pisco, piscologia

Alambiques and Falca, as defined by the the D.O. in Peru

 

Today we would like to discuss a topic that we consider to be extremely important to protecting the standards of Peruvian pisco: the Denomination of Origin. On a worldwide level, a Denomination of Origin is created to promote and protect names of quality products. Only items that meet the various geographical and quality criteria may use the protected indication. Some of the most famous items protected by a D.O. are Champagne, tequila and many cheeses, ham and wine. Peruvian pisco is also protected and regulated.

The most practical way to explain the requirements in Peru is to provide an abridged translation of the Regulation of the Denomination of Origin of Peruvian Pisco, as an English version of the document does not seem to be readily available.

Source: Reglamento de la Denominación de Origen Pisco

https://www.indecopi.gob.pe/documents/20195/200722/6+Reglamento_DO-PISCO.pdf/a2259836-69e6-4c8c-b403-f8c3c38f7039

Peru was awarded the rights to protect and regulate the production of pisco in 1991. As stated by the Regulating Council, the clear brandy is a product obtained exclusively from the distillation of fresh, recently fermented musts of pisco grapes, using traditional production methods. It must be produced on the coast (no higher than 2,000 meters above sea level) in the Departments of Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and the Locumba, Sama y Caplina Valleys of Tacna. The grapes must also be grown in these areas.

Pisco grapes are defined as any of the following varieties: Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Mollar, Italia, Moscatel, Albilla, Torontel y Uvina. Only Uvina grapes from Lunahuaná, Pacarán y Zúñiga, in the Cañete province (Lima), are protected by the D.O. Non-aromatic grapes are defined as Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Mollar y Uvina, while aromatic grapes are Italia, Moscatel, Albilla y Torontel.

Pisco must be produced by an authorized person & in a distillery that is accepted by the D.O. The grapes also must be grown in a vineyard approved by the Regulating Council.

The following types of pisco are recognized:

Pisco puro (pure)– pisco obtained solely from one variety of pisco grape.

Pisco mosto verde (green must)– pisco obtained from distilling fresh musts from pisco grapes. In a mosto verde, fermentation is interrupted, so you distill when there is still sugar present in the juice.

Pisco acholado (blend)– pisco obtained from a mix of: pisco grapes, musts of pisco grapes or pisco made from pisco grapes.

Fermentation can occur in the following ways: without maceration, with full maceration or with partial maceration of the grape pomace, controlling the temperature and sugar degradation process of the must. The distillation process must start immediately after fermentation, with the exception of mosto verde pisco, which should be distilled before the musts are fully fermented.

Pisco should rest for a minimum of 3 months, in glass or stainless steel containers (or any other container that doesn’t alter its physical, chemical, or organic properties) in order to promote the evolution of the alcohol and general properties of the pisco. Nothing may be added, not even water or sugar. The final product must have alcohol levels between 38% and 48%.

Pisco must be made by direct distillation, separating the heads from the tails, to select the body of the product. The machines used should be made of copper or tin. The pots may be made from stainless steel. Pisco should be distilled in falcas, alambiques, or alambiques with calientavinos (See figures above).

There are many more regulations such as reporting production volumes, labeling requirements, and the characteristics of the final product, but we will leave those for another post.

Some final comments: Nati strictly abides by the rules of the D.O. when she produces PiscoLogía. We believe her dedication to following the regulations makes our pisco one of the best.

We would like to emphasize the importance of enforcing the D.O. regulations on a national level. If Peruvian pisco is going to conquer top shelves across the world, only brandies of utmost quality should reach the market. Because the D.O. designation in Peru is relatively new, interpretations of the Regulation are constantly evolving and improving. It is our hope that one day the same strict standards seen in areas such as Tequila, Mexico and Champagne, France will be applied to the production of Peruvian pisco. Producers, consumers, and D.O. enforcers should all apply uncompromising criteria to protect this high-quality spirit. With collaboration on all levels and by investing time and necessary resources, Peruvian pisco will become the world leader of top-shelf spirits.

 

 

Peruvian pisco – a brandy to be revered

types of brandy, peruvian pisco, pisco, piscologia, jerez, sherry, singani, marc, orujo, how to make brandy, what is brandy, grappa, chilean pisco

Freshly made PiscoLogía

 

Peruvian pisco is classified as a clear brandy. By definition, brandy is an extensive category that includes spirits made from fermented fruit juice, most often grapes. However, brandies can be so vastly different from one another, so how do you distinguish one from another? For example, how do pomace brandies such as grappa, marc, and orujo differ from cognac, Brandy de Jerez, singani, Chilean pisco or Peruvian pisco? The answer to this question is quite complex. Not only do these brandies use different grape varieties in production, but they also vary in the way the grapes are utilized, the distillation and aging processes and often times, in the way they are enjoyed by consumers. By the end of this blog entry, hopefully you will understand what makes Peruvian pisco especially distinctive and intricate.

To demystify this complex spirit, it is helpful to separate it in two subcategories: pomace and fruit (grape) brandies. Pomace brandies do not use the grape juice; they are made from fermented pulp, seeds, and stems of grapes leftover after the winemaking process. Grape brandies are made solely from the fruit juice, which means all stems and seeds are removed before making the wine to be distilled. Both pomace and grape brandies can be aged. Some examples of aged brandies are cognac, Brandy de Jerez and Chilean pisco. The oak casks give them a dark color. In contrast, Peruvian pisco never ages in wood, thus making it a clear spirit.

Peruvian pisco is especially unique because, unlike other brandies, it is distilled only once. Furthermore, no water is added after distillation, which means you have one chance to achieve perfection with each batch. All other brandies are distilled twice and water is then added to reach a desired proof. Because of this single distillation, one can especially appreciate the flavors of each grape profile in Peruvian pisco, as many important flavors and aromas can be lost during second distillation.

Furthermore, brandies can be made from a multitude of grape varieties. While Chilean pisco and singani are made from the Muscat grape, Cognac is typically made from Ugni Blanc. Since grappa and orujo are made from the leftovers of wine production, both can be made from many different grape varieties. However, the Denomination of Origin in Peru requires that Peruvian pisco be produced from at least one of eight different grape varieties, all of which have distinct aromas and flavors.

People tend to mix Peruvian pisco in delicious cocktails, while they may drink other brandies such as cognac or Brandy de Jerez in a snifter. We recommend that the next time you open a bottle of PiscoLogía, treat it like a cognac- pour it into a snifter to fully enjoy the nuances of grapes. You will note no interference from oak casks or second distillations, just the pureness of the fruit from our vineyard. We are certain you will be thoroughly impressed by the delicate nature of this single-distilled spirit.

About that Terroir………

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A peek at our soils in Azpitia

 

To make an exceptional craft pisco, you must start with a good wine. To make a fine wine, you must have the proper conditions, or terroir, to grow healthy, high-quality grapes. In a previous post, we talked about the ambient yeasts that grow naturally in Azpitia, forming part of the terroir of our vineyards. However, terroir involves many other factors that influence the quality and flavor of wine, including soil types, climate, sunlight, location, plant orientation and wind. Today we will focus on the soils and location of our vineyards.

The sandy, gravel and sandstone soils we have at Azpitia play an important role in healthy grape growth. Here is a chart to explain them:

Soil Type: Similar To: Benefit:
Sand The Italian wine regions of Piedmont Provides excellent drainage and protects against phylloxera, a deadly fungus

 

Gravel Some vineyards in the Rhone area of France Reflects and maintains heat, which allows for larger grapes with higher alcohol content

 

Sandstone Alsace, France Provides nutrients and minerals such as iron oxide to make sweeter grapes

 

Furthermore, similar to some of the most famous wine regions of California, Piscología’s vineyards are located close to the Pacific Ocean, at 200 meters above sea level. This proximity (4 miles) and altitude create a perfect storm in the evening, when the ocean breeze channels through the Mala River Valley to reach our vineyards, reducing the temperature surrounding our vines. This cooling phenomenon provides us with grapes with higher acidity levels. Grapes with higher acidity create a balanced, delectable wine, the wine we distill to create Piscología!

PiscoLogía’s (Spirit)ual Bond with Craft Distillers

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We feel profound gratitude, exhilaration, and humility to be represented in the USA by Craft Distillers, one of the most highly regarded companies in the realm of distilled spirits. However, this is much more than a monumental opportunity for our small brand. Because Craft Distillers sets the standard for integrity in the industry, it is a tremendous honor to have PiscoLogía join their portfolio.

 

Craft Distillers emphasizes beautifully made spirits and the methods and human beings behind them. They apply this philosophy when marketing products that are hand-made, innovative, and authentic. Equally important, it is evident this “humanness” manifests itself in their company culture. The Craft Distillers team members are cordial and empathetic with their brand partners, always demonstrating graciousness and integrity that have become anomalies in this day and age.

 

We started this company in 2008 with the goal of creating a craft Peruvian pisco to be appreciated around the world. In order to create this superior product, we knew we needed to use traditional methods, abide by the Denomination of Origin, provide utmost care for our grapes and workers, and distill with the same experience, personal attention, and talent that Craft Distillers requires.

 

Luckily, the stars aligned, our persistence proved fruitful and we have formed this “spiritual” bond with the best in the industry. We are extremely humbled as we make preparations to grow across all 50 states with Craft Distillers. Please stay tuned as we announce more information about availability in your state!

 

For more information, visit: www.craftdistillers.com