LIMA, Peru – Nov. 16, 2019 — PiscoLogía Quebranta, a single-variety Peruvian pisco made from Quebranta grapes, won a gold medal at the the most important wine and spirits competition in the world judged by women buyers – the Women’s Wine and Spirits Awards. Held in London at the Royal Yacht Club, 100 of the world’s most influential female buyers assembled for the historic occasion. Top retailers, importers, and hospitality entities were present for the blind tastings, including Waitrose & Partners, Bibendum, Enotria & Co, 67 Pall Mall, and The Arts Club.
The award reflects the quality and craftsmanship of the pisco, which is made in Azpitia, in the Denomination of Origin of Lima. “We are honored to receive this gold medal and celebrate the work completed with my partners Nati Gordillo and Kami Kenna. It is a culmination of years of dedication to the art of pisco making” said Meg McFarland, founder of PiscoLogía.
Made from 100% estate-grown grapes, PiscoLogía Quebranta is the quintessential craft pisco. Its aromas are grassy, herbal, and reminiscent of sweet caramelized banana. It tastes of toasted almonds, pecans and tart green apples.
About Topa Spirits, LLC
Topa Spirits, LLC is a 100% women-owned producer, importer and wholesaler of Piscología Pisco Quebranta and PiscoLogía Pisco Acholado.
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I recently sat down with Nati over a delicious meal, as one always does with Nati, to conduct an interview for this blog post. Since forming the band of women that lead our company, we 3 PiscoLogía partners have never lived in the same city. My goal was to pinpoint exactly what makes Nati so special, as understanding each other helps our partnership thrive. I quickly discovered that besides being the most talented master distiller, Nati’s profound intuition is what sets her apart from others.
Nati’s intuition is manifested in the way she connects with nature. It all started in northwestern Peru, in the city of Piura, where Nati grew up among lush agricultural fields. She used to spend hours in orchards as a child, harvesting juicy guavas and other sweet treats. In her youth, Nati formed a special bond with Pachamama (Mother Earth), a bond that nagged her after starting a family in the bustling city of Lima.
In 1998, Nati’s yearning to connect with nature brought her to Azpitia, where she happened upon a plot of land for sale. At first glance, the sandy hills of Azpitia seemed inhospitable to plants. However, Nati’s intuition allowed her to recognize the unique terroir and immense potential in the barren, rolling slopes. First she would have to channel glacial meltwater from Andean Lagoons to bring life to her project. Then she would have to cleanse the soil of salt- residue from the briny Pacific Ocean mist that had accumulated for centuries.
She irrigated day and night to remove the salt and resuscitate the coastal desert. After a year, native plants began to appear, proving her land was ready for Quebranta, Italia and Torontel vines. Throughout the waiting process, Nati contemplated the circle of life that surrounded her, monitoring the moon’s phases, honoring Pachamama to bless her future crops and sowing native plants that would benefit her vines. She also studied the practices of those who came before her, adopting agricultural techniques from the Incas and viticulture concepts from the Spaniards.
Three years later, she rented a still to distill her first batch of pisco. Nati patiently supervised as the clear brandy collected in the well, drip by drip, for 33 hours. The experience gave her the confidence and determination to learn more. One course and a Sommelier degree later, and Nati was ready to buy her first 300L copper-pot still, which boldly shines in the distillery today.
Learning a trade and running a business can be tumultuous. However, one thing has always guided Nati: her intuition. It tells her how to raise her grapes, when to harvest and how to listen to nature. It gives her the insight to know when to cut the heads from the tails and how to care for the pisco after distillation. Her clairvoyance makes her treat the Earth with respect before reaping its benefits. That is why Nati’s pisco is so extraordinary. She creates delicacies with nature’s ingredients through a deliberate, respectful and loving process.
When I asked Nati what she wanted the world to know about her, she humbly answered that she believes in putting positive energy into everything she does. She stated that she likes crafting pisco because it is an act of giving to others. Her comments made me reflect on how lucky Kami and I are to work with Nati. Her quiet introspection completes the puzzle of our partnership, guiding us to make wise business decisions. I then realized that Nati isn’t the most talented master distiller AND the most intuitive; she is the most talented master distiller BECAUSE of her intuition.
Soon Nati’s daughter Beatriz will start her apprenticeship to learn how to distill pisco with her mom. Beatriz will learn well from her mom’s talent and sixth sense. We all know that the best pisco is made with more than just skill; you need positive energy, respect for Pachamama, and most importantly, intuition.
If you love Kami’s pisco cocktails, now you can download our recipe postcards! Click on the links below to learn more about the diverse ways to mix PiscoLogía. In addition to classic pisco cocktails such as the Capitán and Chilcano, you will also find new renditions of traditionally rum-based cocktails such as the Mai Tai and Piña Colada. Finally, if you are looking for something new, we know you won’t be disappointed by the spicy Bees Knees Stings or the Flor Canela.
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If you think the pisco sour is the most Peruvian cocktail, it may surprise you to hear that we think the pisco & tonic should be the flagship cocktail of Peru. Quinine, the ingredient that gives tonic water its bitter taste, comes from the bark of Peru’s national tree, the cinchona.
There are 23 species of cinchona plants, six of which only grow in the tropical areas of the Peruvian Andes. The Cinchona officinalis (quina in Spanish) is among those 6 species. Quinine from this tree is not only used to make tonic water, but it also has been historically used to treat malaria.
You can make your own tonic water by soaking cinchona bark in carbonated water. However, it’s difficult to find. Sadly, cinchona trees are in danger of extinction.
We believe the pisco tonic should be revered as the quintessential Peruvian cocktail. Tonic, made from bark from Peru’s national tree + pisco + ice = the most Peruvian experience in a glass!
Pisco y Tonic
1.5 oz PiscoLogía Acholado
Top with Fever Tree Tonic
Serve over ice. Garnish with kalamata olives & lime peel
The unappetizing odor, fear of food-borne illnesses and adherence to a vegan diet are reasons many avoid raw eggs in their cocktails. The traditional pisco sour recipe relies on egg whites to create its creamy foam. However, these 3 alternatives use aquafaba, Ms. Better’s Bitters Miraculous Foamer and organic soy milk to create a similar texture.
First,Tara Duggan from the San Francisco Chronicle uses aquafaba:
2 oz. Pisco
1 oz. aquafaba, or the drained water from a can of unsalted garbanzo beans
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar or ¾ oz. simple syrup
Nico from Pisco Trail works with Ms. Better’s Bitters Miraculous Foamer in lieu of egg whites:
Maurice Dudley fromBlue Habuin Okinawa uses organic soy milk:
2 oz. PiscoLogía Pisco Acholado
1 oz. Shiquasa liquer
1 oz. Gum syrup
1 oz. Organic soy milk
*For all recipes, place all ingredients in a shaker without ice. Shake for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake again. Strain into chilled glass. When foam rises, garnish with 3 drops of bitters.
Pro-tip- If you’re making a maracuyá sour, passionfruit makes a natural foam. Vigorously shake 1 oz. of pure passionfruit juice with pisco and simple syrup. You will be pleasantly surprised by the natural froth that forms from the juice.
Leave us a comment if you find a favorite substitute for eggs whites for your pisco sours!
Pisco replaces rum in this Piña Colada-style concoction, showcasing the versatility of Peruvian pisco and highlighting its longstanding relationship with the pineapple.
The marriage of Peruvian pisco and pineapple happened thanks to Duncan Nicol, but the pineapple had gained fame in the USA long before the Pisco Punch. In the 1700’s, the tropical fruit began to symbolize opulence in the colonies- one pineapple cost the equivalent of $8,000 in today’s dollars, due to its “perishability, novelty, exoticism, and scarcity” (Raga).
When Nicol opened the Bank Exchange, the fruit was still a symbol of great wealth, but it had become less expensive due to the increased movement of goods during the Gold Rush. Ships used to stock up on prospecting supplies in Peru en route to San Francisco, among the goods were pisco and pineapples. The fruit soon became more accessible, allowing Nicol to mix pineapple syrup and pisco to woo San Francisco’s wealthiest drinkers.
Luckily pineapple is no longer for the elite, so we can use it in our favorite cocktails without breaking the bank. For this Matcha Colada, a Peruvian piña colada, we recommend PiscoLogía Acholado, our special blend of Quebranta and Italia piscos. The pineapple and coconut will pair beautifully with the tropical flavors and aromas of the Italia.
For a special treat, add matcha syrup and matcha dust, a finely ground powder of green tea leaves!
2 oz. Pisco Acholado
1 oz. Coconut cream
.75 oz. Pineapple juice
.75 oz. Matcha syrup
Shake and pour over pebble ice. Garnish with mint bundle and matcha dust
Before distillation, Peruvian pisco grapes are first crushed and then fermented to make wine. It is very important to make precise decisions about when to harvest so the grapes have the right amount of sugar, acidity and tannins. Having this balance gives us high-quality wine and pisco. Nati uses both science and intuition to determine if this balance has been achieved.
First, science is used to determine the sugar and pH levels. Nati uses specific measurements to determine that the Brix levels of our Quebranta are between 24°-26° and our Italia between 22°-23°. It is important to obtain the right amount of sugar because yeasts need glucose to convert the juice into wine. Furthermore, as grapes ripen, acidity drops as sugar levels increase. However, we need to maintain certain levels of acidity so the wine is well-rounded. Nati strives for a pH of around 3.2-3.4.
Nati also checks for physiological changes in the vines. This means that the grapes, stems and seeds have the proper coloring. The fruit should be bright and robust and the stems and seeds should be brown, indicating they are ripe.
Finally, she uses intuition when tasting the fruit. The fruit must taste sweet and have good acidity and tannins. Sugar is especially key in pisco production; the more you have, the higher the alcohol content.
Determining when to harvest is an extremely important step in the pisco production process. Perfecting the balance of science and intuition gives us grapes with better flavors and aromas and thus, a well-rounded pisco.
Singani and pisco are both clear grape brandies that share similar physical attributes. However, when you examine their distillation methods, geographical zones of production, resting techniques, quality classifications and other details, you will find that they are very different spirits. We have listed the differences between Bolivian Singani and Peruvian pisco in the chart below:
A brandy made from 1 or a blend of the 8 pisco grapes permitted by the D.O. in Peru.
A brandy made only from Muscat of Alexandria grapes in Bolivia.
Rests in neutral casks a minimum of 3 months.
Rests in neutral casks for a minimum of 6 months.
Must be made in one of the Pisco-producing regions as defined by the D.O. in Peru.
Must be made in one of the Singani-producing regions as defined by the D.O. in Bolivia.
Produced at 2,000m (6,562 feet) or lower from grapes grown at those elevations.
Produced at 1,600m (5,250 feet) or higher from grapes grown at those elevations.
Has both single-variety Piscos (puros) and blends (acholados).
Only single-variety Singanis are produced exclusively from the Muscat of Alexandria grape. No blending with other varieties is permitted.
Linguistic evidence suggests the word “pisco” comes from the native Quechua word “pishqu” (meaning bird).
Linguistic evidence suggests that the word “singani” comes from the native Aymara word “siwingani” (meaning sedge).
Only single distillation permitted.
Usually double distilled and watered down to proof.
No quality classification
Has quality classifications:
Singani de Altura
Singani de Primera
Singani de Segunda
Pomace may never be distilled in Pisco production.
Singani de Primera and Singani de Segunda may be made from the pomace leftovers from winemaking (similar to grappa)
Unrivaled in its simplicity, the chilcano is perhaps Peru’s most iconic cocktail. The origin of this delicious mix of pisco, ginger ale and lime is a mystery. While some believe this famous cocktail has Italian roots, others dispute that notion. We may never know how the chilcano came about, but we can most definitely enjoy its effortless preparation and refreshing, delicious tang.
Here is Kami’s recipe for the chilcano, Peru’s version of the Moscow Mule, which uses ginger beer, giving it a unique spiciness for your enjoyment.
2 oz PiscoLogía Pisco Acholado
3 Lime wedges
2 dash Angostura bitters
Muddle lime wedges, build over light ice, top with ginger beer
Can you drink pisco straight? Absolutely! In fact, we encourage you to drink pisco straight to appreciate it like a fine wine. To guide you, here are 4 questions you can ask yourself when tasting:
1) What descriptors and characteristics can I identify?
There are more than 300 descriptors for wine. When you distill wine to make pisco, you concentrate those flavors and aromas even more. See if you can pick out different nuances in the pisco. For example, our Quebranta tastes like toasted almonds, pecans and tart green apples. If you’re tasting an Acholado, distinguish the characteristics of each of the blended varieties.
2) How is the terroir of the vineyards expressed in the pisco?
We have discussed the terroir of our vineyards and how it differs from other regions and vineyards in Peru. For example, our pisco has been described as briny, which is due to salinity on the grapes from the Pacific Ocean. Our soils are sandy, which create very different conditions than vineyards in the Andes, where soils are predominantly limestone. Pisco is greatly influenced by terroir, so see if you can appreciate how the conditions of the vineyards influence the flavors and aromas of the brandy.
3) How does the pisco pair with food?
Like wine, the clear Peruvian brandy pairs beautifully with food. We have given you some pairing suggestions in this blog post: http://piscologia.com/pairing-your-favorite-peruvian-food-with-pisco/, but pisco pairings go way beyond Peruvian food. There are endless opportunities with any cuisine. For example, try an Italia pisco in a snifter with Thai curry. You can play around with different varieties and food flavors to see what you like best.
4) Are there certain aspects of this vintage that make it different than others?
Just like wine, the conditions of each harvest vary each year, making every vintage unique. For example, if a year is especially hot, the wine and pisco will have higher alcohol percentages because the grapes will have developed more sugar. Or, if rainy season arrives earlier than expected, the grapes must be harvested early to avoid diseases on the fruit such as botrytis. Sometimes this means that the grapes might not ripen enough, meaning they will have less aromas and flavors.