Pisco Certificate Course- Lesson 3: Eytmology of the Word “Pisco”


The evolution of the word pisco occurred through a series of milestones that started in pre-colombia, before the arrival of the Spaniards. The meaning changed in the 16th century, when pisco referred to a region and the people who lived there. The mid 18th century marked the first association with the clear brandy. In 1900, the port of Pisco was named. Finally, now pisco means many things, but it most commonly refers to our favorite spirit.

While pisco has taken on several connotations over the course of 5 centuries, one has remained constant- Pisco has always meant “bird” in Quechua. Quechua is one of many native languages spoken in Peru today. Did you know there are more than 90 indigenous languages spoken in Peru? Quechua is primarily spoken in the Andes. Approximately 25% of the population in Peru speaks it.

The Incas spoke Quechua, but they had no formal written language; instead they used knotted strings known as khipu. Khipu were used for collecting data, keeping records, monitoring tax obligations and many other functions. The cords stored numeric and other values encoded as knots, often in a base-ten positional system.

The khipu system was quite effective, but it greatly differs from our present-day concept of documentation. Consequently, the Quechua word “pisco” wasn’t formally written in Peru until the Spaniards began to transcribe their experiences in the New World. Garcilaso de la Vega, a Spanish soldier and poet, was one of the first to write about the avifauna called “piscos”, as you can see on this slide.

If you have ever been to Peru, you have undoubtedly noticed mass populations of birds feeding in the biodiverse waters along the coast. Upwelling that occurs when the cool Humboldt Current meets tropical waters brings rich nutrients to the surface, creating an irresistible culinary paradise for Peruvian birds. The Humboldt Current is not a new phenomenon, however. In the 16th Century, people dedicated a portion of the coast to the abundant bird population by naming the 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 would take more than 300 years for the Pisco province and capitol to be officially created in 1900.

The people who lived in the geographical area of Pisco were also called “piskos”. They transported chicha, a fermented drink typically made from corn, and other alcoholic beverages in clay pots, which you can see here. Over time, the vessels also took the name “piscos”. To this day, some producers still use these to rest their pisco after distillation.

The first wine was distilled 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 historian 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 137 years later.

The first association of pisco as a clear brandy is believed to be from a legal document from Lima dated in 1729. In this document, containers of “aguardiente de pisco” were the source of a dispute between two parties. This documentation would mark the new nomenclature for the clear brandy we use today.

Pisco Certificate Course- Lesson 1: Overview of Pisco

When the first wine was made in 1551, it marked the beginning of a new enological era in the New World. However, it wouldn’t have been possible without the agricultural prowess of Peru’s natives, who were experts in cultivating and irrigating the arid coast. Their expertise and manpower, combined with the demanding manual labor & agricultural knowledge of African slaves, made grape-growing highly successful in Peru.

By the end of the 16th century, the popularity of Peruvian wine posed a formidable threat to the Spanish wine industry. In an attempt to hinder wine production in Peru, Spanish royalty imposed high taxes, banned Peruvian wine in their colonies and prohibited the planting of new vines in Peru. However, they weren’t successful until 1641, when King Philip The Fourth prohibited the importation of Peruvian wine to Spain, cutting Peruvian vintners off from one of their last remaining markets.

Instead of abandoning their vines, locals began to use the grapes to make brandy. In the tradition of the Old World’s firewater, they called this grape distillate “aguardiente de uva”, following alchemical methods from the Middle Ages. Eventually, the name changed to “pisco”.

Over time, the viticultural knowledge of the Spanish blended with agricultural traditions passed down from the Incas and African laborers. Years of trial and error led to diversification and selection of the best varieties, identification of optimal regions for grape growing and improved production practices. These factors, along with a climate favorable to grape growing, have allowed Peruvians to proudly craft their national beverage for hundreds of years.

Pisco is defined by the Denomination of Origin as “the product obtained from the distillation of fresh musts of recently fermented pisco grapes”. If you are new to pisco, you might not know what musts are. Must is freshly crushed grape juice that may contain some skins, seeds and possibly some stems. Depending on their preferences, master distillers in Perú may leave some skins, seeds and stems in the must during maceration.

Maceration is the process of soaking all or some of the skins, seeds and stems to extract aromas and flavors from the skins and transfer them to the juice. According to the Peruvian Technical Standards, fermentation may occur with or without maceration, or with partial or total maceration of the pomace. It depends on the preferences of the master distiller.  However, the must has to be separated from the pomace before distillation because ONLY wine can be distilled in Peruvian pisco production.

The rich history of pisco shows in the traditions performed throughout the entire pisco-making process, starting with agricultural and spiritual practices in the vineyards and ending when the pisco is consumed. We will cover every my noot detail of those processes in this course, but for now, let’s talk about harvest.

Harvest of pisco grapes happens in Fall in Perú, typically in March or April. The ripe berries are plucked from the vines, giving the master distiller the raw materials needed to craft the perfect batch. The grapes are destemmed and crushed and maceration may or may not occur. With the help of yeasts, the sugar converts the grape juice to alcohol and the juice becomes wine, ready for distillation.

Making pisco is a demonstration of the craft, skill and scientific knowledge of the distiller.  While the wine heats up, boils, evaporates and then condenses into pisco through a scientific process, intuition tells the distiller when to cut the heads from the tails, how to manage the environment, to regulate temperatures and make other very important decisions to obtain a quality product.

Once distillation has converted the wine to pisco, the brandy must rest a minimum of 3 months in neutral vessels such as stainless steel or fiberglass. This makes pisco completely transparent and unaltered, allowing you to fully appreciate the original identity of the spirit. After resting, it can be bottled and is ready for consumption.

Peruvian pisco is unique because it is distilled only one time, making it different from other brandies that are distilled more than once and watered down to proof. That means a master distiller has only one chance to craft an exceptional pisco at the desired proof. However, the ABV must be between 38 and 48%, according to the Denomination of Origin in Perú.

Since nothing is added to Peruvian pisco, that means there is only one ingredient in the bottle: grapes. So, just how many grapes are in one bottle? On average, there are an incredible 7.5 kilos, 16.5 pounds packed in one bottle of puro or acholado, the most common types of pisco. On your screen, you can see how that compares to wine and mosto verde piscos. Next time you go to the grocery store, try to buy 16.5 pounds of grapes and you will get an idea of just how many grapes that is!

PiscoLogía’s Puro Quebranta Wins Gold Medal at the Specialty Masters Competition

piscologia gold medal

The caliber of the clear spirit was recognized at the Specialty Masters Competition; results will be published in the November edition of ‘The Spirits Business’


The world’s most highly regarded series of spirits blind-tasting competitions, Global Spirits Masters, awarded PiscoLogía’s Pisco Puro Quebranta a gold medal at their 2021 competition in England.

The gold medal comes less than a year after PiscoLogía’s Master Distiller and partner, Nati Gordillo, was designated Female Craft Distiller of the Year by Craft Spirits Berlin, Europe’s premier event for handcrafted spirits. “Every bottle of PiscoLogía is tangible evidence of Nati’s gift for distilling. We feel proud to take home a gold medal and humbled by such prestigious recognition of our Quebranta expression”, said Meg McFarland, founder of PiscoLogía.

The all-female team of pisco producers have worked to bring pisco from Peru to the international spotlight. In October of 2020, PiscoLogía launched the Pisco Certificate Course, a certification in pisco offered for free in English and Spanish.  “With its single distillation methods, diversity of grapes used in production, differing terroirs and more, pisco is such a unique spirit. My goal is to create a category for pisco in the spirits industry. This gold medal is a sign that we are moving in the right direction; pisco’s quality and singularity have come to the international spotlight”, said Kami Kenna, director of marketing and partner of PiscoLogía.

For more information about PiscoLogía’s distribution or general information about the company, please visit:  www.piscologia.com.


About PiscoLogía

PiscoLogía Quebranta, a single-variety Peruvian pisco, recently won a gold medal at the Women’s Wine and Spirits Awards in London.

PiscoLogía Acholado, a blend of Italia and Quebranta piscos, was awarded a gold medal at the SIP Awards in California.

PiscoLogía’s Master Distiller and partner, Nati Gordillo, was designated Female Craft Distiller of the Year by Craft Spirits Berlin, Europe’s premier event for handcrafted spirits

The Pisco Certificate Course launched by PiscoLogía offers fresh and engaging information about Peruvian pisco. Participants in the program will benefit from the interactive online training, which includes testing, forums, activities, and certification.



Pisco: A Single Denomination of Origin in Peru

Denomination origin pisco, appellation origin pisco, pisco label

Pisco was formally declared a Denomination of Origin in Peru on December 12th, 1990, by Directorial Resolution No. 072087-DIPI. It was ratified by Supreme Decree No. 001-91-ICTI / IND on January 16, 1991. However, we will eternally emphasize that the pisco production methods and traditions had been practiced in Peru hundreds of years before the official formation of the D.O.

We recently made a correction to the PiscoLogía label based on a new regulation for the Denomination of Origin. It was brought to our attention that all piscos should be labeled “Denomination of Origin: Pisco”. That is, the specific region where the spirit is produced should not be specified on the labels, but rather, the one denomination of Pisco. For example, a producer in Tacna should not label bottles with “Denomination/Appellation of Origin, Tacna”, but rather “Denomination/Appellation of Origin, Pisco”.

More information can be found in Resolution No. 13880-2017 / DSD-INDECOPI.

As protecting the rights to pisco is a main priority for the Appellation of Origin in Peru, the Resolution specifies that the purpose of this change was “to imply greater protection in the other member countries of the Andean Community”.

This means the D.O. for pisco from Peru should have more clout in the Andean countries (if you need a refresher on why this is an issue, please buy Ambassador Gutiérrez’s book, “Pisco, its Name, its History”).  While we love to appreciate the distinct terroirs of each region in Peru, we also believe this change will create unity between producers of one of the national symbols of Peru.

Now if you want information about the origin of a pisco, you will have to read the label to find out which region it came from. Here are a couple blog posts to guide you:

1) How to Read a Pisco Label

2) The 5 Pisco-Producing Regions in Peru


Myth #13- Single Distillation makes a pisco brand unique

To tout their piscos, some brands have appropriated production methods required by the D.O., marketing them as unique proprietary techniques. Attempting to distinguish a pisco based on these supposed proprietary production methods is misleading. This blog post will explain why.

First, the D.O. in Peru requires that all pisco be made from 100% grapes. If you produce a clear brandy in Peru and label it pisco, it is strictly required that the spirit be made only from grapes. Nothing can be added to it, not even water. That means if a producer does add something to the must, grapes, or wine before production, or to the brandy after distillation, then they are in violation of the Denomination of Origin in Peru and are subject to punishment. We will explain why producers of other spirits might add water to their distillates in another blog post.

Second, the single distillation method is often appropriated for marketing purposes. For the same aforementioned reasons, claiming single distillation as a proprietary production method is fallacious. ALL pisco made in Peru is distilled once because the D.O. for pisco in Peru requires it.

As we have mentioned on our website and in several blog posts, single distillation allows producers to highlight the terroir and distinctiveness of each grape. It also means master distillers have one chance to obtain the perfect pisco at just the right ABV. This is obviously very different than the production methods used to make other spirits, including Chilean brandy.

Now, does the single distillation method make pisco superior to other distillates such as Chilean brandy, whiskey, or gin? Perhaps, but why compare apples to oranges? Does the single distillation method differentiate one pisco brand from another?  Absolutely not. It is part of what makes pisco, pisco.

In summary, if people ask: “Why do you single distill and add nothing to PiscoLogía?”, the answer is simple: because the D.O. regulations require it. Why do the D.O. regulations require it? The D.O. for pisco in Peru was formed to formalize, regulate, and protect the production traditions perfected over hundreds of years in Peru.

For more information about the D.O. in Peru, please visit: https://www.indecopi.gob.pe/documents/1902049/3747615/pisco+%281%29.pdf/99a9fdfb-0b6a-97ff-06fe-37ddec01899f


Embajador Gonzalo Gutiérrez anuncia la publicación en inglés de “Pisco: su nombre, su historia”

La publicación en inglés prueba que la denominación de origen del pisco le pertenece al Perú

pisco name history, gonzalo gutiérrez

El Embajador Gonzalo Gutiérrez anunció la publicación en inglés de su último trabajo: “Pisco: su nombre, su historia”, la culminación de una investigación sobre el verdadero origen del aguardiente de uva. El trabajo analiza la evidencia etimológica, histórica y cultural para confirmar que el pisco es de Perú.


Al presentar documentos antiguos, procedimientos legales del siglo XVIII y reflexiones sobre el destilado de uva en las artes y la cultura popular, el trabajo del Sr. Gutiérrez muestra los derechos peruanos sobre la Denominación de Origen de la bebida. El autor expresó que compartir su investigación con una audiencia más amplia de habla inglesa catalizará el avance de la D. de O. peruana.


Meg McFarland, traductora del libro, declaró: “El análisis del embajador Gutiérrez es un hito revelador en el ámbito de la industria de las bebidas espirituosas. Mi objetivo como traductora fue ayudar a la comprensión de los lectores de habla inglesa sobre la historia, la cultura y el origen del pisco. Lograr que esta información esté disponible en diferentes idiomas es crucial para el crecimiento del destilado peruano en todo el mundo”.


El lanzamiento virtual del libro se llevará a cabo el 23 de junio a la 1:00 pm EST (7:00 pm CSET, 12:00 m. LIMA). El Embajador presentará los principales argumentos para establecer el origen histórico peruano del pisco. El panel también incluirá a Kami Kenna de PiscoLogía pisco y Bourcard Nesin de Rabobank, quienes compartirán sus puntos de vista sobre el papel del pisco en el sector de bebidas espirituosas.


Haga clic aquí para unirse a la presentación del libro virtual: https://illinois.zoom.us/j/6437912347?pwd=M2ZpSm82TVIxditNSWROd2NJdU9rUT09


Para comprar una copia de “Pisco: su nombre, su historia”, siga el enlace: https://piscocertificate.com/product/pisco-its-name-its-history/.


Sobre el Embajador Gutiérrez Reinel

Gonzalo Gutiérrez es el actual embajador de Perú en Bélgica, Luxemburgo y la Unión Europea. También ha sido Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores del Perú y Embajador del Perú en China y las Naciones Unidas en Nueva York. Recientemente publicó “Pisco Elqui, El Nombre Engañoso”, un ensayo que revela un esquema comercial engañoso montado en la década de 1930 para eludir las regulaciones sobre el uso de nombres geográficos para designar bebidas espirituosas en los Estados Unidos.


Sobre el Pisco

El pisco de Perú es el aguardiente de uva más antiguo de América. Destilado en la tradición del aguardiente ancestral, el pisco es transparente y no se le añeja.  Según la IWSC (Concurso Internacional de Vinos y Licores), el pisco es una de las 5 tendencias de bebidas espirituosas más importantes del mundo, como se ve en su creciente popularidad en la competencia de 2019.


Ambassador Gonzalo Gutiérrez Releases Publication of “Pisco: its Name, its History”

The English –Language Publication Proves the Appellation of Origin of Pisco Belongs to Peru

pisco name history, gonzalo gutiérrez

Ambassador Gonzalo Gutiérrez announced the publication of his latest work: “Pisco: its Name, its History”, a culmination of research about the true origin of the grape spirit. The crowning achievement scrutinizes etymological, historical and cultural evidence to confirm pisco is from Peru.


By presenting age-old documents, 1700s legal proceedings, and reflections of the grape distillate in the arts, Mr. Gutiérrez’s work shows the historical Peruvian rights to the spirit’s Appellation of Origin. He expressed that sharing his research with a broader English-speaking audience will catalyze the advancement of the Peruvian A.O.


Meg McFarland, translator of the book, stated, “Ambassador Gutiérrez’s analysis is an illuminating game-changer in the realm of the spirits industry. My goal as translator was to help shape English-speaking readers’ understanding of the history, culture, and origin of pisco. Making this information available in more languages is crucial to the growth of the Peruvian spirit worldwide”.


A virtual book launch will be held on June 23rd at 1:00pm EST (7:00pm CSET). The Ambassador will present the main arguments to establish the historical Peruvian origin of pisco. The panel will also include Kami Kenna of PiscoLogía pisco and Bourcard Nesin of Rabobank, who will share their expertise about pisco in the beverage industry.


Click here to join the virtual book presentation: https://illinois.zoom.us/j/6437912347?pwd=M2ZpSm82TVIxditNSWROd2NJdU9rUT09


To purchase a copy of “Pisco: its Name, its History”, follow the link: https://piscocertificate.com/product/pisco-its-name-its-history/.


About Ambassador Gutiérrez Reinel

Gonzalo Gutierrez is the current ambassador of Peru to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union.  He has also been Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru and Peruvian Ambassador to China and the United Nations in New York. He recently released “Pisco Elqui, The Misleading Name”, an essay revealing a duplicitous trade scheme mounted in the 1930s to circumvent regulations on the use of geographical names to designate spirits in the USA.


About Pisco

Pisco from Peru is the oldest grape spirit of the Americas. Distilled in the tradition of ancestral firewater (eau-de-vie, brandy); pisco is clear and unaged. According to the IWSC (International Wine and Spirits Competition), pisco is one of the five biggest spirits trends in the world, as seen in its rising popularity in the 2019 competition.

Pisco y Tónica- El Cóctel Más Peruano

El pisco sour y el chilcano son dos cócteles que están profundamente arraigados en la cultura peruana. Si bien el sour y el chilcano son 2 de las libaciones más famosas de Perú, hay otro cóctel que creo que está subestimado en términos de su “carácter peruano”, y ese es el pisco tonic. De hecho, voy a hacer la audaz declaración de que el pisco & tonic es el cóctel MÁS peruano. Esto se debe a que la quinina purificada, el principal ingrediente del agua tónica que le da su sabor amargo, proviene de la corteza del árbol nacional del Perú, la quina. Así que aprendamos más sobre el pisco tonic y la quina en esta lección.


A mediados de la década de 1400, los incas reconocieron la quinina como un remedio para la fiebre. Probablemente entró en la medicina occidental durante la década de 1630, después de que la condesa de Chinchón, esposa del virrey español en Perú, se enfermara de malaria. Con su esposa cerca de la muerte, el virrey acudió a los incas locales en busca de ayuda. Luego de la administración de una mezcla que los incas llamaban corteza de “quina”, la Condesa experimentó una notable recuperación. Se cree que desde entonces se ha utilizado la quinina para tratar la malaria. Ahora la quinina ahora está regulada en los EE. UU. Por la FDA porque puede causar efectos secundarios en dosis altas, sin embargo, todavía está permitida en el agua tónica porque es inofensiva en pequeñas cantidades.


Puede hacer su propia agua tónica remojando la corteza de quina en agua carbonatada. Sin embargo, es difícil de encontrar. Lamentablemente, los árboles de quina están en peligro de extinción.


Ahora bien, ¿qué tan peruano es el cóctel de pisco y tónica? Digo que es el cóctel más peruano no solo porque la quina es el árbol nacional del Perú, sino también porque está en la bandera peruana. Puedes verlo aquí en estas fotos. En la foto de la derecha, el árbol de quina está en la esquina superior derecha del escudo.


Lo mejor del cóctel más peruano es que es muy fácil de preparar. En su pantalla, puede ver la receta de Kami para el Pisco and Tonic que requiere 1.5 onzas de PiscoLogía Acholado, cubierto con el tónico Fever Tree sobre hielo compacto. Pueden decorarlo con aceitunas kalamata, una cáscara de lima o ambas.


Esta sencilla receta es un gran tributo al Perú. Entonces ahora saben por qué lo consideramos el cóctel más peruano. ¡Gracias!

Las Diferencias entre el pisco y el singani


Puede pensar que el singani y el pisco peruano son muy similares. Ambos son aguardientes de uva transparentes elaborados en dos países con similitudes geográficas, lingüísticas y culturales. Sin embargo, cuando se examinan sus métodos de destilación, zonas geográficas de producción, técnicas de reposo, clasificaciones de calidad y otros detalles, está claro que son muy diferentes.


Una de las razones por las que nos gustaría ver el pisco en su propia categoría de bebidas espirituosas es que es muy diferente a otros aguardientes uva. Sí, el singani y el pisco peruano son transparentes, pero difieren en muchos aspectos, que veremos ahora.


Singani se elabora en Bolivia, solo de la variedad Moscatel de Alejandría. Esta variedad es una de las 8 uvas permitidas en la producción de pisco peruano. Aprenderá más sobre las uvas de pisco en la siguiente unidad.


El Singani debe reposar 6 meses en barricas neutras, mientras que el pisco debe reposar 3.


El Singani también se asocia con grandes alturas. Debe producirse a 5,250 pies o más con uvas cultivadas en esas elevaciones, mientras que el pisco se asocia con alturas más bajas, más específicamente, en los valles costeros. La denominación de origen en Perú requiere que el pisco se produzca a 6.562 pies o menos a partir de uvas cultivadas en esas elevaciones.


Tengan en cuenta que el concepto de altitud es bastante diferente en la región andina. Si bien los peruanos consideran que 6,562 pies es bastante bajo, en los EE. UU. Es una elevación relativamente alta. Por ejemplo, Denver, conocida como la “Ciudad de una milla de altura”, tiene una elevación de 5,280 pies. Hay piscos peruanos elaborados a altitudes superiores a Denver en la denominación de origen de Arequipa en el Valle de Caraveli, que se ubica a 5,837 pies.


Ya aprendiste que la palabra pisco proviene del quechua, una de las 90 lenguas indígenas del Perú. La palabra singani proviene del aymara. El pueblo aymara es una nación indígena en las regiones de los Andes y el Altiplano de América del Sur. Alrededor de 2,3 millones de hablantes de aymara viven en Bolivia, Perú y Chile. Hay evidencia que la palabra “singani” viene de “siwingani”, la palabra aymara para juncia. La juncia es una planta similar a la hierba como la que se ve aquí en la foto. Muchos lugares en Bolivia llevan este nombre, por lo que se desconoce cuál específico dio a luz a la bebida homónima. .


Hay 2 diferencias más que me gustaría resaltar antes de terminar esta lección. Primero, como saben, el pisco se destila una sola vez. El SIngani generalmente se destila dos veces y se diluye hasta que llegue al nivel de alcohol deseado, como el pisco chileno.


Además, SIngani tiene clasificaciones de calidad, mientras que el pisco peruano no. Singani de altura y singani se elaboran solo con el vino, como el pisco peruano. Sin embargo, Singani de Primera y Singani de Segunda pueden elaborarse a partir de los restos de orujo de la vinificación (similar a la grappa). Como ya han aprendido, el orujo nunca se puede destilar en la producción de pisco.


Ésta fue una comparación muy breve del singani y el pisco, pero espero que este resumen les haya dado una idea de cuán diferentes son las dos bebidas espirituosas.

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