Myth #1- Peruvian Pisco & Chilean Pisco Are Interchangeable

This is the first post of a series of mythbusters to clarify misconceptions about Peruvian pisco.

Both Peruvian pisco & Chilean brandy are distillates made from grapes, but their flavors and aromas are not similar.  This means they should be treated very differently when mixing in cocktails.

Peruvian pisco vs. chilean, is pisco peruvian

 

Peruvian pisco and Chilean brandy have very distinctive aromas and flavors because their production processes are different. The single distillation method of Peruvian pisco concentrates the characteristics of each grape variety, whereas the double or triple distillation of Chilean brandy masks the original flavor and aroma of the grapes. This makes Chilean brandy a more neutral spirit that is more easily altered during the aging process.

When aged, Chilean brandy picks up butterscotch and vanilla nuances from the barrels. On the other hand, Peruvian pisco sits in neutral casks, so the grapes’ flavors and aromas maintain their original identity.

The ingredients of your cocktail should match the type of pisco and the grape variety you are working with. For example, the citrus flavors of a Quebranta pisco pair beautifully with the gingery lime tang of a chilcano. Or, the green olive hints of an Uvina pisco make the perfect match with the ingredients of a martini. You wouldn’t want hints of vanilla and butterscotch in a martini, but those flavors of Chilean brandy would work well in a Sidecar or Brandy Smash.

A conscientious bartender recognizes that Chilean brandy and Peruvian pisco should not be interchanged in cocktails. As a discerning consumer, you can challenge the notion that Peruvian pisco and Chilean brandy are substitutable. Drinking a cocktail with ingredients that complement the flavors and aromas of the South American brandy of your choice will maximize your pisco-drinking experience.

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!

 

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.

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