Following the etymological trail of pisco

meaning of the word pisco

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 historian 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.

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

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 would take more than 300 years for the province and capital of Pisco to be officially created in 1900.

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 Ambassador 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 116 years later.

Pisco As Brandy

In “El pisco, la primera referencia a su nombre”, Gonzalo Gutiérrez presents what is believed to be the first association of pisco as a clear brandy. In a legal document from Lima dated in 1729, containers of “aguardiente de pisco” were the source of a dispute between two parties. This legal document would mark the new nomenclature for the clear spirit we use today.

pisco peruano, peruvian pisco

Credit: Gonzalo Gutiérrez

 

Since 1750, there have been thousands of documentations of the word “pisco”. Here are two examples:

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

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.

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-Columbian tribes and ending in present day with our favorite clear brandy.

 

Sources:

Cieza de León, Pedro. Crónica General del Perú, 1550.

Garcilaso de la Vega, Comentarios Reales, chapter XX, 1609.

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

Gutiérrez Gonzalo. El Pisco, La Primera Referencia a Su Nombre. 2020.

Kipling, Rudyard. From Sea to Sea: In Two Volumes. Tauchnitz, 1900.

Mellet, Jullien. Voyages dans l ‘interieur de la Amérique Meridianale, 1808- 1820, 1824.

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

 

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

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.”

 

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 1

brandy, clear brandy, types of brandy, types of pisco, pisco grapes, acholado, quebranta, singani, chilean pisco, peruvian pisco, craft pisco, how is pisco made, wineries peru

This is part 1 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 do you taste pisco and train your palate?

“To properly taste a pisco, you need a pisco snifter, like the photo shown above. In a tasting, a sommelier always evaluates 3 aspects: appearance, aroma and flavor. First, take a look at how the pisco looks. A good pisco must be clear and dense. Swirl the pisco around in the snifter to test its viscosity. A viscid pisco will form thick legs on the side of the glass. This is an indication that the pisco is full-bodied and has a good ratio of alcohol/glycerol. Transparency is also very important. Hold the glass up to the light to observe its color. Peruvian pisco is clear when it runs off the still, nothing is added to it, and it isn’t aged in barrels. For those reasons, it should be as clear as water in the bottle.

To detect aromas, I always recommend that people waft toward their noses instead of smelling directly from the snifter. If you inhale too closely, you can overwhelm your sense of smell, making it impossible to distinguish aromas. Piscos made from different grapes will have different descriptors. For example, a quebranta will commonly smell like banana, mango, pecans and raisins. An aromatic pisco like Italia will smell like fruit and flowers such as jasmine. Once you have observed the aromas and appearance, it’s time to taste.

When you taste a pisco, it should feel smooth in your mouth and throat. At no time should you feel a burning or harsh sensation. Identify in your mouth what flavors it has. You should be able to taste the same aromas that you smelled. For example, if you smelled pecans, you should taste pecans. You might be able to discover other flavors too, so pay close attention to how the flavors might change at different stages in the tasting process.

This is the general idea of how to conduct a pisco tasting. Remember that it takes practice to detect the different flavors and aromas of pisco. The more you do it, the more trained your nose and palate will become.”

The Many Facets of Kami Kenna

kami kenna, pisco, piscologia, women owned liquor business, peruvian pisco

 

 

Kami recently described herself as a Matryoshka doll, her layers unstacked by life experiences, a journey of self-awareness as she progresses through her career. However, when I think of Kami, I envision a mass of snow tumbling down a steep slope, accumulating the necessary mass to gain force, avalanching to its destination.

 

In the case of Kami, both metaphors apply. She is introspective like the innermost Matryoshka. But like an avalanche, she is also indomitable. Kami is multi-faceted; an avid researcher, activist, spirits specialist, distiller, businesswoman and visionary leader. Determined but intuitive while fulfilling those roles, she cares for her community as she continues her crusade.

 

Many exciting endeavors await my business partner. Drink a Seat, a blog that documents her extensive knowledge of food and drink, will become a wild success. She will complete a Master’s degree in Food Studies at NYU (yes, I said NYU!) where she will continue her research on Peruvian pisco, mezcal and beyond. Her sustainable distillery will revolutionize the way people think about liquor. She will change mentalities through education through her future podcast. Kami won’t stop until PiscoLogía is the best, most widely distributed pisco in the world. More importantly, she will care for the earth and its people while reaping its precious edible ingredients.

 

Kami’s past experiences gave her the tools to spearhead a path to success. As a young child, she used to spend numerous hours at her grandparents’ pharmacy in Northern Idaho. She passed the time by observing the business operations and playing with the cash register, punching random numbers to record imaginary sales. Her grandpa reproached her carelessness. Little did he know, his granddaughter was learning how to run a business and how to be accountable. Kami also experimented with food in her kitchen as an adolescent, learning to combine flavors, aromas and ingredients, information she would use in the future to become one of the best bartenders in the Northwest.

 

It was in the Portland community that she found her sense of belonging and the drive to learn more. She moved there at the age of 18, training under the best bartenders at her uncle’s bar, the Brazen Bean. Years later, the lessons learned from that apprenticeship led her to win a cocktail competition. The grand prize was a trip to Peru. Throughout all this, her past was the force behind her – observing her grandparents’ business, food experimentation, and mixing ingredients with liquor to create masterpieces.

 

In Peru, Nati and I recognized her talent, industry knowledge and intuition. Inviting her to become partner of PiscoLogía was the obvious choice. She built the concept that encapsulates our craft pisco brand now. But she didn’t stop there. She moved to Mexico to become a specialist in tequila and mezcal, now giving tours to inquisitive minds from around the globe. However, for Kami, these monumental steps are part of the process of achieving something even greater.

 

Kami’s path started with tiny punches of numbers, spitting out the register tape of life, imaginary scenarios that would one day play out in her career. Nati and I are fortunate to be this trajectory with her, our forces coming together to reach our final goal. Her innermost Matryoshka epitomizes perfection, but I see it growing rather than retreating. It’s grander than she thinks- a tremendous mass gaining momentum, advocating for change, lifting up others and building empires.

 

 

-Meg

Toast to Peru’s national hero with a tasty Peruvian pisco cocktail!

pisco cocktail, pisco, peruvian pisco, best pisco, pisco peru, san martin cocktail, craft pisco, piscologia, quebranta, acholado, cocktail recipe

 

 

In Peru, it is difficult not to stumble upon something associated with José de San Martín. From streets to provinces to statues to schools, this man’s legacy is ubiquitous. Born in Argentina, José de San Martín was a military leader who fought to liberate Argentina, Chile and Peru. However, he was notable not only for his efforts to gain independence in South America. San Martín also fought to abolish slavery, advocated for indigenous people and enacted freedom of speech in Peru.

 

José de San Martín first liberated Argentina and Chile from royalist rule. He then traveled to Peru to do the same. His efforts were successful; Peru’s independence was declared on July 28th, 1821. To this day, Peruvians celebrate Independence Day with copious amounts of pisco. Now they can add PiscoLogía’s San Martín cocktail to their repertoire.

 

Peru’s national hero died in France at the age of 72, shortly after hearing the news of Argentina’s victory against the Anglo-French blockade. To note this historical fact, Kami added a French twist to this cocktail with Chartreuse and Dubbonet.

 

Created by the master Kami Kenna, we present the San Martín cocktail to you:

 

 

San Martín, Protector of Peru 

 

2 oz Pisco Acholado

1 oz Dubonnet

Bar Spoon of Yellow Chartreuse

Garnish with grapefruit peel

Shaken, served up

 

 

 

 

 

Is Pisco Peruvian or Chilean?

pisco peruano, piscologia, Peruvian pisco, what is pisco, is pisco peruvian or chilean, craft pisco, how to make pisco

 

Is Pisco Peruvian or Chilean? This question is the subject of an ongoing debate between Peru and Chile. Because indisputable historical and etymological evidence suggests that pisco was first produced in Perú, we firmly believe pisco is Peruvian.  So, in order to protect the Denomination of Origin for pisco in Perú, we will use the term “Chilean brandy”.

Despite the argument over the origin and ownership of pisco, it is indisputable that Peruvian pisco and Chilean brandy are very different distilled spirits. In this post, we will examine their production methods, the grape varieties used, their production zones and more.

Here’s a quick refresher:

  • Peruvian pisco is single-distilled to proof and nothing is added, not even water. Chilean brandy is distilled more than once and then watered down to a desired proof.
  • Peruvian pisco is aged in neutral casks and is therefore clear, while Chilean brandy is caramel colored because it’s aged in barrels.
  • Peruvian pisco is made from one or a blend of the 8 pisco-grapes grown on the coast of Peru in any of 5 the pisco-producing departments of the country. Chilean brandy is typically made from the Muscat grape (but sometimes Torontel or Pedro Jimenez grapes) in either of the country’s two production regions, Atacama and Coquimbo.
  • Because of the differences in their distillation methods, their aging processes, and the grapes used, the final products have aromas and flavors that are very distinctive.

 

Peru and Chile have been vying for the exclusive rights to the D.O. for pisco for years. So, what’s the status of the heated conflict now? Last month the Chilean Minister of Agriculture, Antonio Walker, met with Rogers Valencia, the Minister of Culture of Peru. Mr. Walker requested that Peru recognize Chile’s D.O. to avoid clashes between Peruvian and Chilean brandy in international markets. The Peruvian minister declined. He explained that a denomination of origin cannot be shared outside its designated region because that defeats the purpose of protecting a product within a geographical area. According to the D.O. in Peru, pisco must be produced on the coast of Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna (only in the valleys of Locumba Locumba, Sama and Caplina). Anything produced outside of those areas (for example, in Chile) cannot be considered pisco.

Peru has made great strides in protecting its D.O. for pisco. It has exclusive rights to the use the word “pisco” in 30 countries, while it shares rights with Chile in 41 countries. Chilean pisco has exclusive rights to pisco in 4 countries, but that is expected to change, as Peru is in the process of negotiating trade deals in those areas (Melgarejo).

In summary, the ongoing conflict over the Denomination of Origin for pisco will most likely continue. At PiscoLogía we are dedicated to educating the consumer about the benefits of Peruvian pisco and following the rules of the D.O. to produce a craft product of unrivaled quality. The responsibility of the D.O. regulators in Peru is to impose the strictest standards from every producer in the country. In the end, the consumers’ demand for high-quality pisco will drive the market, allowing everyone around the world to appreciate the full potential of Peruvian pisco.

 

Source:

 

Melgarejo, Víctor. “Pisco: Perú Alista Otro Triunfo Sobre Chile En La Unión Europea.” Gestion, Gestion, 12 Mar. 2019, gestion.pe/economia/pisco-peru-alista-triunfo-chile-union-europea-261079.

 

 

Salty wine, briny pisco

pisco, peruvian pisco, salinity wine, piscologia, quebranta, acholado, azpitia, pisco descriptors, pisco peruano, vineyard peru

 

 

PiscoLogía was recently described as deliciously briny by a discerning piscophile. We thought that this concept of brininess was interesting, so we set out to find out the origin of these salty undertones. In the end, we discovered more about how the Pacific Ocean breeze affects the flavor of our grapes and the terroir of our vineyards.

 

Many people believe that the salty sea air influences the flavor of grapes (Griffin). The reason for this comes down to simple geography. Vineyards near the coast are exposed to the tiny particles leftover from evaporated ocean spray droplets. Air currents then carry the particles from the sea, dispersing them far and wide. In the case of a vineyard, these salty remnants would fall on grape skins and in the soil (Clarke). Salt on the skins and in the environment in Azpitia would blend into the batch during production, possibly altering the flavor of the wine.

 

We have explained that to make Peruvian pisco, you first start with wine. Since our pisco is distilled only once, many characteristics of the wine are preserved in the final product. A briny, minerally wine will create a pisco with similar descriptors.

 

Our vineyards are only 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The ocean breeze that comes off of the coast in the early evening cools our vines while leaving a brackish trail in its path. This salty mist is just like the natural yeasts in our vineyards in Azpitia; they are floating in the air, forming the uniqueness that is our terroir.

 

Sources:

 

Clarke, Shana. “Forget the Fruit, Savor These Salty Wines.” Pastemagazine.com, 26 June 2017, 1:16pm, www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/06/forget-the-fruit-savor-these-salty-wines.html.

 

Griffin, Annaliese. “What Do We Mean When We Say a Wine Is Salty?” Quartzy, Quartz, 24 June 2018, qz.com/quartzy/1313189/what-do-we-mean-when-we-say-a-wine-is-salty/.

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