The SOMM Journal

April / May 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 6 of 112

6 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2015 first press To be Peruvian is to grow up in the cul- ture of a good Pisco Sour. "It's hearing the blender go off in the kitchen as a child," says Lizzie Asher, co-founder of Macchu Pisco, Peru's leading brand of its national grape brandy. "We have such a passion for Pisco and what is representative of Peru and our cultural patrimony." Lizzie and her sister, Melanie, emigrated to the U.S. from Peru as teens but often spent summers with family in Peru. With a mother who made sure the girls were highly educated and deeply connected to their heritage, both sisters received gradu- ated degrees from Harvard—a law degree for Lizzie and an MBA for Melanie. Upon graduation, Melanie made family legacy the family business and headed to Peru with a one-way ticket and the blueprint for Macchu Pisco's business plan. Ten years later, Macchu Pisco is one of Peru's biggest exported brands, leading the markets in the U.S. and the U.K. Macchu Pisco stepped onto the Pisco stage on the heels of an unspectacular few decades in the industry, when Peru's Pisco production had retreated into its rural roots and exports were a rarity. "When I started producing Piscos ten years ago, all you could find in the international market were harsh and funky Piscos," says Melanie, who is the brand's Master Distiller. "The farmers in Ica would boast that if the Pisco didn't scratch your throat it wasn't any good! My mission was to create crisp, clean Piscos that would be palatable to an international audience." She did just that, and that audience responded with collective enthusiasm: Macchu Pisco has been a major part of the craft cocktail industry's renewed interest in the category, and the industry is rediscov- ering new and classic applications of the clear grape spirit. Because of its range and purity, many are hailing Pisco as the new clear spirit to be embraced by the drink- ing public. In this environment, and with bartending heavyweights Jim Meehan and Leo Robitschek featuring the brand on their cocktail menus, Macchu Pisco has taken major craft cocktail destinations like London and New York by storm. The New Tradition The Ashers run one of the most unique operations in Peru—in a traditionally male-dominated, deeply Peruvian agro- industry, they've set up a vertically inte- grated, women-run distillery that operates on an American business structure. The dual Peruvian-American approach allows the sisters to straddle the line between traditional Pisco-making methods and modern techniques that make it possible for Macchu Pisco to be the only company producing award-winning piscos in each of the three Peruvian Pisco styles. You'll find the traditional methods used by small family Pisco producers bobbing throughout Macchu Pisco's production process. "In 2004, our three Piscos were initially distilled by wood burning," says Melanie, noting that they now find new methods yield more consistency. Still, Macchu Pisco is one of the "few produc- ers that maintains ancient pressing tech- niques," says Melanie. Nusta Pisco, Macchu Pisco's high-end luxury line, is a mosto verde (a sweeter, smoother Pisco due to its shorter fermen- tation) that is still produced by feet-press- ing. "We only produce 100 bottles a year," says Lizzie. They otherwise use gravity presses and other non-mechanized, agrar- ian techniques that not only pay homage to Pisco's long history but support the rural economy. It means Macchu Pisco has no additives, is made with wild yeast and is bottled as an undiluted final product— Macchu Pisco is distilled to proof. Lizzie credits Melanie's palate and dedication in sourcing grapes as a major factor in what sets Macchu Pisco apart. The sisters find product through a co-op of women farmers in the Ica region that represent the wide range of geography the area offers. "Unlike other raw materials for other spirits, none are as sensitive as grapes are to the climate and terroir," says Lizzie. "One time, Melanie insisted we had to get this specific crop of grapes because its geography was so special, right by the ocean—she said the salinity would make them incredible." As with wine, some Pisco grape varieties Gian Carlo D'Urso, Bar Director of Coya in Miami, is a proponent of the "body and robustness" afforded to cocktails made with Macchu Pisco. by Éva Pelczer / photos by Vanessa Rogers

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - April / May 2015