The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2013

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CATEGORY LEADERS Leading the Category "In a short time, we've become the number-one pisco brand in the U.S.," Getting Consumers Acquainted Upon Portón's launch in 2011, Kallop and his team organized numerous educational sampling events to get consumers acquainted with both the category and the brand. While consumer response was passionately enthusiastic, 80% of their early sales came from retail accounts while 20% originated on-premise. More recently, the figure has shifted to a more balanced 55% on-premise/45% off-premise, which Kallop feels will help the brand continue its strong and sustaining growth. Kallop also credits mixologists and bartenders, for their passion for the brand and hands-on involvement in broadening pisco's scope of versatility as well as its audience. "Bartenders and mixologists look for spirits that really add something extra to cocktails," he affirms. "I think Portón is very on trend in that respect, as it adds complexity and character to cocktails and it's extremely mixable. We've made important inroads in terms of establishing Portón as 'the other white spirit.' We've gotten extraordinary feedback about how much it adds to a cocktail." PHOTO COURTESY OF PORTÓN F or the last few years, pisco has generated a lot of excitement in the mixology world, not only with the resurgence of the landmark Pisco Sour cocktail, but also with fresh original creations that reflect reflect pisco's versatility. While the centuriesold debate in South America over the spirit's origin (Peru or Chile) continues, its place in American cocktail folklore is assured, thanks in part to the educational marketing and promotional efforts of one brand: Portón. More than a century ago, pisco was the spirit of choice in San Francisco bars, as it was easier to ship pisco up the coast from Peru than to transport whiskey overland from the East Coast. While classic recipes like Pisco Punch (said to be developed by San Francisco bar owner Duncan Nichol) and the classic Pisco Sour are currently helping pisco achieve a second Gold Rush in bars throughout the U.S., Portón President Brent Kallop explains that his brand is just beginning to mine the possibilities this emerging spirits category will yield. says Kallop. "Export statistics from Peru show that in 2011, the year we launched, we were the top exported Peruvian pisco into the United States. In the most recent figures from 2012, we continue to lead, with 47% of the Peruvian pisco market in the U.S. In 2013, Technomic, Inc. ranked our brand number four in its list of the 'Fierce Five Spirits' among top new spirits brands that achieved notable sales gains and have demonstrated a meaningful connection with consumers. I'm proud to say, we continue to lead the pisco category in the U.S." While the brand is still in its youth, Portón has heritage and history working in its favor. Kallop and his father revitalized and outfitted the oldest working distillery in Peru (dating to 1684), and then invested significant capital to expand production and bring pisco expert Johnny Schuler on board as Master Distiller. Today, the Portón complex includes 275 acres used for vineyards and the brand's distillery in Ica, Peru, the country's most heralded winemaking region. "Our process of uncompromising quality is what we describe as 'techno artisanal,' as it integrates the centuriesold tradition of Peruvian pisco distilling with modern distillation technology," details Kallop. While the original distillery is an integral part of our small-batch production and one of the grapes used to make Portón (among three total) is fermented, distilled, and processed here, the new distillery facilities operate on gravity-fed processes in which we don't use any pumps. Our spirit is one of the few that does not use any outside additives, not even water and artificial yeast. Distillation starts close to 40 feet above ground, and liquid flows by gravity during the process. What comes out of the still is exactly what goes into the bottle." Portón is handcrafted in small batches—requiring approximately 15 pounds of grapes per bottle—at Hacienda la Caravedo, the oldest operating distillery in the Americas. Furthermore, bartenders understand the brand story and the genuine authenticity behind Portón, and another factor contributing to the success of both his brand and the category is the expansion and increased sophistication of the American palate. "On- and off-premise, food and pisco build on each other," says Kallop. "Having lived in Peru for nearly ten years, I realized how closely linked pisco and Peruvian food culture are. The Peruvian culinary movement— including the increased numbers of Peruvian restaurants opening throughout the United States—has been sort of a perfect storm. One of the highlights 96  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2013 TP1113_066-107.indd 96 10/24/13 9:25 AM

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