The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2011

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Page 89 of 132

As a native of Peru, Schuler found the offer particularly enticing as it marked the culmina- tion of his commitment to his nation’s signature spirit—one he came to appreciate only after a long love affair with fi ne wine. His introduction to pisco was a bit of a fl uke. Renowned for his discerning palate, Schuler was invited to sit in on a pisco competition when it became apparent the other judges were too besotted to continue. There, Schuler had a revelation. “Pisco was an accident. Pisco happened. Pisco was something that one day just knocked me down on the fl oor,” recalls Schuler, who left the competi- tion a pisco convert as he toted away 60 bottles of the grape-based brandy. “In my house, I had a cellar with some bottles of wine. Today, there are about 3,000 bottles of pisco.” Invented in 17th-century Peru and named after the Peruvian port from which it was originally exported, the spirit must be made from one or a blend of eight specifi c grape varietals grown in Peru to bear the name pisco. Likewise, it has to be distilled to proof, with no fl avoring, wood-aging or other manipulation, including the addition of water, which might distort the essence of the distillate. Piscos belong to three specifi c categories—puro, acholado and mosto verde. Puros are made from a single varietal of grape, whereas an acholado is made from a blend. Mosto verde is distilled from grape juice that has not completely fermented. “Mosto verde is the epitome of pisco—the super- lative pisco,” enthuses Schuler, who is credited with setting the standards for excellence in the pisco industry and contributing to renewed interest in the spirit. “I grew the market in our own country from 500,000 liters to the roughly 6,000,000 liters that we’re consuming today.” And that’s just Peru. America represents a whole new frontier, not just to Schuler and Pisco Portón but to the industry as a whole. Interestingly, it wasn’t Schuler’s original plan to become the Master Distiller of his own brand. The growth of the market for this historic spirit and its rescue from dereliction were the natural results of Schuler’s efforts through organizations such as INDECOPI, the body responsible for protecting consumer rights and monitoring fair business practices in Peru. There, Schuler was responsible for tasting and verifying the authenticity of any beverage seeking offi cial designation as Peruvian pisco. Who better than Schuler, then, to help bring to market a product that was moribund before his contagious enthusiasm and erudition brought it back to life? Kallop certainly agrees, and if the success of recent regional releases of Pisco Portón are any indication, the American market seems to agree as well. Pisco Portón is an ultra-premium version of the mixable white spirit from Peru—one of today’s hottest up-and- coming spirit categories. America represents a whole new frontier, not just to Schuler and Pisco Portón but to the industry as a whole.” may 201 1 / the tasting panel / 89

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