The Tasting Panel magazine

JUNE 2011

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The seeds to the pisco revival can be traced back to 1999 with the creation of Peru’s Comisión Nacional del Pisco (www.conapisco. As with tequila and cognac, pisco from Peru is now a very specific and controlled spirit with its own governing board. Accordingly, Peruvian pisco is defined as the “eau-de-vie obtained exclusively through the distillation of recently fermented fresh musts of pisco grapes (Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Mollar, Italia, Muscat, Albilla, Torontel and Uvina).” Pisco may only be distilled once, must be naturally fermented, cannot contain additives, cannot be aged and must be bottled between 38% and 48% alcohol by volume. Pisco was a major spirit in 19th-century San Francisco. Pisco and Frisco This isn’t the first time pisco has had a surge in popularity. Pisco was a major spirit on the West Coast in the mid-1800s, when San Francisco was a burgeoning Gold Rush town. Back then, it was the Pisco Punch served at the Bank Exchange Saloon, located where the iconic Transamerica Pyramid now stands. Proprietor Duncan Nicol, as the legend goes, made the punch downstairs away from his customers, using a secret recipe that died with him. He was said to allow customers only two serv- ings, and would only give them more only after they took a walk around the block. Pisco Punch has returned with enthusiastic reception at craft cocktail bars across the country, along with a wide spectrum of pisco cocktails. San Francisco’s Duggan McDonnell, creator of the Campo de Encanto label, travels around the country evange- lizing pisco. “I’ve been surprised that more people are using pisco for original cocktails than sours; pisco is also standing in for other white spirits such as rum and tequila, giving well-known drinks a new spin,” comments McDonnell. Cultural Revival Pisco’s new-found resurgence can also be traced to a cultural revival in Peru. It was a search for flavor in Peru that led Timothy Childs to pisco. Childs discovered ORO pisco while he was in Peru sourcing cocoa for his chocolate business, TCHO. “I was in search of flavor in Peru, and Lima has some of the best flavors in the world,” explains Childs. “When I went to the Viñas de ORO bodega [distillery] and sampled the pisco, it was a flavor revolution.” It was also a trip to Peru that got things started for Walt Bauer of Inca Gold. “My interest was sparked in 2007 when I visited a major pisco distillery [bodega] in Chincha, Peru, which is near Ica and the port of Pisco. This area is considered the Napa Valley of the grapes used to produce pisco.” With travel and tourism on the rise to Peru, an increase in Peruvian cuisine in America and the enthusiastic adoption of pisco among craft bartenders, pisco is poised to become a major spirits category. Along with Mexico’s little-known mezcal and Brazil’s growing cachaça, pisco could be part of a true trifecta of major growth in Latin America white spirits whose origins all emanate deep from within the countries and cultures they come from. The Second Coming of Pisco by Robert Plotkin backbars. Bartenders on both coasts have come to appreciate its unrivaled mixability and universally appealing character. Celebrated mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler T of Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon believes pisco stands a great chance of cracking into the American market. “I’ve been working with pisco for several years now, and the thing I really enjoy most about using pisco in cocktails is the beautiful floral bouquet. I often use pisco in variations of the traditional sour formula, but it also works beauti- fully in spirit-driven cocktails.” What Is Pisco? Pisco is the oldest spirit made in the Americas, as Spanish Conquistadors brought the first wine-producing grapes to Peru 500 years ago. Pisco can be distilled from one or a blend of eight grape varieties; blended versions are known as acholado pisco. The prevalent grape was tradition- ally white Muscat, a hardy, golden-yel- low variety with succulent aromatics and a gentle flavor. Stringent production regulations by the Peruvian govern- ment do not allow anything else be added to pisco—not even water. The Ica valley, on the southern coast, is Peru’s preeminent wine-growing region. Pisco is also produced in the high altitudes of the Andes of northern Chile. The strikingly beautiful Elqui Valley wine-growing region is located just outside of Vicuña and renowned for its varieties of Muscat, Pedro Jiménez and Torontel grapes. Grape varieties used for pisco can be grouped into aromatic and non- aromatic. Chart from courtesy of ClearGrape LLC. june 201 1 / the tasting panel / 93 he ongoing cocktail renaissance has propelled pisco into the limelight and onto American T Pisco B ook , he

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