Pisco - Pisco Porton
Hacienda La Caravedo
Destilería La Caravedo S.R.L., Ica, Peru
Importer : Pisco Porton, Manhasset, New York
Ingredients: Quebranta Torentel and Albilla Grapes
PROOF: 86 (43%)
AGE: 6-8 months
TYPE: Small Batch Acholado
PRICE: $ 35.00 - 750 ML
Notes: Pisco is a form of brandy, in that it is distilled from grapes. It is similar Grappa or Marc in some ways, including the wild variation of quality depending on who makes it.
Once considered a "poor man's drink" in the areas of South America where they did not grow sugarcane, and a favorite of Hemingway - probably because it was cheap. It had a brief flare of popularity in California during the Gold Rush as passing ships loaded up on it and took it to San Francisco as it was actually cheaper to ship Pisco from Peru and the ocean voyage north than to ship whiskey overland. After that period, it became a curiosity in North America and rarely found. There were a few abortive attempts ( and brands) in the 60's and 70' s when I started to drink it but it was very hard to find and the quality was really not there (in retrospect). It is now enjoying a renaissance in cocktail circles as a versatile and interesting spirit and as such we are seeing a plethora of brands entering the fray.
Like any other spirit (absinthe in particular springs to mind) there are some major differences in process, type, and quality depending on whether it is made in one country or another - in this case Chile or Peru, and even whether ones area's spirit can be called the same name (much like the Czech vs. French and Swiss Absinthe debates).
This particular pisco uses about 15 lbs of grapes (a blend or Quebranta, Torentel and Albilla grapes) in the mosto verde fermentation process ( a process that uses grape juice rather than seeds and stems like many grappas) and only partially fermented - yielding less but higher quality pisco after distillation.
Actually this process is much closer to the traditional production of cognac than grappa. The distillery ( which by the way uses no electricity or modern machinery) uses a large wooden lager press and gravity feeds to press then move the juice around the distillery rather than a lot of steel pipes and pumps. Distillation itself is carried out in alembic type copper stills and by law they are barred from adding water to bring a distillation down to proof so again they have a much more flavorful yield - the higher the proof you distill the less taste you - have making this pisco very flavorful. The distillate is gravity fed to concrete (and flavor neutral) tanks to age and mellow without the intrusion of wood influences which could compromise the flavor.
Appearance: Perfect clarity, bright. Light coating on the glass when you swirl it, long legs then droplets forming.
First Impression: Earthy, a touch sweet (but drier than a number of piscos) with nuts, lemon balm, savory notes on nosing.
Taste: Extremely smooth for a pisco when drinking straight (as opposed to throat clutching, coughing etc., with the cheaper stuff). Nicely weighted body to it, with a slightly nut buttery mouth feel, nice tingle on the tongue. Savory, lime, peach and citrus with a touch of salt, vanilla/oak, lingering notes of latakia tobacco, medium-length finish with a wonderful lingering presence.
Drinks: Of course we had to try it in the more or less signature Pisco Sour and the classic Pisco Punch along with a Chilcano all of which were excellent. It also packs a lot of flavor that could lead to an entire host of new cocktails with a little imagination and effort. Although frankly to really enjoy it it is best drunk straight to appreciate all it's nuances (and how little it bears resemblance to all that cheap pisco out there- which is best mixed and drunk cold)
Cigars: Works well with a mild cigar.
Bottle: A highly distinctive bottle both on a store or bar shelf .A footed squarish bottle with a clear glass window with a reverse silkscreened graphic of the hacienda (built 1684) with a short, lipped neck. Topped by a large slope sided silver colored stopper on top of a synthetic cork ( for a tighter seal to preserve freshness) Overall a very impressive and nicely done package that also handles well.
Final Thoughts: In this particular case we reviewed a classically made pisco made using some of the most labor and cost intensive methods there are for pisco production and it shows in the final product. Considering both the quality and the care and effort taken to produce this product the price is quite modest. If some of the more well known vodka brands had to put this much effort into a bottle it would be on the far side of $200 - 300 (If you compare their efforts and costs with their relative markups).
Very nicely done, (and in a environmentally responsible way), flavorful and dangerously smooth - just the way we like them!
Web site: http://piscoporton.com/home
Amazingly detailed, with lots of information and history well laid out with a number of videos. Despite all this irt is very easy to navigate nad holds a wealth of information. One of the best spirits sites from a design and content perspective that we have seen in quite a while (and that needless to say, is saying something given the number we see each month)!