A good aromatic and light pisco.
Notes: Pisco is a form of brandy, in that it is distilled from grapes. Made in Peru and Chile, there is wide disagreement as to who has better quality Pisco. I have heard conflicting reports from both sides-so obviously we need to do more hands on research to settle this question. It is similarGrappa 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).
The grapes are from a single estate and use the Quebranta and Italia grape varieties (exact proportion is proprietary). Distillation in Peru is carried out in alembic type copper stills (in Chile they use Column 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 placed in 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: Almondy, lemon, savory notes on nosing. Reminds me of an amarone grappa in a nice way.
Taste: Savory, lime salt, touch of vanilla/oak, lingering notes of tobacco (?), Nicely smooth when drinking straight (as opposed to throat clutching, coughing etc.,with the cheaper stuff). Somewhat lighter weight body to it compared to a few others, with a rather nutty flavor and a nice mouth feel and little tingle on the tongue. Lingering lemon balm and hazelnut finish that dries towards the end.
Drinks: Of course we had to try it in the more or less signature Pisco Sour and the classic Pisco Punch , and a Chilcano of which were excellent.
Cigars: Works well with a mild cigar.
Bottle:The bottle is a bit of a hybrid design in some ways, frosted glass but more in the shape of a riesling or other white wine bottle (or European brandy bottle) with a long neck rather than a more usual liquor type bottle (especially among the cheaper Chilean brands). Paper label is much more reminiscent more of a wine label then a liquor label with attractive graphics (in a way – as long as you don’t know to much about what that gold thing is). Also as an another nod to quality and design it uses a real cork closure rather than a screw cap. Black neck wrap with thin gold band completes the package.
Final Thoughts: A good, aromatic, light bodied pisco that is quite smooth and subtle. Vastly superior to the Chilean stuff and a nice choice for a pisco in the lighter style.
Web site: http://www.incaspirits.com
Some information ( if a bit on the light side about the distillery itself of pictures thereof ) about the product and pisco in general.