Around since the time of the Spanish explorers, Pisco is often thought of as a pommace spirit (akin to Italy’s Grappa or France’s Marc). It is, however, a brandy made from distilled grapes. It’s the national drink of both Chile and Peru where citizens argue constantly as to which country it originated in http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/27/the-pisco-wars/?_r=0). Since there is a port city in Peru called Pisco, I’d wager Peru is a safe bet. It’s also popular in Bolivia where it’s called Singani.
In Peru, Pisco is named according to the type of grapes used as the base material; Pisco Fur (Fur grapes), Pisco Ciuvre (Negra Corriente, for example), Pisco Aromatico (for Moscatel d’Alexandra and Torrontel) and Pisco Verde, made from partially fermented grapes.
In Chile, Pisco is made mostly in the north’s Elqui Valley – as is this example – from Moscatel d’Alexandria, Torrontel and Pedro Ximenez grapes, and the naming depends upon the amount of ageing and percentage of alcohol present. The unaged versions are 30% abv and called Seleccion, Especial refers to 35% abv and is short aged, Reservado is 40% abv and aged longer and the Gran Pisco is the most aged expression.
Ageing takes place in casks made of the native Rauli wood and the spirit is usually distilled in pot stills, is water white and colourless. It tends to have aromas of jasmine and orange blossom and is beautifully aromatic due to the varietals used which are strongly floral.
This spirit is clear and bright, water white, colourless and has legs. On the nose, it’s got pronounced intensity with aromas of orange blossom and jasmine bud, flowers, some pungent green leaf, vegetal tones and is matured (this example is Reservado).
The palate is dry with warming alcohol, medium body and pronounced intensity with flavours of orange peel, flowers, jasmine blossom, citrus, soft cooked green bell pepper, leaves and grass. The length is medium with some complexity.
This is WSET ‘good’ (the low end of ‘good’) – beautifully aromatic with simple complexity, but balanced and integrated. If either the warming alcohol or medium finish were higher, it could be ‘very good’. I can see why Peruvians and Chileans fight over the intellectual ownership of this spirit. Bring on the Pisco sours and Pineapple Pisco punch.