Artisanal Peruvian Pisco, A Singular Spirit
on 05/01/11 at 12:18 pmSpirits
As un-aged spirits go, I’m a fan of several but pisco wasn’t one of them until San Francisco bartender Duggan McDonnell introduced me to Campo de Encanto, an artisanal Peruvian pisco that he developed in conjunction with sommelier Walter Moore and master distiller Carlos Romero. Pisco which is produced in Peru and Chile is a singular spirit; its production differs from other grape-based distillates in that fewer steps result in higher quality. Peruvian pisco must be single distilled from approved grape varieties to between 38% and 48% alcohol by volume and aged for three months in a neutral vessel. It cannot be adulterated in any way prior to bottling which makes it still-proof and utterly pure.
Encanto is an acholado (half breed) pisco, a blended style of three different grape varieties – Quebranta, Italia and Torontel – that combine the best qualities of each in the finished spirit. The foundation of the blend is based on Quebranta (74%), a non-aromatic variety which contributes robust character and earthy notes, with the delicate floral aromas and fruit flavors of the aromatic Italia and Torontel varieties making up the balance. The grapes are sourced from old vine sites in the Ica Valley that are dry farmed resulting in fruit that lends greater expression and complexity to the pisco. Acholado tends to be sweeter and is the style traditionally used for making the Pisco Sour cocktail which was created in Lima, Peru by Victor Morris in the early 1920s.
In categorizing pisco and Encanto’s flavor profile, I place it in a camp along with un-aged rhum agricole and blanco tequila – white spirits that exhibit pungent aromas unique to their origins of grapes, sugar cane and agave. Encanto delivers complex, pungent aromas with notes of lemongrass, citrus zest, ripe cantaloupe, pineapple and Thai basil. On my palate, the attack is up front but quite silky with a full body and only moderate heat. Purity on the palate and this pisco’s unctuous texture are what make it exceptional to me and I attribute those qualities to the great care that is taken with the alembic distillation. The finish is pristine with medium intensity and plenty of length which qualifies Encanto as a sipping spirit in my book. McDonnell notes that Campo de Encanto also won the Peruvian Ministry of Production’s annual competition, both regionally and nationally, and was awarded four gold medals along with the Best in Show (Gran Medalla de Oro) in 2010.