PISCO, PISCO, PISCO!
Although the name might sound familiar to those Pisco Sour lovers out there (national drink of Peru anyone?), I’m sure there is a whole lot more to cover about Pisco that most people might make it out to be.
In order to give this review a (little) extra backbone and now that I have given away enough so you might be sitting at the very edge of your couch biting on your nails and begging for more… Pisco is a grape-based spirit or ‘eau-de-vie’ 100% distilled from grapes and produced in the winemaking regions of Chile and Peru. While the struggle for where Pisco originally came from isn’t crystal-clear and still has not settled yet today, it is native to legally designated regions (as Champagne would be to France or Scotch would be to Scotland). Not only does it have to be made in designated regions by law but HAS to be made out of grapes grown by the distiller. In other words, grown, produced, distilled and bottled at the distillery.
Pisco, for the record, is not too far-off from its European Italian cousin, Grappa, as they’re both distilled from grapes; The only difference is, where Grappa is made out of grape leftovers such as the skin or seeds, Pisco is, in that vein, closer to how a wine is made since the juice as well as the rest of the grape go into the entire process of making Pisco from scratch.
LETS DIVE A LITTLE FURTHER INTO THIS REVIEW…
With that being said, the bottle sitting in front of me, as I’m trying to think of something witty to say next, first struck me as unusually shaped (tiki-ish?) and stood as a stand-alone designed bottle when I was out on my hunt for what my upcoming review would be. I was not mistaken. ‘Pisco Reservado’ is a CAPEL product (Cooperativa Agrícola Pisquera Elqui Limitada) which is, as of today, Chile’s largest Pisco producer, making about a dozen different types of Pisco.
100% distilled out of Muscat grapes and aged in American oak barrels for at least 3 months, we should theoretically wind up with a sweeter yet but oaky flavor profile.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? There is definitely some sort of oak presence in this glass… Light copper/amber-colored liquid, closer to how a reposado tequila or a young scotch would look like is what this glass reminds me of.
WHAT DOES IT SMELL LIKE? Sweet. No beating around the bush. Reminiscent of grapes dipped in spices-infused sugar, the sweeter Muscat-type grapes come through a lot.
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE? This makes for a remarkably smooth Pisco as the distillation part of making any ‘eau-de-vie’ is somehow supposed to impart some sort of harshness throughout the tasting but we’re left here with an earthy but woody attack, followed by a tiny dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and last but not least, caramel. Did I also mention that I ended up with my taste buds coated with overripe peach undertones as well as nice yellow apples (Calvados?). The mouthfeel is soothing and creamy but unfortunately did not offset the ethanol burn that I got on its way down my throat.
As a matter of fact, this is probably closer to what Scotch or Cognac distillers would expect out of really young batches and farther, to me, to what Pisco originally took its roots from, which is fine. But while the oak hides some of the alcohol hiding in the background and allows the spirit to pick out some really nice oaky flavors from the time spent in barrels, it does not allow the grapes to breathe and develop beautifully like it usually would in any Pisco I have had before. And here I am, feeling bummed out by the oak taking over the grapes (the distiller’s number one burden?).
In a nutshell, as much as I appreciate the oak presence and the brand going out of its way branching out towards barrel experiments and whatnot, I have a hard time not mistaking this product for a Cognac or any other aged grape-based spirits (had I not known what I was drinking) on top of the overpowering oak against the grape, which I was hoping would be balanced.
However, this is definitely a decent Pisco for those shy (or thrown off by the fact that they may not be able to pronounce ‘eau-de-vie’ when breaking down Pisco) of trying out the spirit on its own and perhaps a great way to get into Pisco.
I would personally suggest starting off with a Pisco Sour using this particular product and see how much the wood come out as it might add something nice to how light Pisco Sours tend to be.
PISCO SOUR recipe:
1 ½ oz. Pisco
1 oz. lemon juice
¾ oz. simple syrup
1 egg white