Macchu

Macchu Pisco

Pisco has been on the rise over the last 18 months or so here in the UK as more bartenders and consumers are embracing the South American spirit. I’ve already covered the Pisco category as a whole, explaining the different types your receive from the two main countries that produce the category; Chile and Peru, but I’ve had the chance to experience another from Peru in the form of Macchu,

So what makes Macchu stand out to the rest of the Peruvian piscos?

You need to head back to the years before 2003 and introduce yourself to Melanie Asher, CEO/Founder, master distiller and blender of Macchu pisco. Melanie saw the potential in the United States and their love for cocktails and artisanal spirits, and with this she set out to introduce the country to one of her homeland’s native spirits; Pisco. Using her knowledge of winemaking from when she lived briefly in France and the region of Bordeaux, she set out to produce her first bottling, one that would earn her a gold medal at the Concurso Nacional, Peru’s premier competition that awards the country’s best pisco offerings.

In 2009, Melanie was joined by her sister Lizzie who serves as the company’s President and leads the company’s import operations and marketing. Comprising 4 generations of women within the company (including their 100-year old grandmother Abuela Amelia, who always approves of each distillation before bottling!), they acquired their own distillery located in Ica, part of the Pisco Valley of Peru and produce three piscos – the premium single-variety Macchu Pisco, the super-premium acholado-style La Diablada Pisco and the Ñusta Pisco.

Macchu Pisco became the first super-premium Pisco to enter the U.S market. The non-aromatic Quebranta grape is distilled within copper pot stills, and then rested for a minimum of 1 year before being bottled. Within each bottle, 13-lbs of the Quebranta grapes are within, and it prides itself on being free of added sugar,enzymes, yeast or water. La Diablada Pisco however is the world’s only vintage Pisco since 2005 and is a blend of Quebranta, Moscatel, Italia and Torontel grapes. The La Diablada names implies the spiciness of the devil and the sweetness of an angel and uses the first grape pressing and the heart of the distillate only. The 4 eau-de-vies are distilled once to proof and allowed to reach naturally its 40% abv without adding any water. They are rested for over a 2 year period and once bottled, each can hold 20-lbs of grape.

So, how do they fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Macchu – 40%

Ripe pear notes upon the nose, with a good dose of tart fruits coming through. Light, soft flavours of the pear are present on the palate, with dry grapes and sweet fruit salad flavours combining to create a long, tantalising finish.

La Diablada – 40%

A fresh, scented nose of melon, sharp grapes and ripe apricot, moving to a more concentrated kick of the apricot upon the palate. A good punch of glazed fruits blended with dry spices offers a bold finish that dries slightly.

Two very different experiences, and are great to be sipped. But there’s a classic name that many of you will recognise and, of course, works very well with Macchu –

Pisco Sour

Glass – 

Rocks

Ingredients – 

75 ml Macchu
25 ml Fresh lime juice
25 ml Sugar syrup
1 Egg white

Method – 

Shake all the ingredients within an ice filled cocktail shaker and strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Garnish with a drop of Angostura Bitters.

Refreshingly different! As is the Macchu pisco brand, who have been hosting events in London this year including teaming with Pachamama to unveil an exclusive 4 litre Jeroboam magnum filled to the brim with La Diablada Pisco, all to celebrate the 100th birthday of grandmother Abuela Amelia!

A worthy addition to your drinks cabinet, and two expressions that will be making its way around the UK over the coming years, so make sure you enjoy the Peruvian delight when you can!

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Pisco Portón

Pisco Porton

I’ve never covered pisco in any way, shape or form. I never sold it when I was a bartender, and have never used it within my work since, but recently I’ve had the chance to fill the clean slate with a new brand to hit the UK in Pisco Portón.

It’s probably best to explain what Pisco is before we hit on the variety of Portón.

Two countries in South America lay claim to pisco as their home-grown spirit, and much like whisky in Scotland and Ireland, the debate still rages on. The main differences between the two countries though depicts the style of pisco you wish to enjoy. Pisco is essentially a white brandy, and in Peru, pisco regulations allow for the spirit to be distilled from any one of (or a blend of) eight local grape varieties. Each imparts a slightly different characteristic to the finished spirit, but all are distilled using the same methods: stainless steel and glass are the only containers that Peruvian piscos ever come into contact with; they may be distilled only once, and never diluted. No wood-aging or any sort of manipulation other than the blending of varietals is allowed.

In Chile, pisco regulations allow distillers to have a bit more influence on their final product. Distillers may run the spirit through multiple distillations, they may dilute the final product and they can even barrel-age. However, as opposed to the eight grape varieties used regularly in Peru, Chilean pisco makers tend to focus on only three, Moscatel being the most common.

The history is rather lengthy too. I’ve taken the following timeline from the Pisco Portón website:

1560 – Spaniard Francisco de Caravantes introduces the first grapes to Peru in order for wine to be made for church mass.
1604 – Vineyards in Ica, Peru produce 81 million liters of wine, and there is substantial production in several other coastal regions.
1613 – A vineyard owner makes the first written reference to pisco in his will.
1600-1699 – Peruvian vinted wines start to outsell Spanish wines. The Spanish crown moves to protect the country’s vineyards by imposing taxes on wine exported from Peru. Gradually, vineyards switch to distilling pisco to avoid these taxes.
1684 – Juan Facundo Caravedo Roque buys a group of vineyards he calls Hacienda La Caravedo and constructs a distillery to make pisco there.
1700 – Pisco production overtakes wine production in Peru. First produced to avoid taxes, it becomes a beloved spirit around the world.
1726 – Peru’s pisco exports are double its wine exports.
1821 – Peru proclaims independence from Spain.
1830 – First written record of pisco exported to the U.S., heading to San Francisco, CA.
1849 – The Pisco Punch becomes a famous San Francisco drink and remains so until Prohibition.
1883 – Outbreak of phylloxera attacks Peruvian vines. Some farmers switch to food crops or cotton. Pisco exportation falls.
1899 – Rudyard Kipling describes pisco in his novel From Sea to Sea: “I have a theory it is compounded of cherubs’ wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset, and fragments of lost epics by dead masters.”
1916 – American Victor Morris opens Morris Bar in Lima, Peru and invents the Pisco Sour.
1920 – Prohibition begins in the United States. Pisco, once a beloved drink on the West Coast, never regains popularity after Prohibition.
1946 – Cocktail and Wine Digest publishes a Pisco Sour recipe.
1991 – Peruvian government declares pisco a national heritage and defines approved regions and distillation methods for its production. All producers must submit their pisco to governmental organization INDECOPI to taste and verify authenticity of product before sale. The law accelerates a renaissance in the quality and pride of Peruvian piscos.
2002 – INDECOPI rules that pisco must be made from one or a blend of eight traditional grape varietals (Quebranta, Common Black, Mollar, Italia, Muscat, Albilla, Torontel and Uvina).
2004 – Johnny Schuler founds Peruvian Academy of Pisco with the mission to promote and protect the heritage of Peruvian pisco.
2011 – Portón Pisco launches in the United States.

So what makes Pisco Portón a standout? Well I had the chance to meet Johnny Schuler, creator and Master Distiller of Pisco Portón, and he was more than happy to explain the production styles that he uses.

Pisco Portón is created using a combination of traditional and modern methods. To preserve the full character of the grapes chosen, Pisco Portón uses the mosto verde method of distilling from a partially fermented grape juice known as must. This method keeps some of the natural sugars within the grapes from converting into alcohol. Despite not being the easiest method, and least popular, fifteen pounds of grapes are used within each bottle of Pisco Portón. The three grape varieties that Pisco Portón use are Quebranta (most popular pisco grape in Peru), Albilla (offers a smoother finish) and Torontel (offers a heavy aroma with strong citrus).

Pisco Portón is distilled using custom-made French copper pot stills. Johnny Schuler, by Peruvian law, can not add water to the pisco to bring it to proof, ensuring a small batch distillation process, which ultimately gives him more control over the whole process despite only having one shot at creating a batch.  After distillation, the pisco rests in neutral cement containers named cubas de guardia for five to eight months in order to let the flavours marry. Once ready, they are bottled and individually numbered and signed by Johnny. All this happens within the Hacienda La Caravedo in Ica, Peru, the oldest distillery in the Americas, being established in 1684.

So how does it all fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Pisco Portón – 43%

Light on the nose with a dry aroma of hay, cocoa and ripe grapes. Light again on the palate, with a developing sharpness over the aromatic flavours of the grapes. A slight spice on a velvet texture is present, with hints of red fruit and banana offering a smooth, well-rounded and ultimately lingering finish.

A different experience indeed, and one that would of course work well within the categories signature cocktail –

Pisco Sour
Pisco Sour

Portón Pisco Sour

Glass – 

Rocks

Ingredients –

50 ml Portón Pisco
15 ml Fresh lime juice
15 ml Simple syrup
7.5 ml Egg white
1 dash Angostura bitters for garnish

Method – 

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Strain contents into a chilled glass. Add a dash of bitters for garnish.

So I can safely say I’ve now experienced pisco. An interesting category to explore, and one that I never realised could be strict with the production when it comes to grapes and water. It will be interesting to see how Pisco Portón compares to others within the category, but the bar is high. Try it for yourself, it’s one to tick off the list for sure.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.