viernes, 6 de noviembre de 2009

Why Pisco is Better than Other Distilled Alcohols

Lucero Villagarcía

When we talk about pisco, we do so with pride because this drink is one of the finest and purest in the world, especially when we examine the principle differences with other distilled liquors.

Such as “Grappa,” which is produced in Italy using “vinaccia” as its prime material. Viaccia is derived from the juice, seeds and peel of pressed grapes, and is used in the elaboration of white and red wine. However, pisco can only be produced from the pure juice of grapes used especially for pisco production.

Grappa can be classified in many varieties, but is made just by one type of grape, which are left in oak barrels for 12 to 18 months. Grappa is often perfumed with cherries, pears and honey. This distilled alcohol often reaches a concentration of 80 percent of alcohol, and often water must be added for it to reach the permissible concentration of 40 to 50 percent. In the production of Pisco, however, it is never ever permissible add water.

When referring to the Chilean counterpart, the principle difference is in its grapes. Since they are grown in a different climate, the grapes don’t achieve a high enough level of sugar, which permits them to arrive at less than a 40 percent concentration of alcohol. This means that the “head” and the “tail” of Chilean pisco must be separated from the initial distillation, and converted to a pure-wine-type of alcohol, which will then be combined later with the initial distilling. At the end of the process, similar to the process of “Grappa,” water must be added to modify the level of alcohol. However, what most alters the flavor of Chilean pisco is the fact that it is stored in barrels, which completely changes the natural flavor of the grapes.

In Peru, our grapes that are used for pisco get their richest flavor from the climates along the coast, from Lima to Tacna. These zones have good sun exposure, they are arid and have little access to water. This allows for an excellent level of sugar, which allows for the natural level of 40 percent alcohol in the first distillation.

When we speak of Cognac, we see that the grapes that are used to produce this drink have a low level of sugar, and therefore they must be distilled twice, which at times means the alcohol has a level of approximately 70 percent. Just like Chilean pisco and “grappa,” water must be added to weaken the concentration to 44 percent. Later they are transported to wooden barrels for maturation. Therefore, the classification of a good Cognac refers to the amount of time that it has matured in barrels.

Because of these examples, we can say that Pisco is the purest distilled alcohol in the world. Because water and sugar are not added, as well as the fact that it isn’t stored in barrels, pisco maintains its completely natural flavors and aromas, which come from the very special grapes used to make pisco.

To read this article in Spanish,

Translated by Katrina Heimark