As the popularity of Pisco grows, we get this question more and more. What is Pisco? There are so many simple ways of answering this question, of course if you don’t take the time to answer it properly more questions come rolling in and if those aren’t answered then confusion arises and with confusion comes impatience and then people will give up on the category all together. So, here is our most in depth explanation of what exactly is Pisco. This is part one of a three part series.
According to the technical norms of Peruvian law, pisco is:
A firewater, “aguardiente” obtained from the must of fermented designated grape varietals, distilled in copper pot continuous stills and must be rested (not aged) for at least 3 months before being bottled.
In simpler terms pisco is a brandy or an Eau de Vie (French for water of life). Any distillate of a fruit juice is technically a brandy. Although Pisco is not aged in oak casks nor does it have any additives like some brandies that have carmel added for coloring. Getting a little more technical, Pisco is a 80* proof liquor made from the distillation of young wine. In completely laymen terms; grapes are squashed, they sit for a few days and then that grape juice is boiled. The steam that is emitted from boiling the juice is Pisco.
What about Grappa?
The reason pisco is unique in comparison to other firewaters/eau de vie/brandy is that pisco is made strictly from grapes. Grappa and other products are made with what is left after wine is made. Grappa is made by distilling the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems (i.e., the pomace) left over from winemaking after pressing the grapes. Pisco only uses grape juice and tosses the pomace. To make pisco using pomace is illegal and the product that results is contraband, black market pisco.
What Pisco is Not
Pisco does not go through a rectification process like most liquor products do. Rectification is the process to adjust (the proof of alcoholic beverages) by adding water or other liquids. It also serves as a filtration system to rid the alcohol of harmful by products.
Pisco is not aged in oak casks to pick up it’s flavor profile and different characteristics.
Pisco’s alcoholic proof is not diluted by adding water to it.