From guest blogger Stephanie Moreno:
I was recently invited to a tasting highlighting piscos from the Peruvian company, Macchu Pisco at Richard Sandoval’s restaurant, Zengo in New York City. The occasion was to showcase a special pisco called Nusta Pisco. The special menu was entitled “Lima to Tokyo,” a menu combining Japanese and Peruvian cuisines which was both complex and focused at the same time. By the end of the evening, we had tasted three piscos neat and several cocktails made with ingredients such as sake, rum and Japanese whisky.
As my expertise is more on fermented and distilled products, I’ll turn my attention to the pisco. As a distillate from fruit, grapes in this case, pisco is a brandy. I am not going to get into the Chile vs. Peru debate regarding whose pisco reigns supreme, but for those of you who know me, you can probably guess my preference. What I find most impressive about Peruvian pisco is, on top of not being allowed to age in barrel, it must be distilled to proof. This means no water can be added to bring it down. What you distill is what you get.
Peruvian Pisco 101: Ok, so it’s distilled from wine made from grapes. What grapes are we talking about here? There are eight varietals which can be used: Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Mollar, Italia, Muscat, Albilla, Torontel and Uvina. There are also four different styles: Acholado (literally meaning half breed, but we can remember this as a mixture), Aromatics (as the name suggests it's a style intensely aromatic with a grapey profile), Puro (a single varietal most typically made using the Querbranta grape or another non-aromatic), Green Must aka Mosto Verde (the must or grape juice is not fully fermented).
Macchu Pisco’s namesake pisco is a Puro produced using the non-aromatic Quebranta grape. I find the nose to be very subtle with fresh green grape skin aromas along with a touch of an earthy minerality. Their La Diablada Pisco is produced in an Acholado style from Quebranta, Muscat and Italia. This is a mix of aromatic and non aromatic varietals and creates an intense grapey fragrance with a slightly slick mouth feel. I also got a taste memory of red hot cinnamon candies upon exhalation, so the name, La Diablada, fits.
We tasted those two piscos neat to kick off our dinner. Our dessert was their latest product called Nusta Pisco, which is produced in a Mosto Verde style. This can be produced from a variety of grapes, but they have chosen to only use the aromatic Italia grape. In this style, the fermentation is stopped leaving sugars that have not been converted to alcohol. Despite this, it is still bottled at 80 proof. What I found in the glass was an orange and grape profile with a touch of green herbaceousness playing along.
Unfortunately, unless you are willing to rack up some air miles by taking a trip to the UK, you won’t be able to taste this rare product--for the foreseeable future, the Nusta Pisco is not being released in the US. Only 100 bottles are produced each year, retailing for $100 each.