Pisco is a colorless or yellowish-to-amber colored grape brandy produced in winemaking regions of Peru and Chile. Pisco was developed by Spanish settlers in the 16th century as an alternative to orujo, a pomace brandy that was being imported from Spain.
There are several theories about the origin of the word pisco. Pisco may have received its name from the port town of Pisco, located on the coast of Peru in the valley of Pisco, by the river with the same name. Chilean linguist Rodolfo Lenz claimed that the word pisco was used all along the Pacific coast of the Americas from Arauco to Guatemala and that the word would be of Quechua origin meaning "bird". This claim is disputed by Chilean linguist Mario Ferreccio Podesta who supports the Real Academia Española etymology that says that pisco was originally a word for a mud container.
Other origins for the word pisco have been explored, including a Mapudungun etymology where "pishku" has been interpreted as "something boiled in a pot," which would in this hypothesis relate to the concept of burned wine (Spanish: vino quemado).
Early aguardientes in Chile and Peru 
In the area of modern-day Peru pisco production begun at the turn of the 17th century, while Peru had been producing wine for commerce since the mid 16th century. The first grapevines used in modern Pisco production arrived in La Serena in 1548, and in Peru from the Canary Islands in 1574. There is also reference that Pisco has been produced in the Chilean cities of Santiago and La Serena in mid 16th century. In contrast to Peru and Chile, Spanish settlers in the viceroyalty of New Spain established only very few vineyards.
In 1595 the Spanish Crown banned the establishment of new vineyards in the Americas, but this order was largely ignored. Moreover the Spanish Crown banned the export of Peruvian wine to Panama and Guatemala in 1614 and 1615 respectively.
Recession of Peruvian pisco 
In 1687 the whole southern coast of Peru was struck by the 1687 Peru earthquake which destroyed the cities of Villa de Pisco and Ica causing the Peruvian wine-growing industry to collapse. Wine cellars in the region affected by the earthquake collapsed and mud containers broke.
While in the early 18th century Peru production of wine exceeded that of pisco by 1764 90% of the grape beverages prepared in Peru were pisco. With the suppression of the Society of Jesus in Spanish America, Jesuit vineyards were auctioned off, and new owners typically did not have the same expertise as the Jesuits – leading to a production decline.
In the 19th century demand in industrialized Europe caused many Peruvian winegrowers to shift the land use from vineyards to lucrative cotton fields, contributing further to the decline of the wine and pisco industry. This was particularly true during the time of the American Civil War (1861–1865) when the cotton prices skyrocketed due to the Blockade of the South and its cotton fields.
According to legal documents recently found in the U.S. National Archives of San Francisco, California, it has been proven that at least until 1864, Pisco was considered in the United States a liquor native only to the Republic of Peru.
Variants and production 
Chilean pisco 
Peru claims the exclusive right to the use of the Pisco label name as an appellation of origin. However, various large-market countries (e.g., the United States, France, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Australia, etc.) allow products of Chile to be identified as "Chilean Pisco".
Chilean pisco is produced in the Elqui Valley, a long narrow region through the Andes, by the ABA firm. It is produced there with a "boutique" type of distillate made by the Aguirre family. The ABA brand of Chilean pisco is produced with double distillation in copper pot type stills.
During the adaptation of many vineyards to pisco production, the most widespread grape was used as raw material, namely the Muscat, with some vineyards preferring the Torontel and Pedro Jiménez varieties. As is the case with Peru, regulations for pisco designations have been enacted in Chile, including the following classifications:
No distinction between varietal mixes is made other than that it is restricted to the three kinds of grapes named above.[clarification needed]
The Regular pisco variation is quite bland in taste since the alcohol is mixed with water, reminiscent of a weak rum, and its odor is very sweet and woody with a slight yellowish tinge to the color.
The Special and Reserve variations are very similar in flavor and color, both being very sweet and of a cloudy yellowish color. The flavor is much stronger than regular pisco and leaves an alcoholic aftertaste in the mouth, similar to bourbon.
The Great pisco has a commanding odor and a dark yellow color, it is not as sweet as the other varieties, yet it carries strong woody flavor the others lack.
The yellowish to amber color in Chilean pisco is due to the wood aging process, with the darker colors being a sign that they have been aged longer. Not all Chilean pisco is tinged, and the more mass-marketed brands can be clear.
Ecological aspects 
Chile has taken steps to have a clean and environmentally friendly production of pisco. In order to crack down on pollution, and to increase competitiveness, the National Council for Clean Production agreed with the pisco producers and pisco grape agronomists, to collaborate, signing an Agreement of Clean Production (APL). Capel, by itself invested more than CL$ 800 million.
Peruvian pisco 
Peruvian Pisco is produced only using copper pot stills rather than continuous stills – like single malt Scotch whiskies and unlike most vodkas. Peruvian Pisco is never actually diluted after it is distilled and enters the bottle directly at its distillation strength.
A Peruvian Pisco peculiarity is that the first part of the distillation (called the heads) is kept, and then mixed in with the rest of the distillate. Re-adding the 'heads' adds in more 'character' to the variety of Pisco and this is the way that the Peruvians traditionally liked it.
Many types of grapes were used to produce pisco, leading to a wide variation in flavor, aroma, viscosity and appearance of the liquor.[clarification needed] This harmed attempts to export the product under a single denomination since there could be enormous differences between the contents of bottles sold as pisco. As such, a number of regulations were established and set a baseline for a product to carry the name.
Four levels of pisco were thus designated:
- Puro (Pure), made from a single variety of grape, mostly Quebranta, although Mollar or Common Black can be used; however, no blending between varieties is accepted ("pure" pisco should contain only one variety of grape).
- Aromáticas (Aromatic), made from Muscat or Muscat-derived grape varieties, and also from Albilla, Italia and Torontel grape varieties; once again, the pisco should only contain one variety of grape in any production lot.
- Mosto Verde (Green Must), distilled from partially fermented must, this must be distilled before the fermentation process has completely transformed sugars into alcohol.
- Acholado (Multivarietal), blended from the must of several varieties of grape.
The order is not established based on quality; it is simply listed in this way in Peruvian regulation publications.
Some other specific restrictions of note are:
- Aging: Pisco must be aged for a minimum of three months in vessels of "glass, stainless steel or any other material which does not alter its physical, chemical or organic properties".
- Additives: No additives of any kind may be added to the pisco that could alter its flavor, odor, appearance or alcoholic proof.
Pure pisco is a very viscous liquid, slightly more so than vodka and comparable to Sambuca. It has an odor which is vaguely reminiscent of reeds. Its flavor is very smooth and almost non-alcoholic, which can be very deceptive, with the result that many first-time drinkers often drink to excess and can quickly become inebriated without noticing. Some people consider it "heresy" to mix pure pisco with anything else, and it is generally accepted that it should be drunk alone, even to the exclusion of ice.
Aromatic is a variety currently made of Italy and Muscat grapes in Peru and frequently rests in big clay receptacles called botijas. According to Peruvian specifications, Chilean Pisco cannot be classified as aromatic despite the restriction of 'no additives' is obeyed, because Chilean Pisco is aged in oak barrels and it is frequently made of a mix of more than four types of grapes that remain after the wine elaboration which is the main purpose of the Chilean spirits industry.
In Peru, "Pisco Sour day" is celebrated on the first Saturday of February. Years ending with zero (0) are of special significance. The theme is red and white (the Peruvian flag colours). When the Peruvian National Anthem is played, all Pisco Sour's must be finished as a mark of respect.
Ecological aspects 
Water pollution from mining threatens grape harvests. The water intended for irrigating and cultivating the vineyards is loaded with mining residue and chemicals. Water purification is necessary for the survival of the vineyards. Air pollution must be dealt with immediately because of the threat to the health and safety of local residents and workers. The dry air of the Ica region is immobile because of the sea and the Andes mountain range. Eliminating river pollution as a result of mining is imperative. "Because of the dry arid climate, chemicals are absorbed into the local atmosphere and remain in the area".
Some of the most popular cocktails with pisco include:
- Pisco Punch, the first known pisco cocktail in the world, invented in San Francisco, California in the 19th Century. It contained pineapple, gum Arabic, and syrup, among other ingredients.
- Pisco Sour, Peruvian national cocktail, prepared with egg white, lime juice, simple syrup, and bitters. The Chilean version usually has no bitters.
- Serena Libre, sweeter than Pisco Sour, made with Chilean Papaya juice and sugar.
- Algarrobina, Peruvian Pisco with Algarrobina syrup, cinnamon, egg yolk, and cream. (Carob syrup can be substituted for algarrobina syrup, but the taste is slightly different)
Mixed drinks 
Some examples of mixed drinks with pisco include:
- Chilcano de Pisco, a Peruvian cocktail made with Pisco, lemon juice, ice, bitters, and ginger ale.
- Piscola, also called "national cocktail" in Chile (Spanish: Combinado nacional or combinado) a cocktail prepared mixing Coca-Cola and pisco.
- Tiger tail: a variant from Piscola. First serve the Coca-Cola, then place a fabric napkin on the top of the glass and serve slowly the pisco through it.
- Pisco Collins
- Perú Libre, a cocktail prepared by mixing pisco with coke. Also known as "Sol y Sombra" (Sun and Shadow).
- Pisco Sorpresa, a cocktail originated in East London, inspired by the Latin American classic. Involves shaking Gin, Cointreau, Triple Sec, Bacardi and Pisco, adding raspberry juice, pouring in to a cocktail glass and finishing off with a dash of soda, grenadine and a squeeze of lemon.
In Chile the per capita consumption of pisco is of 3 litres per year of which 18% is on average so-called premium piscos. However, in Peru, the annual per capita consumption was reported as being only 0.5 litres as of 2008, but growing – at the expense of decreasing market shares for rum and whisky (although whisky remains the most popular spirit in Peru).
The top importer of Peruvian Pisco is the US with an estimated import value of US$2 million in 2012. Chile is the second highest importer, with an estimated import value of US$449 thousand.
See also 
- Pisco definition in Concise Oxford Dictionary, Wordreference.com.
- "SICE - Free Trade Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Chile". Sice.oas.org. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- Control Pisco site published by unknown author containing very little information[unreliable source?]
- "Pisco." The Oxford English Dictionary. second ed. 1989.
- "El origen, producción y comercio del pisco chileno, 1546-1931". Scielo.cl. doi:10.4067/S0718-23762005000200005. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- "La vid y el vino en América del Sur: el desplazamiento de los polos vitivinícolas (siglos XVI al XX)". Scielo.cl. 1990-01-06. doi:10.4067/S0718-23762004000200005. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- "Historia de la producción de vinos y piscos en el Perú". Scielo.cl. 1990-01-06. doi:10.4067/S0718-23762004000200004. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- Harrel, Courtney (2009). "Pisco Por La Razón o La Fuerza" (in Spanish). School for International Training. pp. 14–15.
- Rice, Prudence M. 1996. The Archaeology of Wine: The Wine and Brandy Haciendas of Moquegua, Peru. Journal of Field Archaeology
- Potosí, Encyclopedia Britannica
- Toro-Lira, G., History of Pisco in San Francisco: A scrapbook of first-hand accounts, CreateSpace, Sep. 29, 2010.
- "The U.S. vs. 200 Jars of Pisco: Peruvian Exporting Tradition of Pisco, Boletín de Lima, Vol XXX, No 152, 2008". Piscopunch.com. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- Oakes, P., Pisco Liquer Dispute between Chile and Peru (PISCO), American University.
- Defense of the Peruvian denomination of origin, Embassy of Peru (.pdf)
- Main Specifications of the Technical File for 'Pisco', European Commission document 2011/C 141/16, 12 May 2011.
- Appelation 865: Pisco, WIPO
- France refusal of protection of Pisco appellation (appellation registration no. 865), submitted to WIPO by France, 7 July 2006 (in French)
- Italy refusal of protection of Pisco appellation (appellation registration no. 865), submitted to WIPO by Italy, 7 July 2006 (in French)
- Mexico negation of protection of Pisco appellation (appellation registration no. 865), submitted to WIPO by Mexico 19 June and 24 October 2006 (in Spanish and French)
- Roffe, P., Bilateral Agreements and a TRIPS-plus World: The Chile–USA Free Trade Agreement, Quaker International Affaires Programme, Ottawa.
- Canadian Gazette Part I, Vol. 136, No. 32 (pages 2422 and 2423), Aug. 10, 2002.
- "Australia-Chile Free Trade Agreement, Article 3.12: Treatment of Certain Spirits". Dfat.gov.au. 2011-01-13. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- ABA - Pisco - Chilean Pisco, The Drink Shop commercial website advertisement for Chilean Pisco.[unreliable source?]
- , Chilean Government, Nov. 24, 2012 (in Spanish).
- Economía y Negocios Online (in Spanish).
- Norma Téchnica Peruana NTP 211.006 (in Spanish), Comisión de Reglamentos Técnicos y Comerciales - INDECOPI, 7th edition, Nov. 2, 2006.
- Meehan, Jim. "History of Pisco in San Francisco, 2010". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- Garbee, J., A summer twist on pisco sour, caipirinha cocktails, Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2008.
- Chile - Mercado de Pisco, Latin American Markets (in Spanish).
- Consumo per cápita de pisco es de 0.5 litros al año, afirma Viña Ocucaje, Andina, Feb. 25, 2008 (in Spanish).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: pisco|
- Pisco information, Peru[dead link]
- Pisco: A Peruvian Tradition of Excellence, Peruvian Business Association of Vancouver