Pisco Disco

Museo del Pisco.jpegI hadn’t tried pisco until last year. As is often the way, it was Serge who piqued my interest [he’s tried five], but I’d had no first-hand contact with this once-distilled grape-based brandy-esque spirit until I had an invitation to perform in Lima. As I was working, time was restricted. Regretfully, I didn’t even manage to explore the Pisco Museum though I managed to pose in the doorway. I had a ball in Lima, put on a stone and tried four piscos.

Whilst at the airport, rather than visit World of Whisky, I do some pisco research. I read about Johnny Schuler who was [eater.com] ‘,… awarded a Peruvian Congressional Medal of Honor in 2007 for his work popularizing Peruvian pisco and helping to recognize its cultural heritage, has written several books on the spirit, hosts a weekly television show, “Por Las Rutas del Pisco,” and has the largest collection of pisco in the world, estimated at more than 3,000 bottles‘. Imagine if I got to meet him?!


Pisco es Peru [2019] Ob. 43% [50ml]

After a long flight and subsequent transit to the hotel, when I get to my room I find a welcome pack that includes this.

Pisco es Peru [2019] Ob. 43% [50ml].jpeg

  • N: Loosely reminiscent of brandy commonly found in the East, but this is a far cleaner and accomplished spirit than might be found in a corner shop in Pokhara for example. A coppery note is followed by light bread crumbs into a winterberry crumble. With a soft yeasty body, I also pick up on mezcal-light /vodka vibes from a hint of pickled onions.
  • T: Less bitter/sweeter than the Cautro Gallos [coming next], with only soft prickles. This appears tamer by comparison, rounded and with a sense that it’s been additionally sweetened – but surely that’s against the rules [see pic below] of pisco right? Moves along rather vodka-like with a light squidgy spongey bed.
  • F: Very metallic-y as if there’s been some metal seal contamination and indeed, a second sample is less metallic. Concludes faintly fruity with a hint of cling film & butyric/mescal-esque touches.
  • C: I reckon this has to be the Smirnoff of pisco, but I’ve no idea as I’m only on my first rung of the pisco ladder. Nothing dreadful here whatsoever, but this is certainly spirit to mix & drink and not think.

[Not scored]


How Peruvian pisco is made.jpg


We get taken to a cool buzzing restaurant in Lima.

Cuatro Gallos Pisco Mosto Verde Italia [21/05/18] Ob. Collection de Artistas [750ml #:S9807] sumon

Cuatro Gallos Pisco Mosto Verde Italia [2018:19] Ob. Collection de Artistas [750ml].jpeg

  • N: Something of a tequila vibe but the grape-base makes this a very different experience with a cleaner sweetness and a coppery coat/vail. Light fruits, berries, plus a little huskiness complete the picture. 
  • T: A soft bitterness, a sustaining medicinal touch – aniseed and dried herbs (rosemary? sage certainly, and rhyme) – and a waft of palo santo. Our food arrives and we all chat about my whisky obsession.
  • F: Sustaining palate. 
  • C: Not sure where this fits into the pisco tree. Very much in the style of a classic holiday digestive, if you know what I mean.

Not scored (75/74)


Our hosts recommend I try a famous pisco-based Chilcano cocktail. It’s super refreshing with a super bitter lemon direction. The ginger ale is perfectly low key.

  • Chilcano: pisco and ginger ale. Add ice and lime. Further reading: liquor.com


Peru sweetcorn dumplings.jpegOne of the highlights of the meal is sweet corn tamale dumplings [see pic right]. It doesn’t seem much to look at but it was so amazing we ordered two. I can taste them now.

Later comes a pineapple dessert with chicha and cinnamon. I also tried pisco with iced coffee – now there’s a combo! I’d love to try this with tequila, and especially mescal.



Last up, a pisco pair I picked up at duty-free that seem to be moderately regarded. First I try the pisco made from the torontel grape [worldsbestwines], that normally go to making fragrant a white wine I believe.


Viejo Tonel Torontel [2017] Ob. Travel Retail 42% [0.50l]

A crystal-clear spirit that must have been uber-filtrated.

Viejo Tonel Torontel [2017] Ob. Travel Retail 42%.jpg

  • N: Smells so fresh as if it just came off the still. No other spirit I’ve tried comes even close to this subtly-sweet floral > metallic citrus [lemon=lime > orange essence] light sponge-like, cinnamon/pepper/gingery profile. And what of this vanilla citrus agave/grassy vibe? Is that from the torontel grapes? It has to be. There’s a touch of Gerwertstramener about it whilst later on, the fruitiness is decidedly peachy and with a firm likeness to an apricot liqueur.
  • T: Reminds me of the water pipes in the morning before I’ve run them through, and yet I find this result rather pleasing. In the main, we’ve a crisp [stainless steel] metallic citric sour tonic [fresh fruit-based, again sour grapes, lemon=lime > orangey things] with a touch of cinnamon and vanilla fizz. Adding water softens the attack. I’d love to read notes from a Peruvian, referencing all manner of native fruits, flora and fauna.
  • F: Certainly grapey at the end and more of that delectable subtlety-sweet lemon biscuit sponge, that grassy cinnamon and ginger note with a touch of ground black pepper and clear hints actually of [apple & pear] calvados. I really like that sour citrus character. Even the [subtle bitter] vanilla is in keeping. After all, vanilla isn’t sweet.
  • C: Duty-Free huh? It’s where many of us begin our [spirits] journeys. The torontel brings a fruitiness which I like. Let’s see what a moscatel cask brings.

Scores 79 points


Viejo Pisco .jpg

Viejo Tonel Moscatel 2017 Ob. Travel Retail 41% [0.50l]

Viejo Tonel Moscatel 2017 Ob. Travel Retail 41%.jpg

  • N: A light dry herbal seasoning compliments the soft lemon > mandarin citrus > ginger juice. I’d say this smells much like the torontel with a drop of red wine in, though it lacks some of that desirable vanilla citrus agave/grassy character. On the plus side, there’s a nice sparkling rose note, hints of strawberries and all manner of those fruit & drink associations. Again, this spirit-born vanilla note is rather alluring.
  • Again we have a moderately sharp and metallic arrival, albeit more forgiving than the torontel due to a mousse-like sweetness from the moscatel grape. With water, a metallic strawberry-sweet > sour chew is initiated with a bitter grapey edge, flip-side. That chew hangs around for a fair while without wavering.
  • F: Vanilla mousse and cream meringue with more strawberries [and now raspberries], lemon balm and more grassiness – almost like a sugar cane grassiness with agave leanings?! Metalic sweet > herbal at the death.
  • C: I’m stabbing at these scores. I wonder how I would view this after trying a thousand piscos? If I look back at when I started scoring whisky!

Scores 78 points


So what have I learned about the character of pisco with these first four random expressions? Metallic citrus sour, some grassiness, ginger, and cinnamon were common features along with a light non-sweet vanilla sponge. Given there’s no wood-ageing, the grape-type is crucial to the overall flavour profile. Let’s see how these impressions hold out the next time I pisco disco!



If you’ve got this far, you may be interested in this wine recommendation. It might be a WLP first:





Pisco Bar.jpeg

3 thoughts on “Pisco Disco

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