People make their preferences known through their votes and purchases. If people like a product they buy it. That's what makes the news so surprising that the fastest growing spirit in the United States is pisco. For trend-watchers it confirms what beverage professionals have been saying for the past few years; namely that when Americans get an opportunity to taste pisco, they like it. As it turns out they really like it.
Pisco is the oldest distilled spirit in the Americas. Its production is stringently protected by Perú's D.O.C. and its quality standards are exacting. Pisco can only be distilled from 8 varietals of grapes; the most prevalent of which is Quebranta (Kay-brawn-tuh), a robust high yielding black vine known in Spain as Palomino Negro—the first, pre-Phyloxerra grape upon which Sherry was based. In California the Quebranta is known as the Mission Grape. At one time, it was the most planted vine in the world.
The grapes used to make pisco must be crushed by hand and only once. No pomace can be used and no sugar can be added. Fermentation can only be precipitated using naturally occurring yeast. Distillation is restricted to copper alembic stills and the wine can only be distilled once. After distillation, pisco must be rested for a minimum of three months in a non-reactive vessel, which rules out aging in oak. The intent is to best preserve the spirit's inherent qualities.
The last proviso is that piscos must be distilled to proof, which means it cannot be diluted with water. Also, nothing can be added to pisco—no sugar, preservatives, glycerin, oak extract or caramel.
Suffice to say, in a country in which artisanal, high quality spirits are hot commodities, Peruvian pisco has a brilliant future ahead of it here.
Which brings us to the discussion of the highly acclaimed Campo de Encanto Pisco. To say that it well represents its native land would be an understatement. Every September, the Comisión Nacional del Pisco visits pisco distilleries to secure samples for analysis. Regional competitions ensue, followed by the Grand Championship, which is held in November. In its inaugural year, Campo de Encanto won the coveted Gran Medalla de Oro, the award for the Best Pisco of Perú. For Maestro Carlos Ruben Romero-Gamero and the nearly 400 other distillers in Perú, this is the highest honor that can be bestowed.
Campo de Encanto Acholado Pisco hails from the town of Pisco in the Ica Valley on the southern coast of the wine-growing region. The handcrafted spirit is a cuvee of different small batch spirits of various vintages and varietals: specifically, Quebranta (74%), Italia (16%), Torontel (6%) and Moscatel (4%) grapes. The exact formula of the blend was arrived at collaboratively between master distiller Romero-Gamero, mixologist extraordinaire Duggan McDonnell and San Francisco sommelier Walter Moore. After blending, Encanto is rested for a year to allow the constituent flavors to fully integrate. The Acholado is bottled at 42.5% alcohol (85 proof).
Campo de Encanto Acholado is a brilliant artisanal spirit. The crystal clear pisco has a velvety, slightly oily, medium-weight body and a generous floral, fruity—citrus and grapes— grassy and spicy bouquet. Its wafting aromatics alone are worth the price of admission. The warm entry immediately fills the mouth with an amazing array of fruit/grape flavors, followed by spicy notes on the long, refined finish.
The Acholado's fetching aromatics and broad fruit and spice palate make it an ideal choice for drink making, especially for crafting the classic Pisco Sour. However, do yourself a favor and enjoy this pisco neat before you start mixing with it. You'll be a far better person for it.
Campo de Encanto Distiller's Reserve Quebranta Pisco, 43.1% alcohol (86.2 proof), is an altogether captivating, limited release spirit comprised entirely of single vineyard Quebranta aromatic grapes from different lots and vintages. The pisco has ideal clarity, a satiny textured, medium-weight body and a glorious bouquet of dark chocolate, raisins, red plums and roasted chiles. The dry, broad palate delivers seemingly endless waves of fruit and floral flavors. The finish is agreeably long and delectable.
The third member of the distinguished portfolio is Campo de Encanto Distiller's Reserve Moscatel Pisco, 42.2% alcohol (84.4 proof), which is distilled entirely from Moscatel grapes grown at the Pampa de Villacuri Vineyards. The pisco is simply marvelous. It is highly aromatic and brimming with fresh fruit flavors. There are lovely vegetal and lightly spiced notes on the lingering finish.
It may of interest to learn that Campo de Encanto literally translates to "field of enchantment." Few brand names have ever been fitting.