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Pisco Porton

Pisco Portón


By Robert Plotkin

Stuck in a rut? Perhaps it's because you're drinking the same run-of-the-mill products bars typically stock on their backbars. For a refreshing change of pace, why not try drinking something new and intriguing? Something, let's say, like ultra-premium Portón, a delectable handcrafted grape spirit from Peru. It's gloriously aromatic and equally marvelous sipped neat or mixed in cocktails. Trust that you've never tasted anything remotely like Portón. It's a virtual vacation in a bottle.

The pisco is made at Hacienda La Caravedo in the fertile Ica valley on the southern coast of Peru, the oldest distillery in all of the Americas. Portón is classified as a mosto verde pisco, which is generally regarded as the highest quality of pisco. It is made from a blend of 3 grape varietals—Quebranta, Torontel, and Albilla—each hand-selected by Master Distiller Johnny Schuler for their contribution to the delicate nose, complex body and smooth finish of the spirit. The juice from the first pressing of these grapes is partially fermented, this in order to retain some of the natural grape sugars that would otherwise have been converted to alcohol.

The partially fermented juice—referred to as the must—is then distilled to 43 percent alcohol by volume (86 proof) in custom-made copper pot stills. Because Portón is distilled to proof, Schuler has just one chance to make each batch exactly right. It contains no added water, additives or artificial flavorings. Prior to bottling, the pisco is left to rest for 5-8 months to allow the constituent flavors to develop and become fully integrated.

Portón is an incomparable spirit, a genuine treat for the senses. The crystal clear pisco has a medium-weight, velvety smooth body and a generous nose laced with spicy, floral and fruity aromas. The gentle entry quickly expands filling the mouth with the flavors of fresh herbs, black pepper, cinnamon, orange blossom and zesty citrus. The warm, lingering finish is fruity and lightly spiced.

Portón is destined to become a bona fide celebrity behind American bars. The pisco is highly mixable and is featured in a wide array of cocktails, punches and mixed drinks.

But it wouldn't the first time in our history that a pisco has caught on big in the U.S. During the days of the California Gold Rush, miners from South America streamed into San Francisco bringing with them ample supplies of Peru's native spirit. Its popularity gave rise to such classics as the Pisco Sour and Pisco Punch. After the onset of Prohibition, the crystal clear brandy disappeared from American bars, but fortunately the cocktail resurgence has enticed it back to our shores.