If you looked at my Pisco selection up until about 6 months ago, you’d notice something striking. I only had Peruvian Piscos. And that’s unfortunately par for the course. Chilean Piscos, while available, were hard to come by, not as well marketed and generally harder to find. Not so any more. Recently there has been a marketing and distribution surge for Chilean Piscos and that’s a very good thing. I’ve received three bottles for review and David Wondrich’s comment from the PR video sums it up excellently “For not a huge number of brands they have a huge range of styles and types.”
Mistral (40% ABV) – With a light amber color, Mistral is clearly a barrel aged Pisco. That aging comes through in the aroma, with notes of vanilla, caramel and a subtle sweetness. In addition there is a touch of dried fruit/fruitcake aromas that you find in some brandies. Which, honestly, makes perfect sense since Pisco is really a form of brandy at its heart. The sweetness doesn’t follow through to the flavor though there is still a touch of the caramel flowing through. The vanilla and spice are joined by a distinct vegetal quality.
Alto del Carmen (40% ABV) – My favorite of the bunch has a young brandy aroma with subtle grapiness (I’m coining that term, I’m certain it’ll be huge). Vegetal aromas and flavors are king in this Pisco. You get a true sense of the earth with this one and that quality adds depth to cocktails that I really enjoy. On top of those vegetal notes you get spice, buttery qualities, some melony fruitiness and subtle sweetness. Overall, a very tasty Pisco that mixes up very well.
Capel (40% ABV) – This is the most neutral of the Chilean Piscos that I sampled and the most vodka-like. I think this “blank pallet” quality lends itself to a lot of cocktail applications in the same manner that vodka does. But with that come the same down sides of vodka, namely that same “blank pallet”. This is a clean and pure Pisco. If you’re looking for one to broaden a vodka drinkers horizons, this is definitely the choice.
So, what do you make with them? The sky is truly the limit. As you can see from this small sampling, the range of flavors spans from clean and vodka-like all the way to barrel aged with caramel, vanilla and spice and in between are vegetal notes similar to cachaca and tequila. For me, I went fairly simple. I whipped up a Chilean Sidecar that was super tasty with a rim of Chilean Merken (a smoky spice blend). But, where these Piscos truly shine is in the classic Pisco Sour. It’s simple and in that simplicity lies a subtle depth of flavor. You get to taste each flavor on its own and harmoniously combined. If you haven’t had one yet, you’re really missing out.
† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.