The making of Peruvian pisco

Move over tequila – it’s time for pisco to shine! At COYA we infuse our own, use it in our cocktails and drink it straight. But what is pisco, and how is it made?

“Glass or stainless steel vessels store the pisco to age it”

COYA Restaurant and Pisco Lounge Mayfair, London. Signature Pisco Sour

Pisco is mysterious. It’s not as flashy as tequila or as noir as vodka. It’s not made from cacti or potatoes. Surprisingly, it’s made from grapes.

In Peru, pisco is produced only using copper pot stills, like single malt Scotch whiskies, rather than continuous stills like most vodkas. Unlike the Chilean variety, Peruvian pisco is never diluted after it is distilled and enters the bottle directly at its distillation strength. It takes between eight – twelve kilograms of grapes to make enough pisco to fill a regular bottle, depending on the grape variety used.

As with other homegrown brews, many types of grapes might be used to produce the family pisco, leading to a wide variation in flavour, aroma, viscosity and appearance. This harmed attempts to export pisco under a single denomination, resulting in baseline regulations being set in 1991.

Four distinct types of pisco emerged from these new regulations:

Puro (Pure): made from a single variety of grape, mostly Quebranta, although Mollar or Common Black are also used. No blending between varieties is accepted!

Aromáticas (Aromatic): made from Muscat or Muscat-derived grape varieties, as well as Albilla, Italia and Torontel grapes. Again, the pisco should only contain one variety of grape.

Mosto Verde (Green Must): distilled from partially fermented must, this pisco must be distilled before the fermentation process has completely transformed sugars into alcohol.

Acholado (Multivarietal): blended from the must of several varieties of grape.

It doesn’t stop there though. Producers are constantly experimenting with aging the pisco. To be labelled as ‘aged’ it must have spent 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”.

No additives of any kind may be added to commercial pisco to alter its flavour, odour, appearance or alcoholic proof, which is why our COYA infusions are so special. Read more about our pisco library or come and sample it for yourself!

And finally, Peruvian Pisco must be made in one of the country’s five official D.O. (Denomination of Origin) departments – Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna (only in the valleys of Locumba Locumba, Sama and Caplina), which were established in 1991 by the government.

“It takes about 12 kilos of grapes to make a bottle of pisco”