Thursday, November 11, 2010

Campo de Encanto Pisco: the best Pisco you'll ever taste


The traditional clear brandy of Chile and Peru, Pisco, has had three brief flirtations with fame in the U.S.  It’s about to have another.  And this one could be the most famed of all.
The History Stuff...
In the waaaaay back of cocktail history, the 1800s, an unknown became instantly famous when a trading ship arrived in San Francisco from Peru with, among other goods, a fiery but silky brandy from the port of Pisco. 
Immediately thereafter an enterprising soul created a popular drink called the Pisco Punch, a sweet but potent concoction of tropical fruits and the clear, unaged, aromatic grape brandy.  It was all the rage in rowdy San Francisco.
The punch, and the spirit, however, remained largely a San Francisco and west coast phenomenon, and never became widely known in other areas.
In the 1970s, Pisco had a second surge, partly because of an outrageous black bottle that looked like an ancient temple carving and partly because of another iconic drink, the Pisco Sour, an aromatic and foamy variation on a whiskey sour---which was also created in San Francisco. (Local Peruvian restaurant Andina makes a classic Pisco Sour.) 
This time Pisco did go nationwide, but the fad waned and the South American brandy became an almost forgotten spirit again, remembered only by a few historical-minded bartenders.
In the 1990s, with the onslaught of Latin American cuisine as a major force shaping the food world in the U.S., Pisco made another comeback, and more brands became available, but it still lacked that final ingredient  for lasting success.  Something was missing, it seemed.
Back to today...
Three guys in San Francisco figured out what was missing: passion.  They were passionate about pisco, and set out to make the best pisco possible.  Duggan McDonnell, of Cantina in San Francisco; sommelier and spirits maven, Walter Moore; and Peruvian distiller Carlos Romero put their cumulative passion together to create a “pisco of the people” in an artisanal, small batch, high quality pisco.
The result:  Campo de Encanto Pisco.  It’s not ‘just another pisco.’  It sets a new standard for pisco, and elevates it to a whole new level of prominence.  (Yes: it’s that good.)
The Slightly Technical Stuff...
In Peru, they take pisco very, very seriously.  They claim it as their national spirit and constantly squabble with rival Chile over who can claim pisco honors. 
Pisco Puro: essentially, a pisco made from one of the approved grape varieties.
Pisco Aromatico: pisco made from one of the approved aromatic varieties.
Pisco Mosto Verde: made from ‘green must’, or partially fermented grapes that retain a bit of sweetness
Pisco Acholado:  ‘half breed’; a blend of Puro and Aromatico grapes
The Stuff Itself...
Campo de Encanto is Pisco Acholado, a brilliant combination of Puro and Aromatico that achieves a fresh, rich, silky-textured aroma and flavor profile that is bound to please even the most demanding palate.  It is both fruity and spicy; soft and peppery; clean yet aromatic; and manages a perfect balance of flavors.
Although Peru requires only 3 months of mellowing or 'resting' pisco, Encanto ages for a full 9 months for extra smoothness.
With the pure unadulterated expression of aromatic grapes at its core, Campo de Encanto is superb all by itself; it truly shines, though, when used as a cocktail base because it marries beautifully with a wide range of flavors without ever losing its essential identity (think of the persistence of 100% agave tequila versus the simple and cheap mixto grade, and you’ve got the gist of it).
Bartenders are a pretty tough crowd with high standards.  The quality has to be there for them to get excited.  And they are almost universally excited about Campo de Encanto Pisco, so you’ll see it on back bars at the best places and as a component in many creative cocktails.

13 comments:

  1. As a Peruvian I am insulted that you would claim that three 'dudes' from San Francisco make the "best pisco you'll ever taste." This is an insult to all the Peruvian distillers and producers who spend their lives sharpening their craft. This article kind of upsets me, sounds like cheap marketing. Pisco is Peruvian NOT American.

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  2. Not what I said. Re-read the article more carefully. First sentence, for instance, where I started the article with "The traditional clear brandy of Chile and Peru, pisco..."

    "Peruvian distiller Carlos Romero...", one of the three guys (not 'dudes').

    Frequent references to Peruvian definitions, Peruvian laws, Peruvian rules, Peruvian designations...and not counting the detailed history of PERUVIAN pisco in the US.

    I've tasted numerous piscos from Chile and Peru, and this is the best I've ever had. Don't see how that could possibly diss any other producers.

    I could go on. I could also be insulted at your tone. But since I sign my name to what I write and you call yourself "Anonymous", I'll leave it at that.

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  3. Have you been to Pisco Latin Lounge in San Francisco? www.piscosf.com/home.htm I love their pisco sours but am kind of intimidated by the long list of straight piscos (including Encanto) that they carry. James- the owner- told me they're going to start to have Thursday night tastings in December so that seems a good way to compare.

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  4. Sadly, I haven't been there---but it sounds like the kind of place I'd really like. I'll check it out next time I'm down there.

    Comparison tastings are great---there's a wide range in piscos too, so it's worthwhile to check them out. And don't be intimidated by the Encanto; it will win you over quickly. :^)

    This will be heresy to Peruvians, but you can also compare the pisco from Chile with the pisco from Peru. Very interesting.

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  5. This is the first annonymous person btw. You haven't tasted enough pisco sir, sorry. Making headlines like that about an American brand is nothing short of sensationalism. It might be the best pisco you've ever tasted but you can't tell everyone that it is the best pisco they will ever taste. Peruvians are proud people and proud of their products and culture. To read these blanket statements make me sick. You gringos like to come to our country and take stuff that belong to us and market it as your own. You are part of the problem.. Pisco is Peruvian, and just because some cowboys go to Peru and make pisco does not mean they make the best pisco "you'll ever taste" get that straight, it only the best pisco YOU have tasted. You should try writing for the Enquirer.

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  6. So proud...yet still so bravely anonymous, I see. And therefore of little consequence.

    You're upset because I like a Peruvian Pisco, made by a Peruvian and marketed successfully to people in the U.S. by a couple of 'cowboys'. Yeah, makes an awful lot of sense.

    Don't be proud of a Peruvian Pisco that is successful in a foreign market (thereby opening the market to potentially many other piscos); trash it, because you're so proud. Don't name any other piscos that you think are good quality, either. Because you're so proud of them.

    You have your own problems, Mr. Anonymous. Good luck with them.

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  7. To Anonymous if you're reading. Just thought you would know that the Peruvians are on Hoke's side about our distillate and our Peruvian Hermano's skills as a distiller. Encanto won the "Best in Show" (Gran Medalla de Oro Cepa) for our Quebranta, the base spirit in our Acholado, in Peru's annual Consurso Nacional blind pisco tasting competition.
    I am of course biased about the love, thought and care we put into Encanto but I am a fan of anything and any Pisco that expands the category and gets people drinking Pisco.

    http://www.elpiscoesdelperu.com/web/index.php?ver_opt=det_noticia&id=225

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  8. Anonymous, I actually really appreciate your passion for Pisco so I would suggest you go to Teardrop or Andina and try Encanto for yourself. Visualize swirled Pisco my friend. Pisco, Love and Understanding.

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  9. I was told that much of the Pisco in Chile is produced from Muscat grapes. Based on my past experience with the Grappa di Moscato we bottled at Sebastiani, I'd guess this is a good thing. Any comments or perspective on Chilean Pisco?

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  10. Christian, they do use Muscat in Chile. But they use it (multiple versions, in fact) in Peru as well. Hence the Quebranta (non-aromatic) and Aromatic (Muscats) versions as defined.

    For Chilean pisco, a good, definitive one in the US market would be Alto del Carmen.

    In an effort to toady up to my new anonymous Peruvian friend, I'll venture to say the Encanto is much superior to the Alto del Carmen. Of coruse, now that loses me some Chilean friends. :^)

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  11. To help this discussion, I would like to share with you the huge debate that has started after Campo de Encanto started flaunting a win in Peru as best Pisco. First, and most importantly, Campo de Encanto has never won a medal in Peru. Second, the Pisco that won the medal which Encanto is claiming is a Single-grape Quebranta which is made by its master distiller for his own label. Third, within the Quebranta category, the furious polemic is due to the fact that according to Reg 55 of the National Contest, a gold medal can only be awarded to a pisco receiving a 92-point award, which the Quebranta did not. Encanto is a good pisco but it is neither the best in the US nor the best in Peru.

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  12. I appreciate the help, but it hasn't yet been much actual help. Although you seem to be well informed, it's hard to be asked to take on faith a pronouncement from a "The Pisco Bible" blogger (the Bible? Really? Wow. Do I take that on faith?) who has no posts, no profile, no background, and for which google can find only one other post...to another blogger...pushing some other pisco which I've never had.

    There seems to be a lot of controversy over me liking a particular pisco. Puzzling. Guess I'm not allowed to have preferences???

    But I'm open--always open--to new ideas and new product. Campo de Encanto Pisco Acholado is the best pisco I've had, and the best I can recommend as what is available in Oregon. If you have a better one, by all means, get it to me and I'll happily taste it and report on it.

    Normally I report only on spirits available in Oregon, but I'll even agree to make an exception, since you feel so passionately about other piscos, and write about your suggestions even if they're not available here. Love to taste multiple piscos with you!!!

    Oh...and it is customary to provide some sort of background information, and also disclose if you have any interest in or involvement with any spirits...like, say, Pisco?

    So until my taste buds tell me there's a better pisco here in Portland...I'm sticking with Encanto Pisco.

    Thanks for keeping this discussion going with your comment---and I look forward to enjoying more good Peruvian Pisco!

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  13. Pisco Bible. I appreciate your comments very much. Sounds like you have tried Encanto. You are correct in that the 2010 Quebranta distillate, Carlos Romero, our Peruvian partner, won the Gran Medalla de Oro 2010. The Quebranta we produce IS the base of Campo de Encanto and always will be the primary, dominant distillate in our Acholado. Carlos no longer makes nor sells his previous brand called Conqueror, although the company there still has that name; ALL distillate produced by him for the last two years has and is used solely for blending into Encanto.
    The fact is that we never use distillate for "blending" until it has rested for the minimum of 1 YEAR (which is much longer than the DOC requires) so we will never make an Acholado blend in time for the national Peruvian Pisco competition. Only our single distillate Pisco Puro from each vintage would be available in time for this competition.
    You should know that we are not planning to sell or distribute this award-winning Quebranta. Our focus is on making the best Acholado we can. That's what we do and ONLY our best distillate goes into Encanto.
    As to the issue with the scoring; it's clearly an internal matter with the consorcio and not an issue with us, the producers. What's more interesting is the spread of the scores which no-one has talked about?! Our Quebranta scored almost two full points above the next closest challenger. A remarkable margin to win considering the range of the top scores was only 5 points (86.33 to 91.66).
    Pisco Bible, again I appreciate your frankness and would like to invite you to an intimate get-together that we are having in honor of Carlos in Lima in February for the Quebranta that won the Gran Medalla de Oro. We will be giving a bottle of the Quebranta Pisco Puro 2010 to every guest and this will be the only opportunity to taste this distillate on it's own. If you are interested you can contact me at drinkonemoore@gmail.com. I hope to hear from you.

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