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.