Posted on | October 6, 2011
Written by | W.R. Tish
Pisco Portón Aims to be Leader of ‘Fifth White Spirit’ Category
Pisco, the native spirit of Peru, is bound up in irony: while its heritage is every bit as deep and rich as Scotch or Bordeaux, in the U.S. it is a fresh novelty. Fortunately, the spirit’s distinctive character and dynamic mixability are helping Pisco make quick inroads, particularly onpremise. And the relative novelty creates an ideal opportunity for Pisco Portón, a new brand that has staked a claim at the very top of the category.
Portón is Born
The Portón brand started with a handshake just two years ago between American investors William and Brent Kallop and Master Distiller Johnny Schuler. Their mutual goal, from the start, was to produce the finest handcrafted pisco in the world. They purchased the oldest distillery in the Americas—Hacienda la Caravedo, in Ica, established in 1684—outfitted it with a modern gravity-flow system, and then Schuler went to work, applying the experience he had gained as Peru’s ambassador for pisco to the world over the previous two decades.
With history dating back to the 1600s, Pisco is a clear spirit distilled from grapes, with no additives or wood aging allowed by law. The base wine for Pisco Portón is made from a blend of three grapes, each chosen for their unique character: Quebranta for body; Albilla for a soft fruity structure and smooth finish; and Torontel for complex peach and citrus aromatics.
The Portón brand is made by the mosto verde method, which means that the distillate is made from must (grape juice) that has not completely fermented. This serves to keep some of the natural grape sugars from converting into alcohol, in turn putting more flavor and aroma into every bottle. Most producers don’t use this method because it is very labor-intensive and requires a large amount of grapes; 15 pounds of grapes go into every bottle of Pisco Portón.
Never Watered Down
While whiskey or vodka distillers can always water their spirit back down to a desired proof, Peruvian law prohibits any additives whatsoever. This law ensures small-batch distillation, which allows more control over the entire process; it also means the distiller only has one chance to make each batch right. After distillation, the pisco rests in large cement cubas de guardia for five to eight months while the spirit’s flavors develop roundness and complexity. These containers, being non-reactive, will not impart flavors as barrels would. As Johnny Schuler states: “Pisco doesn’t borrow its flavors.”
According to Schuler, Pisco Portón is “more complex than a vodka and more subtle than Tequila; excellent for defining cocktails, as well as for savoring neat or as an aperitif.” He believes pisco can become known as “the fifth white spirit” in the U.S.
Pisco Portón launched in the U.S. in 2011 in Houston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. The national rollout—covering 27 markets in 12 states—will be completed by the end of the year, supported by a broad advertising, marketing and public relations campaign. The primary target market is 25- to 40-year-olds with a high affinity for premium spirits. Pisco Portón retails for $40-$50/750ml (varies by state; also available in 50ml bottles). Each bottle features a photo of the distillery, is individually numbered and bears the signature of the Master Distiller.
2 parts Pisco Portón
Pour first five ingredients into a tall glass filled with ice.
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