Pisco Redux

In a project that hits very close to home (and close to my heart), I'm happy to announce that Capurro Pisco's new vintage of 2012 single varietal expressions has arrived, with new labels, better information, and the highest quality of spirit I think the brand has ever produced. What is pisco, you might be asking yourself? Much like the Singani 63 we've been writing about over the past year, pisco is an unaged grape distillate produced mainly in Peru (but also in Chile) that is often consumed in refreshing cocktails like a Pisco Sour or Pisco Punch, but also drunk straight or poured into soda. While much of what makes it into the U.S. are the unexciting, big-brand options, Capurro is a small 100-year-old company with roots in San Mateo, CA (where I live). I've been working with Romina Puente-Arnao and her family for the last few years, helping to establish the brand's retail presence (those of you who attended this year's Brandyfest at Bar Agricole likely spoke with her). Romina's family, also in San Mateo, operates a Peruvian food and import business on B Street downtown, and they self-distribute their own pisco. It's literally a mom-and-pop operation.

I've always liked Romina, her family, and her family's pisco. The fruitiness of the spirit was always brighter than the other brands we carried, and the purity of the flavor always cleaner and more expressive. The only thing I didn't really love about Capurro was the old bottle. So when Romina came in last week to share the latest vintage releases, I about died when I saw the new labels. Not only were they sleek and colorful (much like the spirits themselves), they were also full of information and fun facts, designed to help educate the curious public. This new line of Capurro piscos is from the 2012 vintage in Peru and the spirits have been rested in stainless steel tanks for over three years. There are three single varietal expressions (Moscatel, Torontel, and Quebranta) and one acholado which means a blend of different grapes. They are made entirely from estate-grown fruit, with no additives and no filtration. All of them are outstanding and worth your time.

2012 Capurro Estate Grown Single Vintage Acholado Premium Pisco $34.99 -The acholado is the most robust and classic of the four expressions, toning down the brighter aromatics in favor of more earthy, agricultural flavors. The spirit is still clean and vibrant despite the robust profile and mixes beautifully into classic rum cocktails. This could easily substitute as a much milder agricole rhum.

2012 Capurro Estate Grown Single Vintage Moscatel Premium Pisco $34.99 -Moscatel is the Spanish word for Muscat, which is an incredibly fruity and aromatic grape varietal. The floral and vibrant qualities are therefore distilled into the spirit, creating an expressive and exotic flavor that adds an incredible versatility and pizazz to any cocktail bar.

2012 Capurro Estate Grown Single Vintage Torontel Premium Pisco $34.99 -Torontel is an aromatic grape varietal, so those aromatic qualities translate right over into the pisco. Floral and perfumy on the nose, the palate showcases violets and more of bright fruit flavors of the grape. Those flavors continue to pop in the glass when mixed into a cocktail.

2012 Capurro Estate Grown Single Vintage Quebranta Premium Pisco $34.99 -The Quebranta begins with a lovely note of exotic fruit and more of what almost takes like candied tamarind, before settling down into a clean and vibrant finish. It's incredible just on its own as an eau-de-vie, but also mixes into cocktails like a dream.

If you're still confused as to when you would ever use a pisco, I strongly suggest substituting one of these Capurros into your next rum cocktail. Make a Daiquiri with pisco (which is pretty much a Pisco Sour), or make a Mai Tai. Make a pisco and coke. In all of these cases, you're substituting something made from grapes and distilled in a copper pot still with real inherent flavor, for something likely made from cheap molasses and distilled to an almost neutral state on an industrial-grade column still. I almost never use generic white rum anymore because spirits like these make my cocktails so much more exciting.

Pisco is so delicious and versatile as is, but having a local brand like Capurro all to ourselves is a true luxury. They're small enough to focus solely on the highest possible quality of spirit, and savvy enough to share all of the specifics with spirits and cocktail geeks everywhere. Working with them has been always been pleasure, but I want to thank them for making my job easier. With the new bottles and new packaging, these vibrant labels jump right off the shelf.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll