The New York Times stated that Pisco is “the fastest-growing spirit in the United States,” increasing over 200% in the year 2011. It’s clear, grape distilled, and is becoming the go to “clear spirit” as an alternative to vodka, rum, and gin in your mixed drinks. But most of us are a bit unfamiliar with the South American spirit, knowing only of it’s base in the popular Pisco Sour cocktail made famous on the West Coast. So what exactly is Pisco?
Pisco has been around for over 400 years, and is a style of brandy native to Peru and Chile. Given the rich history of wine making in that region, it makes sense their spirits are distilled from grapes. It’s origins are a bit shaky as both countries lay claim to having the richer history and strongest tradition of producing the spirit. What we do know is Peru claims the exclusive rights to the use of the “Pisco” label, yet many large market countries (United States, France, Italy, Mexico, Canada,[ Australia, etc.) allow products of Chile to be identified as “Chilean Pisco”. So what’s the difference? The type of grapes they use for one, but also the way they are aged and the allowance of additives. For a breakdown, check out this Pisco Wars blog from Pisco Aficionado.
Kappa Pisco is from Chile, and the most notable from its country. It comes with the backing of Marnier Lapostelle family, known for producing Grand Marnier and several other notable wines.
First Impression: They say you shouldn’t judge a book buy its cover, but if we were, you would have to give this book an A+. The packaging is unique in shape, flashy in design, and pretty eye catching as a whole. Unfortunately, one thing we do know in spirits is “all that glitters” is not gold. Designer bottles are nice to look at, but often can be warning signs to a poorly made product trying to to add premium price to a product that doesn’t have premium taste. Is that the case here?
The Taste: We cracked open the bottle and got a nice whiff of a citrus. It’s got nice floral notes with lemon and orange most notable. It’s overall aroma is very reminiscent of a blanco tequila, which doesn’t carry over into the taste obviously, but should make those with fears of trying new things feel a bit more comfortable. We poured a warm shot and let it sit before tasting it. It’s got a very smooth taste, with a bit of a dry finish. While I haven’t tasted a huge eclectic of pisco’s before, I have had a few, mostly of the Peruvian style. This definitely comes off as a more refined version of the spirit, and is probably why it’s gained a lot of popularity as of late. The more neutral the spirit, the more opportunity for mix-ability, and with the growth of mixology not slowing down, that’s a huge deal. We actually mixed it with a few simple ingredients, such as lime juice and lemon juice and made a few Kappa Collins and Caiparinhas. Very tasty. With less of a defined flavor, it did tend to get covered up a bit when we tried it in drinks that included multiple flavors such as sour apple schnapps. It mixes well, but can get covered up with too many flavorful ingredients. Let the brandy shine through and keep it simple. On it’s own its a smooth spirit, and in its chilled shot form, it could easily be a problem to blanco tequila in the bar scene.
Price: $32.99 / 750 ML
Overall: Kappa is a smooth premium product worthy of a spot in your bar. It’s much different than a traditional Peruvian pisco, leading to a more neutral and refined taste. Does it taste good? Yes. Is it highly mixable? Yes. Is it priced well? To be honest it could be cheaper, but is still a quality product. These are just about all that matters to a an average customer or bar owner. But to be fair, its clearly a more “polished” version of pisco that does not carry the same flavorful characteristics of many notable Peruvian piscos, which can tend to change the complexity of your drink. Would we recommend it for your bar? Absolutely. Try this, and in contrast, try a bottle of Peru based pisco and tell us what you think.