• Pisco is obtained after many working steps, from agricultural processing to manufacturing of the product by artisan or industrial methods or both. From the agricultural aspects (field preparation, crop selection, etc.), we are interested in those related to the grapevine crop, starting with impale and ending with removal, which we will describe in short before discussing the manufacturing process of Pisco.
• Impale starts in July when the grapevines are tied with wet cattail to logs of “huarangos”, “espinos”, or “sinamomo”, forming “galeas” or “barbacoas” to make it grow horizontally.
• These logs have been previously cut and moved to the site, representing one of the most demanding parts of cultivation, according to farmers. Pruning starts during at the beginning of August. A large group of farm workers go through the galleys with tools and start cutting vine shoots, getting rid of superfluous branches and buds that can prevent the plant to mature.
• Grapes are taken from vineyards to “lagares” (wine press house), a kind of small pond, before being crushed or treaded to obtain juice or squash. This task is performed the day of arrival
because if it is done the next day it could get acidified.
• Then, the must is placed in large earthen jars or clay pitchers (also called “pisqueras”), which are taken to another place of the boulder or solar. The pitchers are pitched in the inside and, depending on the degree of glucose and on the action of sun’s rays, fermentation (the transformation of must into alcohol) takes place in a quick or slow way. In general, this process lasts 14 days, but it could take longer after the fourth or fifth day, we can verify that it has changed into “cachina”.
• Fermentation takes place outdoors taking advantage of sun rays. The best period to carry it out is February to April, when the sun hits strongly. On the contrary, modern products carry out the fermentation of must in wine cellars, protecting from sun rays with huge concrete tanks of different content. They are washed after each operation.
• Once the operation is finished, distillation takes place. The content of the pitchers are poured in proper containers such as small stills or distilleries. The pitchers must be handled carefully because the breaking of one of them means not only losing the product, but also the container which is unrecoverable since these pitchers (which can be still found) were made by old artisans.
• Distillation consists in evaporating a substance and condensing it back to liquid by very low temperatures. The fermented must is put in a “paila” (large pan) or container that is placed in an oven or boiler to make it boil. Alcoholic steams pass through a cooling coil, and then it condenses into drops and starts dripping already transformed in Pisco.
• By modern techniques, huge boilers are used. As we know, combustion is generated with petroleum or gas. The current traditional methods existing in artisan cellars still use “huarango” firewood that provides more heat. When working with firewood, it is said that even though the combustion time is longer, there is no sudden change of temperature, therefore the flavor of Pisco will be more palatable. The same occurs with meals prepared with firewood, which is more palatable.
• Fernando Lecaros states that small stills for distillation of aguardientes are as important as
old-fashioned containers where the authentic Scotch whisky is prepared. According to Lecaros and as previously mentioned, genuine aguardientes are obtained from distillation of musts when they are still hot, mixing the distilling heads (the first litres obtained from a lower boiling point) with the result of the distillation process and putting aside lees or “puchos” (dregs).
• In addition, Lecaros states that this form of distillation generates the aroma, bouquet and fragrance features of the genuine aguardiente: this form of distillation provides the aguardiente with high alcoholic degrees with a high percentage of impurities, which gives it a special feature. Depending on the distillation process choose, smoothness (characteristic of aguardientes) can be changed. So true is this fact that aguardientes called “choleros” (Pisco prepared by artisan producers in colonial distilleries), have the best quality due to the excess of impurities which in most cases are over 400 per thousand. They give rise to the aroma, bouquet and fragrance of this aguardiente, provides a pleasant palatable sensation because it completely hides the caustic action of alcohol”. Finally, Pisco is obtained and passed from a barrel to a container for conservation.