It was not much more than a century ago that, thanks to a bar in San Francisco’s Bank Exchange, the then little-known national spirit of Peru started making an impact on the international stage. Since then, due to under-appreciation by Peruvians, Chile sneakily claimed ownership of the Pisco brand, making and exporting a greatly inferior mass-produced imitation product that had run the spirit’s reputation abroad into the ground. For many outside Chile, Pisco was now considered junk.
The word is finally out, again, that Pisco is Peruvian and the only place that produces the uniquely-distilled grape brandy that is of the quality needed to create the buzz it once had ten decades ago is Peru.
The 15th National Pisco Competition concluded this past Sunday with a record 326 entries from almost 100 producers from the regions of Lima, Ica, Moquegua, Arequipa and Tacna. As well as a competition it was also a celebration of the progress that has been made. According to figures released by the government, national consumption has increased 35% in the past few years and there has been a noticeable increase in awareness of and pride in the Pisco spirit.
When Chile launched a new campaign in 2003 to convince the world that pisco was invented in and took its name from the Chilean town of Pisco Elqui, a town renamed from La Unión to make the lie possible, Peruvian producers finally decided to fight back. With the help of the Government, they launched a campaign to promote the spirit at a national level so that production could climb above the tiny amount of 2 million litres a year compared to Chile’s 40-something million. Heavy promotion abroad has meant exports have increased exponentially, from 58,000 in 2003 to 610,000 in 2007 and it is again being recognised for its excellence. Across the US for example where 410,000 litres were imported last year, it is now far easier to find the Peruvian product than it once was.
Funnily, the second largest market for Peruvian pisco is… Chile.
Pisco is of course the base for Peru’s famous Pisco Sour…