Peruvian Pisco is a grape brandy or "aguardiente", distilled from fresh grape. Its alcohol content is around 42°. The word "Pisscu" means seagull in quechua, the Inca language. It is also the name of the port from where it was shipped, as can be seen in maps dating back to the late sixteenth century.
The four Pisco varieties are defined by flavor, according to the grape which has been used:
Pisco puro with a delicate flavor (from non-aromatic grapes such as Quebranta, Mollar or black grapes);
Pisco Aromatico (aromatic grapes such as Moscatel, Italia, Torontel and Albilla);
Pisco Acholado (mixture of different grape varieties) and
Pisco Mosto Verde (from grape that has not been fully fermented)
Pisco is the product of good grapes, good soil and an optimum climate. These virtues are to be found in the pisco-making valleys starting at Cañete, 90 miles south of Lima, Perú. The pisco grapes require a loose sandy loam with high salinity, where its roots can grow deep, and with a pH (a measure of the acidity of the soil) between 6,6 and 7,5. The composition of the soil and the temperature in these valleys enable the grapes to grow vigorously and prodigiously, with sufficient sugar to make a good pisco.
Obviously, each valley has its own preferred varieties, which have their own characteristics. Altitude varies from sea level to 4 900 ft.
Most pisco producers are in the south of the country. This core area includes the places where liquor was distilled in colonial times. It has its own history and although many distilleries have disappeared, or only vestiges remain, many have a lineage going back many generations and preserve the tradition of Peruvian pisco. This phenomenon of family ties can be seen in both artisanal and industrial production.