Distilled Spirits – Brandy – Peruvian Pisco (2)

Distilled Spirits – Brandy – Peruvian Pisco (2)

History of Pisco Production in Peru

The Early Steps in the 16th and 17th Centuries

At the dawn of the 16th century, with the foundation of Lima in 1535 under the name of Ciudad de los Reyes, the construction of churches in Peru began. This new liturgical need led to the planting of vineyards in the most fertile areas to supply wine for religious rituals. Marquess Francisco de Caravantes played a crucial role by importing the first grapevines from the Canary Islands towards the end of the first half of the century.

Around the year 1453, Chuquimanco, leader of the southern lands of Lima, watched at sunset as flocks of birds flew towards the marine horizon, seeking islands to rest; these birds, known in his language as “pishqus,” inspired his pottery people and gave them their name. This anecdote was recounted in 1550 by Pedro Cieza de León in “La crónica general del Perú,” where he highlights that “pisco is the name of birds.”

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Viceroyalty of Peru emerged as the largest wine producer in South America. The epicenter of this production was the Ica Valley, where Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera founded the “Villa de Valverde del Valle de Ica” in 1563, now known as Ica. In 1572, the town of “Santa María Magdalena del Valle de Pisco” emerged. However, it is recorded in the writings of the time that the first wine production in South America took place at the Marcahuasi estate, in Cuzco.

The Emergence of Pisco

Initially, grape production aimed primarily at making wine, but gradually the production of brandy also began to emerge. According to Peruvian historian Lorenzo Huertas, brandy production in Peru would have started in the mid-16th century. Additionally, research by Brown Kendall (American) and Jakob Schlüpman (German) indicates that the expansion of the wine and brandy market occurred in the late 16th century.

The General Archive of the Indies holds a petition made by Jerónimo de Loaysa and others in 1575 to “settle in the Pisco valley under certain conditions,” which was approved by the Spanish Crown on February 10, 1575. In the same archive, there is a copy of a royal provision dated November 26, 1595, granting Agustín Mesía de Mora the title of “public scribe, of mines and records and dispatches of ships from the port of Pisco, in Peru.”

In 1580, Sir Francis Drake raided the port of Pisco, demanding a ransom for the prisoners he captured. The villagers, to meet the ransom, offered him 300 jars of local brandy. Subsequently, in 1586, the sale of “cooked wine” from Peru was prohibited in Panama. Then, in 1614, the export of any type of wine to Panama was prohibited.

In 1613, there was documentary evidence in Ica of grape brandy production. The will of a resident named Pedro Manuel “the Greek,” originally from Corfu, Greece, testified to the possession of “thirty urn-filled jars of brandy, plus a barrel filled with brandy.” Additionally, the technological implements used in production were mentioned. However, it is inferred that brandy production had already begun long before.

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