Distilled Spirits – Brandy – Peruvian Pisco (3)

Distilled Spirits – Brandy – Peruvian Pisco (3)

In the 17th century, there was an exciting chapter in history related to a unique beverage: grape brandy. It all began in 1617 when the production of this type of drink experienced a notable increase. The ones responsible for its creation were the Jesuits, and its sale spread through cities like Lima, Arequipa, Cuzco, Ayacucho, and Potosí, in a region known as Alto Perú. Experts like Brown Kendall and Jakob Schlüpman confirmed that this beverage gained great popularity during the 17th century.

A significant milestone came in 1749 when a Spaniard named Francisco López de Caravantes made a notable contribution. He decided to associate this brandy with a specific place, naming it “Pisco brandy.” Caravantes explained that the Pisco Valley produced excellent wines that gave rise to this special brandy.

With the increase in the production of brandy and wine, the need arose to export these products to other regions of the Spanish Empire, primarily through the port of Pisco. Throughout the mid-17th century, trade experienced steady growth, and ships transported these valuable beverages to various ports in the Pacific.

Despite the Spanish leaders’ attempts to limit the production and sale of wine in Peru, people’s passion for this activity remained strong, especially in a place called Ica. This created constant hustle and bustle on the Pacific coast.

The laws enacted by Kings Philip III and Philip IV in 1615 and 1626 sought to prohibit the sale of Peruvian wine in Guatemala due to its high alcohol content and the problems it caused among the indigenous population. However, it is believed that a Jesuit named Diego Torres Bollo influenced the king to modify these laws. Jakob Schlüpman also noted that, despite these restrictions, people continued to produce wine in Ica.

In 1640, during the government of Viceroy Pedro de Toledo y Leiva, a place called Pisco was established.

Later, in 1653, historian Bernabé Cobo noted that indigenous people loved a beverage called brandy that was made in the Pisco Valley.

From 1670 onwards, the valleys of Ica and Pisco began to export more brandy than wine. This was due to the distillation of wine by-products to create brandy. Ancient documents corroborate the frequency of this practice.

Pisco Sour

In 1684, the landowners in the area established a sort of customs post in Pisco, a commercial checkpoint to oversee the exchange of goods. In 1692 and 1693, similar customs posts were set up in Ica, Palpa, and Cerro Azul.

The city of Pisco boasted five churches, including the Compañía and San Juan de Dios. However, its prosperity was interrupted in 1685 when an English pirate plundered the city. An earthquake in 1687, followed by a devastating tsunami, caused even more damage. Despite the sandy nature of the soil, the vines thrived by tapping into underground water. Pisco sent its wines and brandies both to Lima and to destinations such as Panama, Guayaquil, and other places in the mountains.

However, in 1687, an earthquake shook everything and was followed by a giant wave that destroyed Pisco, Ica, and other coastal towns in Peru. This disaster profoundly impacted the wine industry in the region.

As a consequence of all these events, in 1689, the reconstruction of Pisco began in a slightly different location. The new designation chosen was “Villa de Nuestra Señora de la Concordia de Pisco”.

In summary, the 18th century hosted a fascinating chapter in the history of grape brandy in Peru. From its Jesuit origins in the 17th century to its expansion and the challenges it faced, the story of Pisco and its brandy intertwines with commercial development, natural phenomena, and human resilience, leaving a lasting mark on the culture and heritage of the region.

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