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Pisco Review: Barsol Primero Quebranta Pisco

Pisco has lingered as the “next big thing” in the American market for the past several years now, but it still has not achieved anything resembling breakthrough success. This unaged grape spirit from South America  — a type of brandy, although closer to grappa in character — is popular with many cocktail enthusiasts and bartenders, but little known among the general public.

By law, pisco must be made in either Chile or Peru, and it must conform to the established practices of those countries. The two vary somewhat with regards to the type of grapes that may be used and the distillation process — which country makes the “true” pisco is a matter of some debate — but the resulting spirit is not dissimilar.

Barsol Primero pisco is made in the Ica Valley of Peru, in one of the oldest distilleries in the Americas. It is crafted in small batches from 100% quebranta grapes, generally regarded as the strongest of all pisco grape varietals. It is pot distilled to bottle proof, with neither water nor any other ingredients added.

The resulting spirit is crystal clear and transparent, with a ripe, fruity aroma. There is no doubt that this is distilled from grapes — it smells not unlike wine, with bread/yeast elements as well. After it opens up for several minutes it starts to take on a slightly musty odor as well.

The taste is rough and rustic. This is, after all, an unaged spirit, and it shows. (Pisco does “rest” in stainless steel tanks for at least three months after distillation, but this does little to smooth out the sharp edges.) There is lots of rich, berry fruit, but very little sweetness. It is somewhat hot on the tongue, with a bitterness that reminds me of dark chocolate. The finish is medium-long and slightly astringent.

You probably wouldn’t drink this spirit neat, but it is recommended for cocktails, especially the classic Pisco Sour or Pisco Punch.

Barsol Pisco Primero

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Brandy & Liqueur Reviews: Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac and Dry Curaçao

Pierre_ferrand_cognacPierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac
Brandy/Cognac
Final Grade: B+
Price: $45 (750ml)

Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
Orange Liqueur
Final Grade: A-
Price: $30 (750ml)

Cognac Ferrand is one of the hottest companies in the spirits world today. Mixologists, critics and connoisseurs have been following the French distillery with great interest as they introduce one excellent product after another. The force behind the fine line of Plantation Rums, in addition to their cognacs, Pierre Ferrand is noted for spirits that are especially well suited both for cocktails and for enjoying on their own.

As a result, I was excited to try two of the companies latest products: Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac and Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao. Both were developed by the experts at Cognac Ferrand, with assistance from the esteemed cocktail and spirits historian David Wondrich.

The 1840 Original Formula Cognac is what was referred to in the 19th century as a "three star" cognac — the equivalent today to what is typically called "VS." It's a younger brandy, lively and with lots of flavor. It was modeled after an extremely rare cognac that had been preserved from 1840, and is designed primarily to be mixed in cocktails.

Dry_curacaoThis cognac has a grapey, slightly floral aroma. Pleasant, although without a lot of complexity. The flavor is rich and slightly sweet, with just enough oak to give it some nice, spicy notes. It is very smooth for a 90-proof brandy, with a medium-long finish. You could certainly sip this cognac if you wanted, and enjoy it quite well.

Like the cognac, the Dry Curaçao was developed to mirror the style of a 19th-century predecessor. It's blended from brandy and cognac, flavored with the peels of Curaçao oranges and various spices, and then barrel aged to smooth out the rough edges. This is what traditional curaçao is supposed to taste like.

This curaçao opens with a bright and authentic smell of sweet oranges. It has none of the artificial aroma of cheap orange liqueur — this is the real stuff. The flavor follows in the same fashion: sweet and rich, bursting with orange flavor and hints of vanilla. It's not quite as complex as I might have wished. A touch more spice would have really sent it over the moon. But it's undeniably very tasty and well balanced. (And also extremely smooth for its 80 proof.)

Good enough as they are on their own, these products were both developed to be mixed in cocktails, so that's where the true proof lies. One of the cocktails suggested by the distillery is a Brandy Crusta, and I thought that would be an ideal way to sample these two spirits in conjunction with each other.

Brandy Crusta
from Julie Reiner, Clover Club (NYC)

2 oz Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac
1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Dash of Angostura Bitters

Rim a snifter with sugar. Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into the snifter filled with ice cubes. Garnish with an orange peel.

Brandy_crusta

What a delicious cocktail! The flavors blend together perfectly; the sweetness of the curaçao balancing with the lemon juice, the maraschino adding delightful floral notes, and the bitters adding some spice to bring it all together. I don't ordinarily drink brandy cocktails, but this one is definitely going in the repertoire.

As good as they are individually, the Pierre Ferrand cognac and curaçao mix up beautifully, especially when used together. They're definite winners.

Report Card: Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac

Quality Grade: B+
Value Grade: B
Final Grade: B+

Report Card: Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao

Quality Grade: A-
Value Grade: A-
Final Grade: A-