Ker & Downey’s Bekah McNeel explores the classic welcome cocktail of Peru.

Pisco sours are the classic welcome cocktail all long the west coast of South America. In Peru, the spirit is more than the base for a mix drink. It is a point of national pride, finely crafted and innately bonded with the land.

Terroir describes all of the natural elements combined in a product. The climate, elevation, temperature, soil composition, and air quality influence the character of the wine or spirit derived from the fruit of a specific region. Which is why Peruvians take such pride in their pisco. The clear brandy can only be distilled from grapes grown in the departments along the southern coastline, Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua, and certain valleys in Tacna.

porton grapes

This specificity matters, because pisco depends more heavily on the land than many other spirits. The Comisión Nacional del Pisco de Perú prohibits additives (even water) or barrel aging pisco in wooden containers. It is 100% grape derived, and can reach 86 proof in one three-month distillation. This is only made possible by the distinctive elements of the Ica region’s unique terroir.

With less than an inch of rain per year the Ica region is largely desert. For the oases in the western foothills of the Andes, irrigated by glacial melt and cooled at night by the Humboldt current, a microclimate creates ideal conditions for the eight grape varietals used in Peruvian pisco.

At Hacienda La Caravedo, home of Pisco Porton, the terroir is a major player. The sandy lome – franco arenas – has allowed the master distillers to hone their product in an organic, artisanal fashion. The soil holds heat, increasing the sugar content in the grapes, allowing the single distillation to produce the required 38-48 percent alcohol content. The growers recycle the water left over from the traditional stills – falcas – to use for irrigation, and they weed the crops by hand. The prunings are laid on the desert road to prevent dust from reaching the grapes so that the skins can go unwashed into the stills, preserving their richness.

pisco porton

Master distiller Johnny Schuler has become a celebrity in the spirit industry and foremost ambassador for pisco around the world. He has raised the profile of the highly regional pisco by playing with the flavor profiles without compromising the integrity of the drink. He travels the world as a regional ambassador, but when he returns home to Ica, Ker and Downey has opportunities for VIP tastings with the pisco master.

Ica and the pisco roads make a great extension to any of Ker and Downey’s Peru itineraries. Ask you Ker & Downey consultant about arranging a visit with Schuler or another expert pisco distiller.

pisco sour

For more information about adding an extension to your Peru itinerary, contact your Ker & Downey travel professional or visit us online at To stay up to date on all of our online content, follow us on Facebook.