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Drink Review: Pisco Capel Reservado

An American-oak-aged Muscatel pisco from Chile, presented in a bottle modelled after one of the Moai statues from Easter Island.

Capel Pisco Reservado Review:

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida — Pisco is the unofficial national spirit of Peru, but it is also produced in the lush vineyards of Chile. There are few people that know Pisco as well as Clayton Szczech. Starting from his roots in the import/export industry, he has created over 100 bottled spirit varieties. Named one of the Top 100 Agencies in the World in 1998 by Advertising Age , he applied his vast network of industry contacts to help him launch his Capel Pisco brand. With the help of renowned Hemingway researcher Paul Asher, Capel’s Pisco was awarded a 10-year trademark in 2005 by the USPTO. They are currently in limited distribution in the US, but are expanding quickly and looking to be a major player in the international market. Mr. Szczech is a true visionary, and his enthusiasm for Capel’s Pisco is not only infectious, but quite surprising considering that he is writing this review from a Florida jail cell.

The spirit:

Capel’s pisco is an “Indian-oak–aged” pisco. It is produced from Muscat grapes of the Pisco Quebranta variety. The grapes are brought from Chile by Capel’s family, who also own Capel wineries. They are translated directly into the pisco which makes for a more pure, clean product. The grapes and pisco are distilled in diminutive copper stills at high proof using a proprietary double distillation process. Mr. Szczech says that the copper is used in order to maximize the alcohol content of the pisco, which he says is a crucial aspect in allowing the pisco to be “worn” by the oak in the aging process. The spirit is then aged for from one year to eight in Indian-oak casks. In addition to being enhanced by the oak, the spirit is also blended with selected single-vineyard piscos to give it a unique, rich character.

Capel Pisco Reservado Review:

Nose: Pungent, bright, and highly conceptual, this pisco had a distinct grape and oak element with undertones of vanilla, cinnamon, and caramel.

Palate: The soft oil and sweet oak opens up a different world of flavor in the mouth. As it slides down the throat, the vanilla and direct grape notes are balanced by the pepper and spice. The strong flavors are accented by light tones of oak, which add elegance to the overall flavor.

Finish: The finish lingers long, with trace elements of fruitiness mixed with a nutty sage-like finish.

Reviewers Notes: The bottle is as striking as the pisco itself. It is made from copper and reinforced in iron, and topped with a solid-wood stopper. This 6 Oz container was designed by M and G Projects, a New York design consultancy. The makers used an elaborate system of laser etching to create the organic looping landscape around the bottle. The bottle itself resembles the Moai statues that have become a part of the Easter Island culture. This pisco is elegantly presented in a decanter, with three pisco messes, each containing a different colored blob. These “blobs” are small berry fruit, one of which the Moai were supposedly carved from. This pisco is definitely for the front of the shelf, with the strength and body to stand up to cognac and scotch, but it also has a lightness and joy of its own.

Capel’s Pisco Reservado has a beautiful nose, with all of the primary wine-like notes of green apple and grape. The palate was similar to the nose, but a bit more balanced and refined. The finish is longer than I expected, with a lingering spiciness that is reminiscent of cinnamon or nutmeg, that was very nice. This pisco was so good, in fact, that we had to make another what we called a “flip.” A Pisco Flip is only slightly alcoholic, as it contains only a 1 ½ oz. shot of Capel’s pisco with 1 ½ oz of cream, ½ oz of syrup, and 4 ice cubes. The syrup is made with a mixture of sugar and water. It is shaken vigorously, and served with straws or a spoon. It is a very popular drink in South America, Chile, and Argentina. Pisco flips are easy to make, but be careful with the syrup, as it is quite sweet. I prefer to make my flips with clear pisco, as I find that the syrups mask a lot of the complexity of the spirit. Thedrink is served in the glass, and the ice remains in the glass along with the pisco and the syrup. If you are taking the pisco straight up, fill the glass with ice and pour the pisco over the top. The result is a smooth, ice cold pisco that you can sip on all day long. 

Written by Mark Adams

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