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  • Kami Kenna

A Tale of 2 D.O.s: Pisco & Mezcal

Comparing and contrasting two spirit categories helps add dimension to our understanding of them. For most of the last 10 years, I have lived and worked in and around the spirits of Latin America, and more specifically those of Mexico and Peru.

This information is meant to be easy to digest, and functions to locate pisco and mezcal as two spirits with not only large (in size) Denominations of Origin but a great deal of fascinating history behind them as well.

Etymologically speaking, both are tied to the pre-Colombian societies that pre-dated the arrival of the Iberians to each of the American continents. Pisco comes from pishqu meaning bird in Quechua, the language of the Incas. The word mezcal is from metl ixcalli, meaning oven-cooked agave, in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.

Both spirits have specific categories and classifications within their perspective D.O.s and both use raw materials that speak to their individual terroirs. The majority of all agave species in existence are endemic to Mexico, and all are endemic to the Americas. In Peru, the traditional grapes introduced during the colonial era have crossed or mutated over the course of nearly 500 years creating genotypes that only exist in Peru. These grape families are referred to as the criolla grapes and only recently has a great deal of research been done to identify them. Criolla as a concept refers to a person or thing of Spanish descent, born or developed in the Americas, such that music can be criolla, food can be criolla, a person can be criolla and in this case, grape varieties are criolla.

Salud con pisco y mezcal!

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