Distillery: Alto los Trinos
Location: Azpitia, just 100km south of Lima on the Panamericana Sur.
Distillery founded in: 2009
Pisco Varieties: Mollar, Italia, Torontel
Our favorite pisco: A 47% Mollar that was amazingly smoooooth despite the strong alcohol content. I swear you could just sip it like water.
As I drive along a winding dust road across the vineyards, I try hard to remember I´m only 100km away from Lima, the capital that counts over 10 million souls. Around me, just dust, vineyards, a few hills and the sound of birds chirping. It´s this bucolic location that José Armando has chosen to build his vacation home and distillery back in 2009. Armando has always had a love for the campo life. He´d spent the larger part of his childhood years living in the countryside in his family´s hacienda, in the south of the country. Then, in 1968, they lost large parts of their properties due to the land reform. Armando never forgot the countryside.
After graduating from university with a diploma in industrial engineering, Armando begins to work as an architect. He´s exercised the profession most of his life, until he decided to get into pisco making. Why the sudden change of course? Remember I said that Armando never forgot the countryside? Well, Azpitia´s proximity to Lima offered Armando with a unique chance to still breathe clean air on a regular basis. During his time living in Lima, he´d practically escape to Azpitia every week-end. Azpitia is the first pisco producing valley upon leaving Lima and heading south. It´s replete with vineyards and bodegas. So, naturally, Armando would hang out with pisco producers on his weekend escapades.
In 2009, he decides it´s time to take the great leap. Upon finding a plot of land perched up between verdoyant hills filled with Italia vineyards, he decides to purchase it and put his architectural talents to use by building his vacation home and distillery there. He builds it in an odd fashion: entirely out of clay. "After the 2007 pisco earthquake (519 casualties), I decided it was important to build a house that would be seismic resistant, and also reflect traditional Peruvian architecture. I thus decided to employ clay. Did you know that 85% of unifamiliar homes in the world are made of clay?"
Armando built his house out of clay, a material used by 85% of unifamiliar homes around the world. The structure is made to withstand earthquakes, which are common in Peru. The front of the house inspired the logo of the brand.
At the same time as Armando built the house, he also planted vineyards. There were already some vineyards on the property but he needed more, as his intend is to own the entire pisco creation process, from the field to the glass. Armando goes on saying: " I want to make pisco with the respect that it deserves". What does he mean by that? Specifically, three things. First, no use of plastic in its elaboration; typically, Rotoplas plastic tanks are used during the fermentation or rest phase, as they are much cheaper than stainless steel tanks. However, they tend to give off a slight unpleasant flavour to the pisco. In any case, recent regulation now mandates that all plastic tanks be replaced with stainless steel tanks within 3 years. Second, it means a rigorous filtering process to remove all impurities. Notably, Armando uses a copper ionizer to remove all copper deposits. Third, it means using his own vineyards. It´s a rather unique experience to produce a pisco that has come out of the very vineyard that you tended to and patiently watched grow over the years. Finally, all his piscos are rested during a minimum period of 24 months, period during which they gain in roundness and harmony.
I want to make pisco with the respect that it deserves
Alto los Trinos is a distillery that takes a cradle to the grave approach to the pisco production. 100% of the pisco produced comes from their very own vineyards.
It´s a pretty magical moment when you´re distilling your pisco, standing long hours deep into the night by the still. It feels like you´re giving birth to a baby
As we discuss the various ways in which one has to control pisco quality, we touch upon an interesting point. There´s often a misconception about what it means to be a small distillery, Armando notes. People think that a small distillery is good because it makes its piscos in an artisanal way. In fact, people are confused about what the word artisanal means. Artisanal shouldn´t mean a lack of control and informality during the production process. Quiete the opposite: It´s not because a distillery is artisanal that it can´t use the latest technology to control methodically each step of the elaboration process and, in so doing, ensure that pisco of the highest quality and consistency is obtained.
There´s some jazz music playing in the background. It´s being blasted out of subwoofers that were used in Woodstock. Armando admits that he´s a big music fan- the sound equipment is so top notch that it feels we actually are at Woodstock. Perhaps the secret lies there. A boundless passion for the substance, ie, the pisco or music, combined with a strict attention to every detail of to the production process- to extract the very best out of those grapes or jazz notes.
As we´re discussing the importance of the use of technology and modern equipment in pisco production, jazz sound is coming out of subwoofers that were used during Woodstock.