Grimaldi: Balancing four generations of tradition with modern technology

Distillery: Grimaldi

Location: Chincha, 200km south of Lima along the Panamericana Sur

Distillery Founded in: 1883

Pisco Varieties: Quebranta, Mollar, Italia, Torontel, Acholado, Mosto Verde Mollar, Mosto Verde Torontel, Mosto Verde Italia, Mosto Verde Acholado

Our favorite Pisco: The Torontel Mosto Verde. Exquisitely fresh and sweet. Pronounced citric notes and light touches of honey and orange blossom.


Grimaldi is a name that is well known around Chincha. The distillery dates back to as far as 1883! Over the years, the distillery has maintained, if not, improved its reputation. How do you combine century-old tradition with modern technological advances? It is clear that a fine balance must be struck. Sam Cardenas, head of production and general manager of the distillery explains what it means for him to find that balance.



Grimaldi produces out of their own vineyards. They´ve been around for four generations, since the founding of the distillery by Ernesto Grimaldi in 1883.


Sam actually comes from a completely different background than pisco. He studied fishing engineering and worked in industrial fishing off the coast of Peru for many years before joining the Grimaldis. His sister had married Ernesto Grimaldi in 2003, and he became slowly but surely involved in the family business. At first, it was just on an ad hoc basis, to help his in-laws out. But then he started liking it. And he applied his engineer mind to good use- modernizing the distillery.


He sought advice from a man named Edwin Landeo, an oenologist who is considered to be the main driving force behind the pisco industry´s modernization. He has helped the pisco world to become more professional, modern, precise, and with stricter application of production protocols. Some may look at this change with a nostalgic glare- gone are the days of artisanal production, in which master distillers contributed to the glory or downfall of distilleries! I say, good! It´s about time! I believe technology is paramount to quality and consistent production. Over the years, I´ve talked to about 50 distillers and visited at least 20 distilleries, and what I´ve noticed is that the distilleries with the most consistent pisco qualities are those which are run by nerdy engineers applying strict production controls rather than eccentrics inspired by whatever may inspire them to determine when it´s time to cut the head and tail during the distillation phase.



The distillery suffered heavy damage during the 2007 pisco earthquake. The newly constructed roof offers generous shade, keeping temperatures cool in the distillery. Advanced cooling equipment is also employed to control temperatures during the maceration & fermentation processes.


It so happens that Grimaldi is very, very consistent when it comes to pisco qualities. It also turns out that Sam Cardenas is of the engineer geek type. Thanks to his arduous efforts, Grimaldi has maintained a healthy balance between the kind of tradition that is only achievable after four generations of pisco producers and modern standardized protocols to control every step of the production process. Still, that doesn´t mean you shouldn´t trust your taste buds, he adds. "If it´s theoretically time to remove the tail (in distillation), but the liquid that comes out still tastes good, then you gotta keep making pisco!"


Sam also makes one point crystal clear. No matter how much technology you employ, or how many years of experience you have elaborating pisco, you have to be there as much as possible during the production phase, making sure nothing is left to chance. His favorite time of the year is when the distillery produces its batches of Mosto Verdes (piscos produced by interrupting the fermentation process earlier, resulting in a higher sugar concentration in the liquid, which have the effect of producing more aromatic piscos). "When I make Mosto Verdes, I practically don´t sleep for weeks. I´m by the still day and night, I love it. I forbid all staff to enter the distillery besides from one employee to help me out. My wife wants to kill me. I even have a little mattress in the distillery.”



When I make Mosto Verdes, I practically don´t sleep for weeks. I´m by the still day and night, I love it.


SAM CARDENAS


Last year for instance, he was there 2 weeks living such hectic rhythm! As I sip the Torontel Mosto Verde, I realize those two weeks are what I call time well spent.



Juan Almeyda, who´s been in charge of the distillery´s vineyards for 15 years now, explains the ins and outs of vineyard upkeep.



As per usual, I had to take narrow dirt tracks to get to the remote vineyards


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