De La Cruz: From neighbourhood "abarrotes" store to distillery

Distillery: De la Cruz

Location: Lunahuaná, 3:30 hrs southeast of Lima, on the foothills of the Andes, in the same village as the one Rompe Mar´s distillery is located.

Distillery Founded in: 2008

Pisco Varieties: Quebranta, Italia, Uvina, Moscatel, Torontel, Acholado, MV Acholado, MV Quebranta, MV Italia

Our favorite pisco: The Acholado. It combines the freshness and citric notes of Italia with full-bodied and sweet Quebranta. Fresh & easy to drink.

We´re sipping a Chilcano (iconic pisco cocktail that is currently the frenzy of Lima) in his patio. Across from us, the distillery tanks, so new and shiny they could almost reflect the sun rays back at us. There´s background noises of workers busy filling up bottles. The work rhythm sits in stark contrast to the quietness of pueblo life. It wasn´t always so glittery for Lalo de la Cruz, the founder.

As we enjoy a glass of Chilcano during the interview, workers are busy filling up bottles of wine.

Lalo started out small. And when I say small, I mean very freaking small. He´d oppenned a tiny abarrotes (neighbourhood shop selling basic amenities) in front of a market in Cañete, a city 2 hrs south of Lima. But clients weren´t showing up, and 3 months in, he was broke. His grandfather, who´d been in the pisco, and cachina (a fortified wine made with a pisco base) business, dropped in one day and asked:

- "How´s the shop doing Lalo?"

- " Bad actually, minimal earnings." Lalo replies.

Lalo´s grandfather then suggests he go and buy three containers of 4 litres each, one containing wine, another cachina and another pisco, and put out a sign in front of his store that would read: " We´re selling pisco, wine, and cachina from Catapaya Lunahuaná." No later than two days later, Lalo returns to his grandfather with some cash and empty containers. Let me buy you more stuff, people are loving it! Every week he´d return, buying larger and larger quantities each time. Within three months, he´d sold his grandfather´s entire booze stock.


So Lalo then set off going from distillery to distillery in Lunahuaná, gathering all the pisco, cachina and wine he could get his hands on. He was buying the stuff in bulk, in 50 litre containers, and selling them in 500ml jars to be consumed directly at the store. By that time, the abarrotes store looked more like a neighbourhood bar where you went to exchange the latest gossip than a store. If customers wanted to take alcohol back home with them, they had to bring their own bottles to fill up.

As you enter the distillery, you´re obligated to walk in front of the extensive bar area. It´s hard to resist taking a drink or two

Three years later, he decided it was time to build his own distillery. That´s when he met Pepe (our Rompe Mar pisco master distiller). First, Pepe took Lalo to Chincha, where Lalo got his first still custom-built by the renowned Amoretti artisan. Pepe then began to teach him all the ropes of pisco production, and introducing him to everyone that could be of interest to Lalo. Pepe would either introduce Lalo as his disciple or as his cousin, depending on who they were talking to. Indeed, Lalo´s last name is Peña too, but that´s actually a mere coincidence - they´re not related at all. A few years later, Lalo begins competing in contests and kicking ass in them too, bringing back tons of medals home. Pepe exclaims: "It looks like the student has surpassed his master."

D´ la Cruz distillery is situated at the entrance of the village.

Lalo just beat me at a game of foosball. To my defence, he´s got the home advantage.