Did you know the oldest, continuously operating distillery in the Americas doesn’t produce whisky? Or vodka. Or rum. It makes pisco.
Pisco is a clear, distilled spirit made from fermented grape juice (wine). It can run anywhere from 76 to 96 proof. It has been referred to as “The Fifth White Spirit” (after vodka, gin, rum and tequila). Pisco can trace its origins back to the 16th century, when Spanish settlers discovered the hills of what is modern day Peru and Chile had some pretty darn good conditions for growing grapes. In time, the wine from these vineyards was distilled, and pisco was born.
In 1684, a pisco production facility, Destileria La Caravedo, was opened in the Ica Valley of southern Peru, and it’s been making pisco ever since.
Today Hacienda La Caravedo is known as an estate producer of premium pisco, which they refer to as “the soul and essence of wine.” And while distilling a high-quality product is of paramount importance, Hacienda La Caravedo is equally committed to being good stewards of the land and its people.
Hacienda La Caravedo does not use herbicides or pesticides in its vineyards. They allow nature to take its course and influence the development of each year’s harvest. Water is a key component in this process and the Ica Valley is a very dry desert with limited water resources. The distillery employs a state-of-the-art water recycling system the filters water so that it can be reused during the fermentation and distillation process, then finally for vineyard irrigation. Also, they use pisco to rinse out all bottles prior to filling to further reduce the Hacienda’s water consumption.
In 2010, the Hacienda made a large investment to create a new techno-artisanal distillery that would fuse the old and new production methods and provide meaningful work for the residents of Ica. The new distillery aids in conserving natural resources and protecting biodiversity, while maintaining the craft, heritage, and authenticity of the old-world ways of wine and pisco production.
A byproduct of crushing grapes is the pomace, the left-over skins, stems, seeds and pips that remain after the juice has been extracted from the berries. The Hacienda uses pomace to create compost that is then used in the vineyards. Pomace compost improves the soil structure, boosts positive microbiological activity, increases soil nitrogen, and provides minerals and other micronutrients to the vines. It also assists in keeping moisture in the desert soil and because of this insulating quality substantially reduces the amount of airborne sand and dust in the environment.
During the fermentation process, a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted. To combat its greenhouse gas emissions, the distillery ceilings are lined with planters and flower pots containing Sansevieria trifasciata (Snake Plant) that convert the CO2 to oxygen, and filters out formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and other toxins from the environment.
Though the oldest distillery in the Americas, Hacienda La Caravedo—which produces Caravedo Pisco, Pisco Portón and Pago de Los Frailes–shows some pretty progressive thinking in how it goes about taking care of the land, its people and the environment.