Three Key Differences Between Pisco and Whiskey

One of the most famous and loved Peruvian cocktails is the Pisco Sour. Refreshing citrus drink with a good dose of bitterness and spirit. The main spirit behind this drink is Pisco. And there's a variety of Pisco Sour that's usually just below the menu, the Whiskey Sour.

Both drinks are incredible, but why does Whiskey manage to have a similar result with its cocktail version? Is it better or worse than Pisco or maybe it doesn't matter? To answer these questions, let's determine the significant difference between the famous Pisco and Peru Whiskey.

Pisco is a type of brandy, not whiskey

The most technical difference between Pisco and any whiskey is that it is a kind of brandy. Brandy is a type of liquor obtained from the fermentation and distillation of any fruit, while whiskey is obtained from the use of cereals. Think of Pisco as wine and Whiskey as beer, with additional steps.

Brandies are quite specific to their origins and processes. Peruvian Pisco uses Moscato or Italia grapes explicitly grown in these five regions: Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna. Therefore, no one else outside of Peru and Chile can produce Pisco.

The distillation and aging process

Pisco and Whiskey generally have a similar start in the production process of these spirits. Both use copper stills to remove unpleasant sulfur-based compounds and prevent bacterial growth. Both are fermented in specialized containers until a maturation date, which can be determined by the percentage of alcohol formed in the liquid. But it is in the subsequent processes that these two spirits differ.

Pisco is aged in containers made of glass or non-reactive material, while Whiskey uses oak barrels as the spirit does not mature in glass containers. For aging whiskey, the usual oak barrels or some special wooden barrels are used to add flavor to the final product.

Additionally, Peruvian Pisco does not undergo dilution (adding water to reduce concentration) and is bottled directly immediately after distillation, unlike its Chilean counterpart.

Pisco is sweeter than whiskey

Since Pisco is made from grapes and its specific process, it is relatively sweeter than Whiskey. Of course, Pisco tastes like grapes with a bit of citrus or vanilla notes. Pisco has no earthy or woody smell, a characteristic common to whiskey because it is aged in oak barrels.

If you try to focus on their tastes, Pisco and Whiskey are opposites of the same coin. One is fruity, while the other tastes like cereal. The Pisco has a citrusy and playful profile, while the Whiskey is earthy and delicately scented with wood. Both give that relaxing taste of good mood in different blends.


So the verdict is that Pisco is not the same as Whisky, or neither replaces the other. Pisco offers a different flavor profile than whiskey straight or in cocktails. The Pisco sour offers a different vibe than the Whiskey sour. The Pisco sour is perfect for evenings when you want to dance to exciting music, while the Whiskey sour is great in a relaxing environment. If you ask which is better, I love them both.

Try both of these liqueurs and their cocktails. Find out what kind of mood pisco brings you and share it with your friends and family.

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