Pisco is technically a type of Brandy (a grape spirit). The biggest difference between Pisco and traditional French Brandies of Cognac and Armagnac isn't the geographical difference, but rather the stylistic properties of the resulting spirits.
Cognac, Armagnac and other Brandy replicas around the world start off with a fairly neutral base spirit which gains, for the most part, its flavour from the ageing process in oak. This is why the most expensive, and most complex, brandies are the ones which have been aged for a much longer time in oak barrels. Pisco on the other hand often doesn't see any time in oak and is a very aromatic base spirit. This is due to the grapes used for producing Pisco: the Muscat grape - one of the wine world's most aromatic white grapes.
Pisco is produced in both Chile and Peru, though it is most well known around the world for being Chile's number 1 native spirit. The Muscat grapes used for Pisco production in Chile are sourced from the Elqui Valley in northern Chile - where the premium grapes are grown. The regions just south of the Elqui, in Limari and Choapa are also highly prized for their Muscat grapes.
Production of Pisco starts off with the grape juice gained after a light pressing of the Muscat grapes. This juice is left on its skins to macerate - this is how it gains all its aromatic intensity - this process goes on in a chill room for about four to six days. After the course of the maceration, the wine will start to ferment as it warms up. It is at this point the grape skins are removed and the wine is allowed to undergo its full fermentation into a highly aromatic wine. Once this is complete, after three to four weeks, it is pot-distilled into Pisco.
As Pisco is known and admired for its aromatic intensity it often doesn't much or any time in oak. There are four classifications, however, which are:
|Unaged, and classic Pisco
|Aged for a short time (no legal definition - around two months) in large American oak barrels
|Aged for a slightly longer time than Especial (again, no legal definition - around six months) in large American oak barrels
|Aged for the longest time (surprised, no legal definition - up to two years) in large American oak barrels. This will give the resulting Pisco a slight yellow/golden hue due.