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Alto del Carmen Pisco Reservado
About Alto del Carmen Pisco Reservado
This bottle of Alto del Carmen Pisco Reservado is produced in the town of Alto del Carmen, Chile – way up in the Huasco Valley region of the Andes mountains. Owned by the company CAPEL, Alto del Carmen has become one of the most respected brands of Pisco in Chile as well as the United States. The word Pisco comes from the word “bird” in the Quechua language, as we can see clearly in the bottle’s branding. The logo features a Condor taking flight, and the official Alto del Carmen website leans heavily into this Condor metaphor when describing their inspiration to make a superior quality product.
The Muscat grapes themselves are grown in the Huasco, Elqui and Limarí valleys in the Andes. Overall, Alto del Carmen seems to take great pride in the quality of their ingredients, from the selection of grapes to the natural spring water used in production. According to their website, this Pisco is distilled using copper stills with a discontinuous cycle. After that, it is aged for about 6 months in American White Oak barrels.
❖ Distillery: CAPEL Pisco Distillery
❖ ABV: 40%
❖ Aging: 6 months
❖ Price Point: low-priced
Below are the tasting notes listed on the Alto del Carmen website:
❖ Muscat grape (floral aroma)
❖ Dried fruits
❖ Muscat grape
❖ Toasted wood
My tasting notes
Upon giving this Pisco a good smell, the nose notes are very delightful. There is a noticeable grape scent that is light and delicate. After several sniffs, I could make out the slight hint of caramel. The dried fruit notes were a bit harder to pick out. They were so subtle that it was hard for my nose to separate and identify the different fruity aromas. In the end, I felt that it took the power of suggestion to truly make out the dried fruit scent.
When I took my first sip, it felt very strong, with most of the flavor coming during the finish and aftertaste. Though the word “aftertaste” often has an unpleasant connotation, the aftertaste of this Pisco was very pleasant indeed. The flavor was very sweet, with the delicate grape notes coming out most prominently. My second taste felt much softer, and I could enjoy the sweet grape flavor throughout. The alcohol tastes strong – but instead of a biting quality, it has more of a tingle. It almost felt as if the alcohol was dancing on my taste buds. It wasn’t until the 5th or 6th sip that I could make out the notes of toasted wood. I found these woody notes to be very subtle. Overall, the experience of tasting Alto del Carmen Reservado straight was a pleasant experience.
For my cocktail, I decided to try out one of the cocktails that Alto del Carmen has listed on their official website: the ALTOnic. I did my best to translate their recipe into U.S. measurements and English so our readers can make and enjoy it, too! This drink is basically a Pisco Tonic, with a little extra pizazz in the garnish department.
❖ 2 oz Alto del Carmen Pisco
❖ 4 oz tonic
❖ zest of 1 orange
❖ sprig of Rosemary
Fill a large glass with ice, remove any excess water, and add the rosemary sprig.
Add the Pisco, and then follow up with the tonic.
Stir gently and perfume/decorate with the orange zest.
I found the ALTOnic to be very refreshing. This Pisco balanced out the tonic water nicely with its subtle sweetness. Compared to other forms of brandy, I also found it to be much smoother and less intense inside of a cocktail. It almost has a champagne-like flavor. Like champagne, it tastes light and refreshing rather than strong and grounding – despite the fact that the proof is more similar to brandy.
Pro tip: Since most of the orange zest sinks to the bottom, make sure not to use a straw for this cocktail. In order to enjoy the balanced flavors, this cocktail is best sipped normally from the top.
I really enjoyed this bottle of Alto del Carmen Pisco Reservado. As you can see in the photos, I made it through quite a bit of that bottle before getting around to my official review tasting. I find that the flavors of Alto del Carmen really spark my creativity when it comes to inventing my own cocktails. It blends well with a variety of different mixers, and always tastes delicious.
I also really love how smooth it is. As I mentioned earlier, I found this Pisco to be very gentle in the mouth. It’s a great choice for folks who are sensitive to strong alcohol and wince when they drink straight liquors. It’s very versatile, and can easily be enjoyed straight or in a cocktail. I highly recommend it for both purposes. Especially considering the low price point, it is very impressive.
On another note, I also appreciate this brand from a conscious consumer perspective. As part of the larger CAPEL company, Alto del Carmen Pisco is produced through the Cooperativa Agrícola y Pisquera Elqui Limitada, a cooperative of small farmers in the area. Founded in 1938, this cooperative with over 1,000 owners is based on principles of equality and fairness for everyone involved. These are principles I love to see in the companies I purchase from, and I know a lot of you feel the same way. This is definitely a bottle you can feel good about!
As always, drink responsibly.
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