Before the holidays, I met with the brand ambassadors of Torres Brandy and did a tasting of their entire set of spirits from their "El Gobernador Pisco" to their ultra-premium brandy, "Jaime I". Having previously shot for the Torres 15 at the Employee's Only Repeal Day party with Thirsty Mag, I was eager to dip my toes into the world of brandy as I had limited tasting experience within the category. The Torres team were kind enough to invite me out for a night of tasting their delectable spirits and learning about each spirit's origin, notes, and production method, in addition to some general sophisticated conversation. Let's just say, by the end of the night, I was blown away by the quality of the set as a whole and with the brand itself. Torres, one of the world's premier winemaking families, winning "The World's Most Admired Wine Brand" in 2014 and 2015, have more than 80 years of distilling expertise and great grapes, and great wine, means great spirits. I'm excited to share my take on a couple cocktails using the Torres spirits, as well as highlighting my two favorites of the group: the Pisco and the 15-year brandy.
What are Brandy and "Pisco"?
Brandy (a.k.a brandywine, derived from Dutch brandewijn, gebrande wijn or "burned wine") is a spirit produced by distilling wine. The term "brandy" also denotes liquors obtained from the wines of other fruits. Apples, cherries, plums, pears, and peaches have all been distilled into what are called fruit brandies or eau de vie (a clear, colorless, fruit brandy). Brandy generally contains 35–60% alcohol by volume (ABV) which is 70-120 proof. Some are aged in wooden casks, some are colored with caramel coloring to imitate the effect of aging, and others are produced using a combination of both aging and coloring to get the desired color of preference. There are many types of brandy found across the winemaking regions of the world. Among the most renowned, and most familiar, are Cognac and Armagnac from France.
Pisco is, essentially, a type of South American brandy, typically from Peru and Chile (although Torres ambassador Adriana Soley likes to point out that grapes from Peru / Chile were brought over from Spain in the 15th & 16th century as the Spanish settled and colonized this region, so it could be said that all "South American" brandy is actually Spanish...but I will leave that one up for debate). One of the key traits separating Pisco from other brandies is that Pisco can't, by law, be aged in wood and can only be distilled once, in a copper still. This is what gives Pisco its bright, floral, slightly sweet, grape flavor profile.
Of all the products I tasted, I have to say that the Torres 15 was probably my favorite (for a few reasons). As somebody who is familiar with the flavor profiles of whiskey, tasting the Torres 15 was similar enough for me to understand the true quality of what was in the glass. The Torres 15 is aged in new American oak for 2 to 3 years, depending on the conditions, and is then transferred to the solera system in American barrels where the brandy is then aged up to 15 years. Because of the aging methods used, the Torres 15 is a rich, smokey, full-bodied brandy with notes of pitted-fruits, vanilla, toffee and coffee. This profile is similar to that of a bourbon or single malt, although, in all honesty, the Torres 15 provides more depth of flavor and is my preference to the former, especially at its price point.
Cocktail: The Spanish Crusta
This cocktail is a take on the Brandy Crusta, which was invented by an Italian bartender named Joseph Santini in New Orleans, it was one of the city’s first notable cocktails (yes, even before the classic Sazerac); originally mixed in the 1850s. The crusta has quite the cult following and should only be made with a quality brandy. Other than the Sidecar, it is one of the best brandy-based cocktails to highlight the quality of the spirit.
1 3/4 oz @torres15oficial Brandy
1/2 oz Lemon
1/2 oz Torres Orange (Torres' Orange Liqueur)
1/2 oz Demerara Syrup
1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
Garnish: Lemon twist (optional sugar rim)
Mixing Instructions: Mix | Shake | Strain | Sip
Pisco El Gobernador
Tasting the El Gobernador was my first time ever tasting Pisco neat (yes, really). Since then, it has become one of my favorite spirits to sip on and mix in a cocktail. This spirit was filled with so much unique flavor that I couldn't feel anything other than pure excitement when thinking about all the potential drink possibilities. El Gobernador is distilled from fermented Rosé Muscatel and Muscat of Alexandria grape varieties. It is left resting in stainless steel for 60 days before being bottled, never touching a barrel. It has an exuberant floral scent with notes of roses and jasmines, in addition to citrus peels. On the palate, it is bright and grassy, with fresh grape being the primary flavor coming through. Pisco is truly in a class of its own and I am thrilled to share my first, original Pisco-based cocktail recipe I named, Despacito.
When tasting the Pisco, I was given two classes of cocktails to taste with the spirit itself to have an understanding of how it plays with other ingredients. I found that I thoroughly enjoyed it in a sour so I went that route. I named it Despacito because, outside of the pop-culture relevance, this cocktail is one that should be sipped slowly to savor every delicious flavor...although I can't promise doing so will be easy.
1 1/2 oz Pisco
1/2 oz Demerara Syrup
1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1/4 oz Lime
1/4 oz Lemon
1/4 oz Aperol
1 Egg White
Garnish: Rosemary and Lemon Express
Mixing Instructions: Mix all ingredients in shaker, dry shake (shake without ice to blend), add ice, wet shake, double strain into glass and garnish / sip.