Pisco Elqui in Chile

During our trip in 2013 we did spend quite some time in Chile. This was the first time when we got to taste Pisco and the national cocktail Pisco Sour. As part of this trip we decide to visit one of the places in which Pisco is being produced since old times. The Elqui valley is famous for Pisco to the point that they renamed a small village to Pisco Elqui in the 1930s. This is our destination after crossing over from Argentina to Chile via the Paso De Agua Negra.

 

The first thing that we notice are a lot of what looks like vineyards. They occupy even the last corner of the valley we pass through. Up to very steep slopes you can see something growing. While coming down the pass many of the plants, however, look dead and dried out. As we turn into the Elqui valley it is a very different picture and very green everywhere. We  have arrived and ready to dive into the Pisco experience.

 

It is not however until we organize Chilean Pesos and find a spot to camp for the night. No bank, no cash machine, nobody takes credit cards. Yes, you are in a touristic area but still somewhat off the main stream. Instead there are a lot of backpackers. We finally find a camping site and a friendly host who is prepared to change some US Dollars into Chilean Pesos at the official rate with no extra fee. We are all set but it’s too late for a tour at one of the Pisco distilleries.

 

Instead we take a walk through the small village and are still amazed about the really interesting mix of people you see here. From old hippies, young backpackers to general tourists that come here by organized bus tours for the day. As there is only a tiny road through the village there is a lot of chaos the whole day.

There are plenty of small restaurants and bars. After having a Pisco Sour to start with we move into a nice restaurant at the main square. We really love camping on our own in the middle of nowhere and cooking our own meals is fine, too. However, on this trip with the limited supplies we could pick up the menu sort of lasted only three or four days maximum until it repeated itself.

 

Apart from just a few days here and there we almost never stopped in a town either. That’s why we really enjoyed a nice steak with a good bottle of wine in this little village. It was really good and among the best meals we had on this trip. The restaurant is called “El Jugo” and we can really recommend it.

One thing that we have noticed in Chile is the fact that many camp sites do not have warm water. Not sure why but it seems on the Argentinian side overall there are more camp sites that provide warm water. This morning we wait until the sun reaches the bottom of the valley as it is cold during the night. Quick breakfast and a good shower including washing our hair for the first time in days. Even cold water does the job and you feel much better afterwards.

 

We are ready to take one of the tours and decide to go the main place here in the village. The Pisco distillery Pisco Mistral is also located next to the main square. We make it there for 11 am when the first tour starts. Hey, we know it is early for drinking but we need to head back to Argentina today and can’t really leave without doing this.

 

The tour itself takes about an hour and shows you from beginning to end how to they produce Pisco here. You also learn everything from how this started many centuries ago and how it evolved to the present day. It is really interesting and worth while the time and money. Of course in the end you can taste a few different Pisco’s and we are impressed about how different they really are. Yes, we like them and so after having lunch at the distillery we directly move on to the shop to buy a few bottles for taking home.

 

Pisco Mistral has two different lines and one of them is called “Tres Erres” as in three R’s. You can also see the three R’s on the barrel on the picture above. Here they have a Reservado, so something very special. To our surprise we are asked to fill our own bottle of Pisco directly from the barrel. Not only that they also record our names, the number out of which barrel it is coming from and even the number of the bottlel. Karin has the pleasure of doing this. We get to use barrel 13 (our lucky number) with bottle number 2164. Should you visit this place you can look it up for yourself. The Reservado is really a nice souvenir and memory to this great trip. The only real problem is that it tastes so good that we need to be careful not to drink it all too fast. Sort of a long way back in case we need to buy a new one ... ;-)

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