Glacier Distilling Company Releases Montana’s First “Pisco”
If you’ve ever been to The Whiskey Barn in Coram, then you know there is no shortage of creativity when it comes to distilling fine spirits. Founder, Nic Lee, is at it again. This time, with Glacier Distilling Company’s version of pisco, Aguardiente, or Peruvian style “firewater.” We sat down with him for a little Q&A to find out more about the inspiration behind the new spirit.
Q: Why pisco in Montana?
A: Pisco has been made in Chile and Peru in the mountains for centuries and now that there are grapes being grown in a similar mountainous region in Montana, I thought it would be fun to try to create a traditional, new world style of brandy.
Q: So, if pisco is traditionally South American, what makes yours Montanan?
A: The tradition with pisco is to use only local varieties of grapes, traditionally more fragrant white grapes, and Montana colder weather is more conducive to Marquette grapes, which is a darker varietal in the Pinot family, so while it’s done in the same way the end result is very different with a different type of grape.
Q: You’ve made distillates with grapes before, but never pisco. So, why Pisco this time?
A: The grapes are from the Spotted Bear Vineyard and Lavender Farm on the south end of Flathead Lake -- Finley Point. Because of the shorter growing season and colder weather, sometimes the grapes don’t mature to the optimal sugar level for winemakers, but they are ideal for distillation because of a greater concentration of flavors. They (Spotted Bear Vineyard) reached out to us when they knew their grapes weren’t going to be ideal for winemaking, and we saw that as an excellent opportunity to make pisco. Plus, we had a recent staff visit to Peru and we needed something to make pisco sours to please our GM! :)
Q: Tell me about the name “Aguardiente.” Should people be wary of the translation of the word meaning firewater?
A: Aguardiente has the equivalent of a moonshine connotation in the U.S., as a clear distilled spirit. It doesn’t mean it’s hot or unpleasant. It’s more a take on the origins of whiskey, which is the water of life. In Aguardiente, the fire breathes water into life.