with Johnny Schuler, we learned of the romantic nature and delicate flavors of pisco, the Peruvian spirit that is his passion. Porton pisco is Schuler's newest endeavor, which in its first production has received about ten gold metals in tasting competitions.
Porton means gate, and in the case of this South America hooch it is this means a metaphorical one that he wants you to open to adventure, discovery, and pleasure. Schuler is a restaurateur and master maker of spirits who has created a hyper-modern, sustainable pisco factory next to the oldest working distillery in the Americas at La Caravedo, where Porton is produced. He is dedicated to green production and told us some of the ways in which the distillery is a model.
When Bill and I finally agreed to go into this business, I knew of a distillery in Ica, which is a wine-growing region, happened to be the oldest working distillery in all of the Americas.
We needed a story, but a real story, not a made up Disney, beautiful one... We needed something real. I was in love with La Caravedo..I wanted the centerfold of my book to be Hacienda de Caravedo, the distillery, because it was so sensual, so beautiful that I had to show the world that hey, in Peru, we have this jewel.. We bought it, we've made a beautiful work of restoration... We needed production in enormous quantities, so we needed to modernize, and what did we do? We created the most modern distillery in front of the oldest distillery in the Americas.
We reprocess the waters, we reprocess the stillage; it's a huge investment effort that people thought I was crazy doing it, doesn't bother me too much (shows picture of steel beams above the stills with flower beds). This yellow thing here, this, going on top of the fermenters carries vegetation. Why do I put plants up there?
For the oxygen?
There ya are. The process of fermentation is the transformation of a molecule of sugar to half a molecule of alcohol and half a molecule of CO2, carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is not a poison, it's the bubbles in champagne, but it's a contaminant. What the plants breathe.
They absorb it.
They absorb it, and turn it into oxygen. So, on top of my fermenters, I put this to help nature transform this little CO2, that doesn't hurt anybody, but why not help it along, give it to the plants, plants will feed on it and give us oxygen.
Why was it important to make it sustainable?
Because we feel that we need to be a role model. Stillage is the result of the fermentation in the copper pot stills. That in Peru is normally thrown to the ditches, but it is a contaminant. So we made a huge investment, and we bought in Holland, a plant that will treat the stillage and turn it into grape water. Ours is fresh water we've created from grapes, from fruit, which will go back and irrigate its mother again. The pomace, which is normally used to make grappa, we've compost plant and turn all this into fertilizer again, and it all goes back into the ground. We treat it, and we turn it into compost. Compost is a natural fertilizer. The whole concept is a voluntary compromise with nature.
You're introducing this to the Miami market. We're not a cocktail culture. We're getting better, but what do you think our relationship with pisco's going to be?
Don't undermine your territory, because we were here several months ago at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, and my God, did we see mixology at its best. I mean, we went to bars, lounges, discos, and they were working wonderful things with sprits, with cocktails. I think the advantage, maybe you cannot call Miami a cocktail city that you could call New York, London, and maybe San Francisco, L.A., but the cosmopolitan flare that Miami has, the influx of so many nationalities, creates an actual haven for this.
So, what we say, what we experienced at the South Beach festival was amazing. We even had a stand in the lounge where all the big chefs and mixologists ended their night, and we had a presentation on a cocktail we call "grapes and roses." It drove them wild with rose petals on top. We created it here and we're going to take it internationally. So, I think you have it. You have the influence of tourism, of so many residents from so many nationalities that it makes it a natural garden for it to flourish.