Psst: The word for 2011 is pisco

In  the spirits world, the word for 2011 may well be pisco.

How so? Well, the pisco industry public relations mill is grinding out breathless announcements about the South American spirit's astonishing jump in U.S. consumption. All things considered, the numbers are, indeed, impressive.

The Comision Nacional del Pisco of Peru (CONA PISCO), for example, reports that importation of pisco -- a distilled spirit made from grapes -- from Peru during just the first three fiscal quarters of 2010 rose a by 81.1%. The U.S. is the single largest imbiber of pisco outside of Peru, buying up 40.2% of the total export. CONA PISCO also says when all the numbers are in, pisco sales in the fourth quarter of 2010 alone should top the first three quarters.

Within the past three years, more than a dozen different brands of Peruvian pisco have become available in the U.S., largely funded by American investors. More are predicted to launch this year. That means zeroing in on a particular brand or set of brands to suit your personal taste will require a bit of a drinking odyssey if you're not already a pisco aficionado.

The current top-name brand is Campo de Encanto. It is produced in Peru's Ica Valley, home to the historic Port of Pisco. In November it surpassed 304 different piscos to receive the top gold medal and best-of-show honors at the CONA PISCO competition in Lima, Peru.

For a look at the historic aspects of pisco, and the world-famous Pisco Sour cocktail, go here for a report I filed back in July.

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