Career entrepreneur William Kallop established Pisco Porton in 2009 with the goal of bringing Peru’s heritage-rich national beverage to the United States. He enlisted the help of his son and Columbia MBA graduate, Brent Kallop, to lead the brand in the U.S.
At the time, Brent had 10 years for experience living and working in Peru. What began as a stint in the oil and gas industry, gradually became a quest to import and promote high quality spirits.
“My father had been visiting Peru since the 1980s,” Brent recalls. “Pisco was all over Peru then, but nowhere in the United States. I knew there would be a big market here because of the quality and mixability.”
Brent had his first taste of pisco in college and enjoyed the spirit while working in the country as part of the family business. The sweet, earthy beverage is similar to distilled from grapes. Citizens first began making pisco in the 1600s in protest of the Spanish taxes on wine production while the country was still ruled by the European country. The beverage is named after the Port of Pisco, where it originated and true pisco can only be made in a specific region, south of Lima. This strong legacy and a growing interest in Latin foods and beverages made the spirit a great candidate for export to the United States.
A growing market
While Brent is not the first to bring pisco to the United States, he has made significant progress with the Pisco Porton line. The drink was quite popular in the early 1900s on the West Coast, but prohibition in the 1920s impeded importation and its popularity dropped with availability. As interest has grown in South American cuisine over the last decade, Brent recognized the opportunity.
“Peruvian foods are gaining popularity outside Peru,” Brent explains. “Recently the New York Times published an article on Peruvian food becoming a major trend in London now. There is broad range of terrain in Peru and this provides for a very diverse range of local ingredients. For example, there are over 3,000 varieties of potato that grow in Peru. The Amazon has exotic fruit, and there is a unique chili people eat called Aji and there is seafood along the coast.”
“We have also been able to promote the beverage through an annual culinary fair in Lima called Mistora, which attracts over 300,000 visitors from all over North and South America,” Brent continues. “Ceviche has been a big help in the drink’s popularity as it pairs with pisco very well. We have brand ambassadors and sales people doing events and spreading the word and raising awareness for Porton.”
What began as an export business soon grew into something larger. Brent and his team launched their own line of pisco, under the Pisco Porton brand in March 2011. By 2013, the business had grown into the largest exporter of pisco in Peru. At that point, the company made up nearly 50 percent of the country’s pisco exports. The growth of the Pisco Porton brand has helped promote the unique beverage abroad, especially in the United States. The business has growing market presence in the U.K., France and Italy and Brent and his team are working on infiltrating the Spanish market.
Standing apart with quality
Brent explains that while it may have been easier to set up shop exclusively in the United States and outsource production in Peru – as some other brand do – he wanted to offer his consumers a more authentic product. With a distillery location in Peru and marketing efforts throughout the United States, the company delivers authentically crafted pisco. The distillery employs 60 people and 17 professionals in the United States work with distributors to market and expand the brand’s territory.
Meanwhile in Peru, the business continues to distinguish itself from other pisco producers, by distilling an ultra-premium style of pisco: Mosto Verde. “Most piscos are made by first pressing grapes and then allowing all of the sugar in the juice, or must, to be fermented into alcohol by the yeast, before distillation,” Brent explains. “With Mosto Verde, we stop fermentation early, leaving a portion of the sugar in the must, and we distill only partially fermented grape juice, which takes more grapes top produce the same amount of alcohol. It comes out to about 18 pounds per bottle. We are trying to build awareness of this category of our product, so we are building conversations using comparisons between the different types of pisco.”
The vertically integrated company maintains a strong focus on quality. Brent has faith that as the trend grows, consumers in new markets will turn to Pisco Porton for the taste of a Peruvian tradition. The business has established a loyal following in the United States and Europe with a premium line of spirits that continues to grow. Following the rise of South American cuisine in food markets across the world, Pisco Porton provides the quality and consistency that discerning tastes are looking for.