Kappa Pisco was launched in 2012 by Grand Marnier, famous for their orange liqueur. This Chilean grape brandy is produced from double-distilled Muscat grapes combined with pure water from the Andes.
In the glass, Kappa Pisco is initially striking with its intensity. It is predominantly clear in colour, with just a tinge of light yellow. The liquid is more viscous than most piscos, especially at first. It produces the visual appearance of a medium-to-full body.
The aroma can be similarly striking. The Muscat grapes are immediately apparent. Next, you will notice a sweet vanilla aroma. It is not a vanilla extract smell, nor is it a bourbon vanilla. It is sort of a baked vanilla aroma. On the nose, Kappa Pisco is most akin to a dessert wine. This is a very good start.
The taste is very different from the aroma. It is real easy to get turned off by the expectation of a dessert wine character. The first sip is nothing of the sort. You get a nice light tannin hit, then a tiny bit of the vanilla. It is also sweet, but it is accented with dryness (think near-sweet vermouth; it is very similar). The vanilla comes forward, definitely, but the tannins continue to be dominant for the first half of the sip.
Kappa Pisco is a terrific sensory treat. Not only are the odds of you being able to take a sip with no burn rather low (perhaps 1 in 10 tries), but it is also very easy to get lost in the flavours. The vanilla and tannins seem to swirl around your tongue for a while; it is a rather pleasant sensation.
The finish is a little longer than I expected. The tannins fade quickly, leaving in their wake a sweet vanilla taste.
I would describe this grape brandy as “finesse”. There’s a lot that goes on, but there’s an inherent elegance in the balance between the ingredients. Humility is a key factor (not what we want in many spirits).
Kappa Pisco has a really good citrus kick to it. The nose is quite aromatic, but the front of the tongue is pretty bright. There’s no sharp lime zest, but there is a nice fresh citrus aroma.
Kappa Pisco would pair nicely with many different foods and flavours. I showed it some love in shots, but I could also see it pair great with chocolate cake or even lemon meringue pie.
Kappa Pisco is best sipped neat, but for those who like their spirits with a nice dark rye toastiness, I like it with sweet vermouth. Well, I actually like sweet vermouth anyhow. If you like Scotch and Drambuie, you would love this combination.
My last full bottle is still languishing in my cupboard – I’ll be sure to grab it before the end of this review. I have tried a few sample bottles in restaurants since writing it up, and I am of the viewpoint that it is better than my original review.
At times, there was a distinct taste of burnt rubber. It was an extraordinary sensation…and not in a good way. It seemed to be related to the slight sherry-woodiness that some consumers mentioned in the official reviews. I can’t explain the cause, and it was not overwhelming, but it was definitely noticeable. I have made the decision to remove the paragraph (above) regarding this defect.
It is tough to tell you how much of the burnt rubber taste that I would attribute to Kappa. It was from a single bottle, purchased at a single time, and laid down for a full year before drinking. Definitely, it had not turned. I’d be curious to speak with a single consumer who has sampled more than one bottle.
To put it another way, I would be very interested to hear from any person who has had a bad experience with any other Grand Marnier Cognac or Liqueur product. I have not heard of such a thing yet.
The burn level is simply too high. The intense vanilla, citrus, and flint notes in the finish are simply not enough to mitigate the burn for me. The smell is amazing…but the flavour is not. The 70cl bottle will not make it through the summer. However, I will buy more.
You may have noticed that the rating for this review has changed. That is because I was so impressed by this spirit at first. In the last 3 years, it really has not made the cut on more than a couple of occasions. On the one hand, the rating was lowered. On the other hand, the review was updated. You don’t really need to do much of anything (or look at any numbers) to figure that out.
In the updated review, I warn that the burn might overwhelm you. The original review used the word “wow” quite a bit. I happily leave you with that word.