For at least 400 years, people in what now are Chile and Peru have distilled a brandy from wine called pisco, named after the Peruvian port of the same name through which it was shipped to Spain. Still popular in both countries -- particularly in the ubiquitous cocktail called pisco sour -- the debate rages on regarding which side can actually claim the rights to the name. Nevertheless, to underscore the authenticity of Chile's claim, in the 1930s González Videla (you'll remember him from La Serena) pushed for the renaming of the village of La Unión to Pisco Elqui.
The valley produces most of Chile's pisco, and you can visit several distilleries. West of Vicuña is Pisco Ruta Norte, launched in 2004 by CCU, Chile's dominant beverage company (tel. 2/427-3012); it's open in January and February daily from 10am to 6pm, and March through December on Tuesday from 10:30am to 5:30pm. Two kilometers (1 1/4 miles) east of Vicuña is the touristy Capel, a pretty colonial estate, which includes a contrived Pisco Museum (tel. 51/411251; www.piscocapel.cl); it's open daily from 10am to 12:30pm and 2:30 to 6pm, and in January and February daily from 10am to 6pm. In Monte Grande, you'll find Artesanos del Cochiguaz (tel. 51/198-2649), which is now part of the Capel cooperative, open daily from 10am to 1pm and 2:30 to 6pm, in January and February daily from 10am to 6pm.
In Pisco Elqui you can visit three more pisco distilleries. Among them is Los Nichos (tel. +56 51451085), Chile’s oldest Pisco distillery, located 4 km deeper into the valley from Pisco Elqui. Theyoffer a one hour guided tour for 1.000 CLP two to three times in the morning and afternoon, including pisco tastings. Just 2 km from Pisco you can visit Doña Josefa de Elqui (tel. +56 96201 5414), another artisanal, small pisco distillery. At the main square of Pisco Elqui, Pisco Mistral Distillery (tel. +56 51 451358) invites for a visit. They offer different tours to learn about the national drink’s manufacturing process.
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