We’ve met a lot of facinating people over the past few years as we’ve traveled around the world covering spirits. Although we’ve had the great fortune to meet some truly amazing people, we never met anyone quite like Johnny Schuler.
Johnny Schuler has done many things, from race car driver, professional golfer, caterer, and restaurateur, but Johnny is best known for being the face of Peruvian Pisco for the last 25 years. Johnny has passionately advocated for Peru’s national spirit, even at a time when Peruvians weren’t really drinking it. Through his Peruvian TV show “Por Las Rutas del Pisco,” Johnny has become a super star. A casual trip to a restaurant for lunch with Johnny involves a lot of hand shaking and photographs.
It’s impossible to talk about Johnny Schuler and not talk about his driving (although I promised it wouldn’t be the sole focus of my article). Johnny loves to drive fast. The three hour drive from Lima to Ica gets a lot shorter with Johnny at the wheel. Driving is a game for Johnny, who has a running dialogue with the cars on the road as he zooms past them at 190 kmph and and plays chicken with semi trucks coming in the opposite direction. It’s the stuff of legends and must be experienced to be believed.
Johnny’s isn’t defined by his driving, it’s just one of the areas of his life that shows off his absolute passion. When Johnny talks about something close to his heart, the words just leap from his mouth, and when he speaks about pisco, I’ve never seen someone more animated. In his sixties, Johnny powers forward like a man twenty or thirty years younger, despite having had several heart surgeries and associated operations.
By all accounts Johnny Schuler should be focusing on retirement, but a fateful phone call from Texas billionare Bill Kalop changed Johnny’s life in a dramatic way. Kalop had spent two years studying pisco and at the end came to the conclusion that the only person to run his multi-million dollar pisco distillery was Johnny Schuler. Kalop made an offer that Johnny couldn’t refuse: build the pisco distillery of Johnny’s dreams where money was absolutely no object.
The result is the stunning Pisco Porton Distillery, which is simply one of the most impressive distilleries in the world. Fusing traditional techniques of pisco making dating back to the 1600s with the most modern distillery money could buy, Pisco Porton is a textbook example of “techno-artisanal.” Being shown around Pisco Porton by Johnny Schuler is like getting a tour from Willy Wonka of his chocolate factory.
Purely passionate, sometimes eccentric, but always entertaining, Johnny Schuler’s tour of Pisco Porton is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, and we’re excited to bring it to you. The tour is longer than most of the videos we’ve produced but we felt it was important to capture as much of Johnny Schuler’s passionate journey through the world of Pisco Porton as possible.
We hope you’ll find Johnny Schuler and Pisco Porton as captivating as we did. Be sure to read our story, Pisco’s Renaissance, for some important context on the world of pisco, where it is, and where it’s heading.Behind the Scenes of Pisco Porton with Johnny Schuler by Geoff Kleinman