well over ten years ago, I was delighted to find a bottle of the Peruvian raw brandy known as pisco in the liquor store.

On getting it open at home, I was dismayed. The bottle had been corked with a peculiar flexible stopper, not at all like the foam corks on wine we are all accustomed to today.

The stopper was made of injection-molded plastic, and apparently had been inserted into the bottle while the plastic was still hot.

How did I know this? Because the pisco, a drink which is a mere micron or two above moonshine in palate and drinkability, tasted as though it had been distilled from used carburetor oil and essence of migraine. It was headache-and-dry-heave terroir.

Because I have poor judgement, I kept the bottle, after swapping the poison stopper for a real cork. Occasionally I have sampled the foul swill to see if the heavier petroleum molecules have sunk to the bottom or mystically bound with the ether. Until tonight, the answer was, as Richard Dawkins would be happy to belittlingly crow, the predictable outcome of superstition.

But tonight when I sniffed the bottle my vision did not grow dark, nor did my guts churn. I poured a bit.

It’s still pisco, hot and harsh, but nearly grappa now, inexplicably. The horrible shower-curtain and asphalt bouquet is gone.