Cachaça: What is it, where does it come from, and how is it made?
Cachaca is the national spirit of Brazil. It is a fruity, fragrant brandy made by distilling the must of fermented sugar cane juice. It is the Brazilian version of rum, the true quintessence of the flavors of the Carioca country, but this shouldn’t be surprising, given that Brazil has always been one of the major producers of sugar cane.
Unfortunately, cachaca is seen as a low-quality distillate that can only be used to make the classic caipirinha. However, there are more than 40,000 bottles of cachaca to try in Brazil, and some of them become real nectars after aging in casks for up to 17 years and can easily compete with the best agricultural rums. Unfortunately, imports are scarce, given that domestic consumption is very high.
The more popular products are sold abroad, and the general public has never had a chance to try the best distillates, such as those that have been aged or cachaca made by smaller, more artisanal distilleries.
What is cachaça, and how is it produced?
Cachaça is a distillate that comes from cane juice, but from all the juice and not from molasses after the sugar crystals have been removed, so it is a full, aromatic, tasty, but also very pyrotechnic product.
The sugar cane is cut and harvested, then crushed with stone or hydraulic presses, and the juice is collected in tanks. The juice is cooked and then fermented by adding yeasts, which trigger the fermentation, until a must with a contained alcohol content is obtained; in practice, it is a wort like that of whiskey, only that it comes from cane juice.
Production of cachaca, copper alembic, Brazilian distillery in Paraty At this point, we move on to distillation, and here the vast world of cachaça producers opens up: some do a slow distillation with a copper alembic, others do a double distillation in a column, and others simply distill as much raw material as possible to make large quantities of industrial product.
As with all distillates, the final product’s flavor, finesse, and elegance come from the sensitivity of the master distiller, who removes heads and other things from the alembic, how slowly and carefully the distillation is done, and how carefully the cane juice wort is “cooked.”
The greater the nuances, but also the heart selection of the distillate, the slower and more gradual it is.
Cachaca: branch or amarela?
In any case, after the double distillation, the cachaça undergoes its first truly great classification: it can be immediately bottled and is considered a cachaça branca or prata, i.e., white, or it will become an amarela or ouro, i.e., a golden cachaça.
The refinement of the most ambitious distillates takes place in large wooden barrels, similar to the pipones also used to age tequila, and can usually last from a minimum of 12 months up to 15 or more years.
Cachaça history: who invented it?
Cachaça, also called aguardente, pinga, or caninha, comes from the famous aguardiente de cana of Madeira, the Portuguese Atlantic island that supplied all of Europe in the 1500s.
After the Portuguese conquest of Brazil, the new Portuguese settlers imported cane from Madeira into Brazil, and so a flourishing industry developed in the following centuries.
As a second, much more interesting effect, the island of Madeira stopped growing sugar cane and focused on making wine. Wine was first made on Madeira as a drink for sailors going to Brazil, but it has since become a masterpiece there.
Organoleptic characteristics of cachaça
It is a distillate that manages to offer a range of unique aromas and flavors—a true alchemical synthesis of sugar cane juice. The smells are very fruity, sweet, warm, and full of honey. The fruit smells both sharp and ethereal.
The warm and comforting fruit of the cachaça gives it a velvety, alcoholic taste on the palate.
It has rhythm; it hits you with an incredible barrage of tropical scents and flavors and incredible gracefulness. Maybe it’s simple, but it’s certainly not lean like many industrial rums.
If aged in wood, it develops evolved and decadent tertiary aromas, spices, caramelized fruit, candied fruit, cinnamon, and then oxidized tones due to aging and therefore dried fruit.
Production areas for cachaça
The best cachaca, tasting the best sugar cane distillates It is made all over Brazil, but Abara in Bahia, Chiapas, Paraty, Monte Alegre do Sul, and Salinas are the most interesting places to make it.
Differences between cachaca and rum
They are both distillates of fermented cane juice; however, the main difference is that industrial rum is born from a waste product such as molasses, while cachaca is born from fermented juice wort, from which the best part has not been taken away.
The difference is remarkable and makes cachaca much more similar to agricultural rum than industrial rum, at least if we are talking about high-quality distillates.
Obviously, this more respectful process, or at least what that doesn’t take away, makes the Brazilian distillate richer and more expressive, and that’s why the price is also different.
The price of cachaca
Raw industrial products to be used to make cocktails, such as the Cachaça 51 Pirassununga, cost 13 euros, but you can only use them for mixing; drinking them straight is unthinkable. The average price of a good cachaca is 30 euros.
Cocktails made with cachaca
Just like rum, cachaca is excellent when mixed with fresh and sweet, pulpy fruits such as strawberries, cherries, and passion fruit. Avoid mixing with vermouth, practically the kryptonite of the caipirinha. It’s not very ductile, but for making quick and easy cocktails, all fruit is perfect.
To be used to make the entire caipirinha family, beginning with the legendary classic caipirinha, strawberry caipirinha, passion fruit caipirinha, cherry caipirinha, and melon caipirinha.