What is Cachaça?
Cachaça (pronounced kah-SHAH-sah), is Brazil’s most popular alcohol. It is liquor distilled from fermented sugarcane juice that contains between 38 and 54 percent alcohol by volume. It is produced exclusively in Brazil and is often erroneously thought of as a style of rum.
The national spirit of the country, the cachaça — and it’s most popular drink, the caipirinha — was mostly enjoyed in Brazil for the longest time. Although cachaça often outsells gin and tequila, 99 per cent of it is drunk by the Brazilians. Currently, it obtains global attention in the U.S., Portugal, and other countries, and now appears frequently in well-stocked bars and liquor stores.
How is Cachaça made?
It is produced solely in Brazil and is the national spirit of the country of South America. It’s been known for a long time as a poor man’s drink, although this has changed and some brilliant artisan cachaças are being produced today. There are more than 3,000 licensed distilleries in Brazil and about the same number illegally cultivating cachaça. Like any other distiller, those who make cachaça can experiment with sugar cane, distillation and barrel aging in order to produce special flavour nuances in the spirit.
Cachaça is required to be fermented with freshly pressed sugar cane juice. The cane must be grown in Brazil, although the distillers use different varieties to create subtle variations in the cachaça they produce. The juice is fermented with yeast to convert the sugar into alcohol and then distilled. Commonly, a single distillation takes place and premium cachaças tend to use copper pot stills. Some types of cachaça are bottled directly after distillation or after resting in stainless steel tanks while others are aged.
Ageing process makes Cachaca truly unique. Distillers may use new or used American or French oak barrels (previously housing bourbon or brandy). They may also use any variety of native woods to create their barrels, each adding to the uniqueness of the Cachaça. For example, Cachaça aged in Brazil nut barrels will have an entirely different taste profile than one aged in zebrawood. Brazil’s amburana, balsam, cabreuva, tapinhoa, and teak are among the many types of wood used.
The taste of cachaça can vary greatly, although it often has a subtle sweetness (much less than rum). It is often vegetal and has a few fruity notes. Many of the more commercial brands may have a taste of synthetic alcohol while the top brands will have a more pronounced fruitiness and delectable undertones of sweets.
Comparable to rum and tequila, the various types of cachaça are categorized by colour, which is influenced by how they are handled after distillation.
Branca – which means ‘white’ in Portuguese, branca cachaças may also be labeled as prata (silver), clássica (classic), or tradicional (traditional). They are unaged, placed in stainless steel vats, or preserved in wood that does not affect the spirit’s colour for less than one year.
Amarela – means ‘yellow’ and might be labelled as ouro (gold) or envelhecida (aged). In order to be considered as an aged cachaça, a bottle must be made up of at least 50 percent cachaça that spent a minimum of one year in barrels that hold no more than 700 litres. And for Premium aged cachaça it must be made entirely of 1-year-old or older spirit, while extra premium notes that all cachaça is at least three years old.