Recently, a good friend invited us over for a cachaça tasting. I’ve tried a few types of cachaça, but mostly as part of the Brazilian drink, the caipirinha (the reason Brazilians are such happy people!). I knew from a trip to Brazil several years ago that there are hundreds of different types of cachaça manufactured, most in small artisanal distilleries scattered about the country.
Cachaça (pronounced KA – SHA – SA) is also referred to as aguardente, a name that in most of the rest of Latin America refers to the local rum. Cachaça is distilled from sugarcane (unlike most rum, which is made from molasses). The strength can range from about 70 proof (35% alcohol) to 160 proof (80% alcohol). There are two types of Cachaça – white and gold. The white generally has a harsher taste, and is used for mixed drinks, while the gold is a smoother version, often barrel aged. It can be sipped neat or over ice. Brazilians use a variety of woods to age the liquor, including chestnut, oak, ipe, almond, Brazilian cherry, and a number of other varieties. Wikipedia has a good article from which some of the above was referenced.
I tasted seven cachaça brands. My notes are below:
Vale Verde: 43% alcohol (86 proof). Aged 3 years in oak. Herbal and woody notes on the nose, herbal and oaky on the palate. Medium finish, slightly bitter, but pleasant.
Fulo 1827: 40% alcohol (80 proof). Aged in Brazilwood barrels (no notes on time). Vanilly, perfumy on the nose. Eucalyptus, woody, burnt coffee on the palate. Long finish, a little bitter and herbal.
Salinas: 45% alcohol (90 proof). Aged 1-1/2 to 3 years in balsam wood. Perfumy, light woody notes on the nose, smooth, with a light citrus flavor in the mouth. Slightly herbal on the finish with a touch of licorice.
Espirito de Minas: 43% alcohol (86 proof). Aged in oak for 1 year. Fruity on the nose with a very slight hint of vanilla. The taste was light, with light fruits and a hint of wood. Nice, clean finish. This was our favorite of the bunch.
Magnifica Ouro: 43% alcohol (86 proof). Aged 2 years in oak. On the nose, fruity, with notes of coffee, toast, and vanilla. The taste was oaky, with vanilla and herbal notes. The finish was nice, a little short, but nice. This was ranked #5 in Playboy’s 2009 Cachaça ranking.
Domina Suave: 40% alcohol (80 proof). Aged in Jequitiba wood (no time given). The nose was interesting – perfumey, with distinct baked apples and some herbal notes. The taste was herbal, fruity, with a touch of roses. The finish was medium, with a flowery taste that was slightly bitter.
Germana: 40% alcohol (80 proof). Aged 2 to 10 years in oak and balsam wood. The aroma was fruity, with coffee and vanilla. The taste was herbal and fruity, with a hint of strawberries. Medium finish, slightly bitter but balanced.
Overall, the exercise was quite pleasant and educational. There were quite a few more cachaças to try, (our friend had 17 of them lined up); we selected most of these bottles randomly, and the crowd agreed that it was a worthy exercise!