Cachaça, the Brazilian drink made famous throughout the world by the Caipirinha cocktail, caught the attention of an American sommelier. After 4 years of research, he presents a portfolio of Brazilian cachaça in the American market, including his own product, Beleza Pura® Super Premium Cachaça.
Cachaça, “fire water”,” pinga”, “little cane”, “water that birds don’t drink”… there are more than 100 names in Portuguese for this typical Brazilian drink.
Produced from fermented and distilled sugarcane, cachaça is the principal ingredient in the world-famous Caipirinha, mixed with lime, sugar, and ice.
According to Wikipedia, the first colonizers who arrived in Brazil enjoyed Port wine and Portuguese brandy. Both food and drink were imported from Portugal. “Garapa Azeda,” sugarcane wine, was discovered on a plantation in the province of São Vicente between 1532 and 1548, where the remnants of sugarcane fermented in the wooden troughs for animals. The plantation owners began to serve the liquid, named “Cagaça” to their slaves. It was a quick jump to distilling Cagaça, and Cachaça was born.
But our story takes another route, through the popularity of the Caipirinha, the drink that is capturing the taste buds of more and more “gringos.” Extra interviewed one of these caipirinha lovers who went to Brazil to research Cachaça and today is the producer of Beleza Pura, an award-winng cachaça-in the USA.
The sommelier Olie Berlic, who has been married to a Brazilian for 22 years, always wondered why his wife asked for a “Caipiroska” -a cocktail made the same way as a Caipirinha with vodka in place of Cachaça.” My wife always said she didn’t want a hangover the next day,” Olie comments.
Four years ago, the sommelier began to research Cachaça in Brazil, and tasted over 1000 brands from regions throughout the country. With 20 years of experience working with refined wine and spirits, Olie saw the business potential of this simple drink.
The portfolio of Excalibur Enterprise Inc, Olie’s company based in Connecticut, includes aged cachaças: Rochinha from Rio de Janeiro, GRM from Minas Gerais, and Armazem Vieira from Santa Catarina.
Each one has unique qualities, according to Olie; he imports two versions of Rochinha, one aged for 5 years in Oak, another aged for 12. “The wood flavor is very important to the final product, Rochinha for example could be compared with a whiskey,” Olie relates.
GRM, produced in Araguari, Minas Gerais, is aged in three types of wood, Umbarana, Oak, and Jequitibá Rose. “This cachaça is characterized by spicy notes and a touch of cinnamon, it compares to a fine tequila.” Berlic explains.
Armazem Vieira, from Florianopolis, Santa Catarina is made according to a system that is distinct from the others. The distillers prefer to avoid contact with wood, and their cachaça is aged in 10,000 liter barrels. “The flavor of this product is fruity, the finish has notes of black olive, recalling the tastes of Spain,” the sommelier affirms.
One more attraction to Olie’s portfolio is Beleza Pura, which he created in Brazil according to an artisanal process similar to the others, the result of over 3 years of research and with the help of specialists in Brazilian sugarcane culture.
“Beleza Pura® is soft, white, and lighter than a vodka. Its main characteristic is authenticity,” Olie explains. Through his research, he selected sugarcane from Brazil’s best growing regions. The cane is hand-cut and sent to a distillery in the interior of São Paulo, where it is carefully washed before fermentation and distillation in stainless steel vats.
The businessman is also preparing to distribute Beleza Pura® Caipirinha, a product he created, which differs from similar products in Brazil in that it has no chemical additives. The ready-to-drink Caipirinha is currently in customs awaiting legal documents in order to begin sales. A curiosity: the lime Olie used is imported from the USA to Brazil for production.
Olie distributes his cachaça in the US market, and laments the bureaucratic complications to distribute his products in Brazil. He believes his cachaça has an excellent opportunity to grow in both the Brazilian and international market. “The market is opening for high quality cachaças. When I introduce Beleza Pura® to experts, the all say, Wow, that’s amazing! Good luck!”
Aside from cachaça, the sommelier is equally passionate about Brazilian culture, “Brazil is a very sophisticated place, I love the music, fashion, architecture, cuisine, the art, and most of all, the people. I’m very “Brazilian”. Brazil gave me my family and my business.
I also want to contribute to Brazil,” Olie says with a slight accent in near perfect Portuguese. The entrepreneur assists the social programs of a not-for-profit organization based in Rio de Janeiro that aids street children from Rio’s slums.