What’s Cachaça? (ka-SHAH-sa)

“While forward-drinking Americans have only recently become acquainted with the fiery sugarcane spirit that fuels the Caipirinha cocktail, Brazilians have indulged their taste for Cachaça since 1532…The liquor’s increasing appeal as the caipirinha emerges as exotic drink of choice among the world’s elite…”
The Robb Report

Cachaça is a distilled spirit, generally made from fresh sugarcane, grown, produced and bottled in Brazil.

It is very similar to rum, because it’s base ingredient is sugarcane. The primary difference is that rum is generally made from molasses, a by-product from refineries that can boil the cane juice to extract as many sugar crystals as economically possible; the remaining molasses or black strap is sold to rum producers at pennies on the gallon. Cachaça is generally made from fresh sugarcane juice that’s fermented and distilled. Unaged cachaça is often enjoyed straight, and is the preferred choice for caipirinhas and other cocktails. Aged cachaças are more for sipping, but are also used in cocktails, and are made according to traditional methods that can offer a myriad of flavors dependent on aging methods. Brazilians use well over 20 types of domestic and imported woods for aging, each imparting their own unique flavor profile, from vanilla & toffee to cinnamon, spice and everything nice; click here to learn more about the ultimate in refinement.

Often described as a wild mix of tequila and rum.

Let the buyer beware, just like tequila, NOT ALL CACHAÇAS ARE CREATED EQUAL.
Most cachaças are about price, not quality!

Super-premium unaged cachaça should offer a rich bouquet of fresh cut sugarcane, wild flowers, cucumber, white pepper and citrus flavors. Aged cachaças can have these characteristics as a base and take on flavor from the woods, varieties include: Imported and Domestic Oak, Jequitiba, Umbarana, Arirriba, Balsam, Grapea and many others.

A top shelf version should not be sweet on the finish; sweetness is a tell tale sign that sugar has been added after distillation. This is a common practice to mask the imperfections of a lower quality spirit. Multi-distilled or multi-filtered brands want to make it more vodka-like; and popular brands in Brazil are price driven, always sweet, costing $1-3 per bottle and selling up to ten million cases per year.

Brazilians and aficionados prefer an un-wood aged version where clean flavors do not compete with fresh lime of a great caipirinha.

The Origins of Cachaça

470 Years of History
The history of cachaça is closely intertwined with the people and history of Brazil. Colonization began with the ‘discovery’ by the Portuguese explorer, Pedro Alvarez Cabral in 1500. Sugar was the first industry, with sugar mills called ‘engenhos’, commencing operations around 1532 in São Vincente, along the Sao Paulo coast.

It is said that around this time, workers (slaves) started to drink the liquid that fermented in the sugar cane crushing areas. Plantation owners began to serve this liquid to their slaves after noticing its positive effects, such as increased vigor and complacency. It can be sure that the Portuguese brought distillation techniques to this new world, as they had been producing grape brandy for some time. While the exact dates for cachaças birth are vague, it was most likely between 1532-1539, and the first use of the word ‘cachaça’ was 1640 by the Northern Governor in Pernambuco.

The fiery spirit started appearing on the finest tables in colonial Brazil, which began a 300-year battle for independence and cachaça. As popularity grew, revenue for the Portuguese wine and bagaceira (grape brandy) began to decline. Cachaças production was very economical, becoming the drink of the people for the people. Dutch slave traders encouraged production in the north, and used cachaça as currency, further enriching the enemies of the Portuguese Crown. The Portuguese reaction came in 1635-1649, culminating in the Royal Decree, May 13, 1649 prohibiting sales of the product. This was the first of a series of unrelenting attempts to stop the production and the trade. By the end of the 1600’s, into the early 1700’s cachaça became the second largest industry in Brazil behind coffee. From 1635 - 1755, 120 years of rebellion seemed to be at an end when the Portuguese crown in 1756 repealed the prohibition of cachaça production and began to tax it. This “voluntary tax” was largely responsible for the rebuilding of Lisbon after the devastating earthquake of 1755.

The Portuguese attempted a number of times after 1756 to stop cachaça production that led to more infamous rebellions and continued until 1822. Finally Britain and Portugal recognized Brazilian independence by signing a treaty on August 29, 1825. Of course Brazilians celebrated with a shot of national pride, the symbol of resitance - Cachaça.

DISCLAIMER: Text from this section is written by Olie Berlic and Excalibur Enterprise Inc. with copy rights pending. No reproduction is allowed without the written consent of Excalibur Enterprise Inc.
Note: Olie has been researching cachaça since 2001. A more definitive book on this subject is in the process of being written and should be released in late 2008 to 2009.

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