Cachaca

Words by Simon Difford

Cachaca image 1

In Brazil, Cachaça is also marketed under the name caninha (‘little cane’) or as ‘aguardente de cana’, which means ‘distillate of cane’ but could be uncharitably translated as ‘cane firewater’. However, it has many other nicknames: garapa doida, pinga, parati, cana, imaculada, maria-branca, purinha and zuninga. The four million or so litres exported annually have to be called cachaça on the label.

Cachaça is made from sugar cane and so is a kind of rum (although as traditionally maze meal is used to start the fermentation, many brands of cachaça are not strictly rums according to EU regulations).

Sugar cane has been cultivated in Brazil since 1532 when the country came under Portuguese rule and the crop has played a major role in the socio-economic history of the country. Large estates growing only sugar cane were the basis of Brazil's economy until well into the 20th century. Cachaça production in Brazil quickly followed.

Unlike most rums which are produced from molasses, a by-product of sugar refining, the best cachaça is distilled from fermented sugar cane juice. However, this is not always the case and many brands are made from sugar syrup or molasses. The big brands tend to burn the sugar to accelerate the breakdown of sugars, while the smaller distillers tend to use cane syrup.

Cachaça is only distilled to a maximum of 75% alcoholic strength, unlike most light rums which are usually distilled to 96% strength. This lower distillation strength means cachaça is less refined with more impurities and consequently retains more of the aroma and flavour of the sugar cane.

Alcohol was one of the first things which colonists to the New World turned their minds to and cachaça seems to date back nearly 500 years. Some say that it originated when a slave who worked on a sugar cane crusher tasted the foam on the fermenting sugar cane liquid, called 'Cagaça'. According to others it was created by the Portuguese in Brazil. Apparently, they felt homesick for Bagaceira, the Portuguese drink made from the lees left in the grape press after wine making, so experimented with their main crop and created a drink made from fermented sugar cane juice. Whatever the truth of the matter, the manufacturing process used today is generally credited to a Swiss immigrant, Erasmus Scheltz, who in 1543 managed the first sugar cane mill in Brazil.

The legal definition of cachaça is laid down in the Regulated Drinks Laws of Brazil. According to these, aguardente, caninha or cachaça is a drink with an alcoholic strength ranging from 38%-54% at 20ºC, obtained from the distillation of alcohol from sugar cane or from the fermentation of sugar cane. Up to six grams of sugar may be added per litre. An alcoholic cane sugar drink to which more than six grams but less than 30 grams of sugar has been added per litre is known as 'cana adoçada' (sweetened cane), 'caninha adoçada' (sweetened little cane) or 'cachaça adoçada' (sweetened cachaça).

For a product to be sold as aged cachaça, at least 50% of the blend must be sugar cane spirit which has been aged for a minimum of one year. Caramel may be added to correct the colour. Aged cachaça may be known as 'cana envelhecida' (aged cane), 'caninha envelhecida' (aged little cane) or 'cachaça envelhecida' (aged cachaça). Sadly these indications of quality and origin rarely appear on exported cachaça.

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Armazem Vieira Terra image

Armazem Vieira Terra

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 40

Avuá Amburana Cachaça image

Avuá Amburana Cachaça

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 40

Yaguara Cachaca image

Yaguara Cachaca

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 41.5

Leblon Cachaca image

Leblon Cachaca

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 40

Novo Fogo Chameleon image

Novo Fogo Chameleon

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol:

Armazem Vieira Rubi image

Armazem Vieira Rubi

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 43

Caetano's Cachaca image

Caetano's Cachaca

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 40

Beija-Flor Pura Cachaca image

Beija-Flor Pura Cachaca

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 39

Beija-Flor 2 year old Velha Cachaca image

Beija-Flor 2 year old Velha Cachaca

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 39

Avuá Prata Cachaça image

Avuá Prata Cachaça

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 42

Serra Limpa Orgânica Cachaça image

Serra Limpa Orgânica Cachaça

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 45

Yaguara Ouro Cachaça image

Yaguara Ouro Cachaça

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 42

Novo Fogo Silver image

Novo Fogo Silver

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol:

Cabana Cachaca image

Cabana Cachaca

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 40

Ypioca Empalhada Ouro image

Ypioca Empalhada Ouro

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 39

Ypioca Empalhada Prata image

Ypioca Empalhada Prata

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 39

Brasilla (Jamel) image

Brasilla (Jamel)

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 40

Capucana Cachaca image

Capucana Cachaca

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 38

Maison Leblon-Reserva image

Maison Leblon-Reserva

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 42

Las Iguanas Magnifica Cachaça image

Las Iguanas Magnifica Cachaça

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 39

Zeca de Matos Cachaça image

Zeca de Matos Cachaça

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 40

Novo Fogo Barrel-aged image

Novo Fogo Barrel-aged

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol:

Beija-Flor 10 year Reserva Especial  image

Beija-Flor 10 year Reserva Especial

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 39

Abelha Silver image

Abelha Silver

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Rum & Cachaça
alc./vol: 39

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