Meet Cachaça, Brazil’s Most Popular Spirit

Distilled with [sugarcane], cachaça comes in wide array of flavors perfect for sipping or mixing into many cocktails. Here are the bottles to look for.

By Kara Newman | August 13, 2018

This category has quietly been on the ascent for years, although it rarely seems to capture headlines. But now may be the time for the world to pay closer attention ­Brazil’s most popular spirit.

Like rum, cachaça is distilled from sugar­cane. The flavor of white cachaças seems to hover somewhere between the tropical fruit funk of agricole rums and crisp silver rums, laced with lime zest and bright hints of ripe banana or lychee. These silver cachaças are ready for mixing into Daiquiris as well as Brazil’s signature cocktail, the Caipirinha.

The barrel-aged bottlings are where the spirit really shines. In general, the flavors are lighter than rum, embracing honey, toasted coconut and confectionary notes that suggest banana pudding, fresh-baked vanilla cookies and spice.

Producers are also honing in on South American provenance by experimenting with wood varieties that are unique to the region. For example, Novo Fogo uses ­[araribá], also called zebrawood, to create earthy mocha and sprightly orange notes in its Tanager bottling. Meanwhile, wood from the Brazil nut tree adds luscious layers of dried cherry and cocoa-dusted custard to the Graciosa bottling…

Novo Fogo Graciosa Cachaça

(Brazil; Novo Fogo, Issaquah, WA); $35, 95 points.

This incredibly complex sipper entices with aromas of vanilla, honey and ripe banana. These are echoed on the palate, layered with surprising dried cherry and dusty cocoa notes, which linger into the long, gently spiced finish. A good option for an Old Fashioned variation. abv: 42%

Novo Fogo Tanager Cachaça

(Brazil; Novo Fogo, Issaquah, WA); $35, 95 points.

This tawny cachaça is aged in oak and [araribá] wood. The latter accounts for the orange hue as well as tones of earthy mocha and dried fruit on the nose and palate. Look for vibrant, mouthwatering fruit up front—juicy orange, dried cherry, dried fig and orange peel, smoothed by a fudge-tinged, drying exit. All it needs is ice. abv: 42%

Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça

(Brazil; Novo Fogo, Issaquah, WA); $30, 90 points.

Look for a distinctly funky aroma that suggests banana and lemongrass. The palate is light and silky, reflecting the tropical aromas and grassy funk. The long fade pulls in lime acidity and an earthy, mushroom-like umami note. abv: 40%

Meet Cachaça, Brazil’s Most Popular Spirit
Wine Enthusiast | August 13, 2018