Cachaça is a unique Brazilian product. The first condition to give the name cachaça is to be produced in Brazil. There is nothing complicated about it so far, right? But in the definition of what is cachaça, there is still confusion. According to Brazilian law, Decree 6871/2009, Art. 53, cachaça:
A typical and unique name for alcohol produced in Brazil made from sugar cane, with an alcoholic strength of 38-48 percent at a temperature of twenty degrees Celsius, obtained by the distillation of fermented cane juice (…)’
Furthermore, according to the law, can be added up to 6 grams of sugars per liter, the value expressed as sucrose.
It is worth mentioning that if such standards are not met, beverage cannot be sold as cachaça, but it receives the designation as aguardente de cana (sugar cane brandy). For example, the sugar cane distillate with an alcohol content of 49% is called “Aguardente de cana-de-açúcar”.
The same applies to other spirits that are not distilled from sugar cane. For example, a distillate from cashew is “aguardente” – not a “cachaça”. And when we add herbs and/or spices, it cannot be marketed as cachaça, but as “aguardente composta”.
Art of aging by large S
Cachaça matures in different species of trees, including trees from Brazilian forests such as amburana, jequitibá, bálsamo, amendoim.
The barrel, an invention from Galicia, for a long time was used only as a container for transporting beer and wine. Use of barrels for alcoholic beverages derives from the early seventeenth century. Pasteur was the first scientist to notice that wooden barrels had the potential to change the taste of the drink. Since then, many scientific studies have been published, considering that wood is a source of exceptional aromas. The barrel is perceived as an active container, capable of modifying the beverage over time, enhancing its quality.
Cachaça aging is a practice that changes the chemical and sensory quality of a drink, adds color, taste and outstanding fragrances. Oak is traditionally used all over the world. In Brazil, there are also used barrels from other wood, forming distinct aromatic profiles, colors, and flavors. Different forests allow the development of a distillate, mixing two or more species of wood, which increases the aromatic complexity. The use of trees from Brazilian forests and their mixing gives originality and characteristic features to cachaça flavors.
During aging, the alcohol content in cachaça extracts the compounds of wood. At the same time, the air passing through the slots of the barrel and the porosity of the wood modify the compounds of the drink, thus creating a new aromatic bouquet, more complex and intense. The obtained aromatic profile depends on several factors, the most important of which are: wood species, its geographical origin, production process, size of barrels, aging time, temperature, humidity and storage place.
In the Brazilian forests mainly used for cachaça aging include: Amendoim-bravo (Pterogyne nitens Tul), Jequitibá-branco (Cariniana estrellensis), Araruva (Centrolobium tomentosum), Cabreúva (Mycrocarpus Frondosus), Jequitibá-rosa (Cariniana legalis), Amburana (Amburana) cearensis), Grápia (Apuleia leiocarpa), Ipe-roxo, pink trumpet tree (Tabebuia Heptaphylla) and nut tree of Brazil (Bertholletia excelsa).
Some of them are ideal for the production of barrels and storage of distillates in them because they have little effect on the color. Others release more recognizable and intense flavors and colors, ideally suited as ripening barrels.
Amendoim-bravo (Pterogyne nitens Tul)
Widely available wood can be found in the north-east region west of Santa Catarina. The tree has an average height of 10-15 meters and a diameter of 40-60 centimeters. It is ideal for the storage barrels production. Its subtle scent is barely noticeable, gives the cachaça a slightly yellow color and a mildly astringent taste. The distillate is stabilized, its quality is increased, also the smells of sugar cane and white cachaça are preserved. Cachaças stored in Amedoim wood barrels are ideal for mixed drinks preparation, especially well-known caipirinha cocktail.
Araruva or chestnut (Centrolobium tomentosum)
Also known as araribá, it is associated with the south-eastern and central-western regions of Brazil. The tree has an average height of 10-22 meters and a diameter of 30-60 centimeters. Widely used in the village of Paraná. Cachaça aged in this tree has a slightly yellowish color and a delicate floral aroma. Its characteristic feature, compared to other Brazilian forests, is viscosity and oiliness.
Cabreúva lub Bálsamo (Mycrocarpus Frondosus)
Also known as bálsamo and pau-bálsamo in Portuguese, it can be found from the south of Bahia to Rio Grande do Sul. The tree height is 20-30 meters and a diameter of 60-90 cm. It is characterized by a yellow-green color, gives cachaça a very intense aroma and slightly astringent taste. It is used in “mixes” of oak and/or cherry wood.
Oak (Quercus sp)
It is not native tree originating from Brazil, the tree grows in temperate zones in the northern hemisphere of the globe. Several species are also used for the aging of Brazilian drinks, most commonly as European oak (Quercus sessile) and North American oak (Quercus alba). Imports of new barrels and barrels previously used to age other alcoholic beverages, such as wines, whiskeys, and cognacs, give Cachaça a variety of aromas and flavors associated with oak. Cachaça in American oak has a golden color, characteristic aroma of vanilla and coconut, mild flavor and a complex aromatic bouquet. Aging in European oak gives the color of amber, intense aromas and flavors characteristic of almonds and tannins.
Amburana (Amburana cearensis)
Also known as cerejeira, it can be found in the north-eastern, central and south-eastern regions of Brazil. The tree has an average height of 10-20 m and a diameter of 40-80 cm. Amburana gives an intense color, a distinct aroma with notes of vanilla and a slightly sweet taste. Cachaça in amburana is widely known and available in Brazil.
Jequitibá (Cariniana estrellensis)
Occurs commonly in Brazil, growing in Acre, in the south of Bahia and the southern region of the country. It has a height of 35-45 m and a diameter of 90-120 cm. Jequitibábranco is suitable for the construction of barrels for storage of cachaça because it releases almost imperceptible flavors, aromas, and colors. Jequitibá-rosa (Cariniana legalis) gives the distillate a golden color, pleasant aromas and a complex bouquet comparable to the one obtained with North American oak.