Ah Brazil, home of my gorgeous, talented wife Gabriela Maya, feijoada, and “the beautiful game.”
Also, home of Cachaça, a brilliant distilled spirit made from sugarcane. I’ve been drinking this wonder of the New World since I first alighted in Rio de Janiero in 2003. To begin, sugarcane is washed and pressed to release the juice, which is then filtered and fermented. Most Cachaça is distilled in column stills, which is referred to as a “continuous” method where the “wine” is constantly fed into the columns; however, what I’m drinking today has lovingly passed through an alembic still and is a “by batches” system, meaning that the whole wine volume to be distilled is transferred to a pan before the distillation starts. This image may help orient us.
This is a bit more whimsical, but certainly keeps with the alchemical nature of distillation, courtesy of Brueghel the Elder in 1558.
￼￼Now that we have a spirit, what about the aging? Oak is an option, but so are umburana, ipê, cedar, balsam, jatobá, freijó, and jequitibá. The Bento Velho Cachaça de Alambique I’m drinking has been aged in jequitibá-rosa and jatobá wood. [Note: Gabriela brought this home from Rio for me this month. Most likely Bento Velho is not available in the States, but that just means you need to fly to Brazil!]
Here’s a closeup of a jequitibá-rosa from São Paulo. Note that wrinkly bark.
And here is a two hundred year old example of a jatobá.
Casks made from these trees have certainly afforded Bento Vehlo a dark amber, even mahogany color.
The jequitibá-rosa may be neutral in taste, while the jatobá adds a sweetness. So, now it’s time for the tasting notes. While you read the following, why don’t you put yourself in the proper Brazilian mood and listen to Arnaldo Antunes, Marisa Monte and Carlinhos Brown–also known as Tribalistas.
Nose: Banana, brown sugar, nutmeg and custard, rum, cayenne, dijon mustard.
Taste: Stewed tomatoes, roux, clean, simple syrup, black tea.
Finish: A peppery sourness.
Consistency: Light syrup.
Delicious. Bom comer!