Rum’s Brazilian sister, cachaça is not well known in the UK. Indeed, we only know a few brands we’ve come across through rum events, Rumfest and Twitter tastings. So when Hugo Tolomei of House of Cachaça invited us to his first Cachaça Festival, we were excited to attend and discover more.
It was held at Unit 5 Gallery in Hoxton on a sunny Saturday. The day was split into to 3-hour slots and we went for the 4-7pm round. Checking in at the registration desk we were given a hardback book on cachaça, which profiled each of the producers exhibiting, a glass muddler for those caipirinhas and the all-important bottle of water to see us through the tasting of 50-ish cachaças.
The room itself was quite small, but don’t let that belie how much new cachaça there was to try. We know Leblon (and our favourite cachaça brand ambassador, Jonathan) and Yaguara, but on every other table was something unknown so it was difficult to know where to start!
First up, cachaça is distilled from sugar cane juice and comes off the still at a relatively low 38-48%, by Brazilian law. These white, unaged cachaças are what we’re used to, with the sweet, fresh and vegetal aromas similar to agricole rhum. This event introduced us to aged cachaça and, specifically, ageing in native Brazilian woods.
Amburana: imparts a vanilla smoothness and in some cachaças we tasted, a dominant cinnamon note. Very interesting and some of our favourites were aged in this wood.
Balsam: herbaceous flavours, notably anise. With one of us a big fan of French pastis, this was also a favourite!
Amendoim: also known as peanut wood. Doesn’t impart much colour or flavour. Cachaças aged in amendoim barrels were very pale, and the wood seems to serve as a resting barrel rather than adding flavours like the amburana and balsam woods. Most were very smooth. The Envelhecida Sapucaia below is aged 2 years in amendoim and had a very distinct, but enjoyable flavour.
Castanheira: the wood of the Brazil nut tree and brings a slight nuttiness. The Indiazinha was a blend of ageing in amburana and castanheira woods and another standout.
Cerejeira: cherry wood that brings vanilla and a slight sweetness
Freijó: gives a slight yellow colour and adds some acidity
Ipê – Imparts acidity, a slight nuttiness and a yellow/orange colour depending on the length of time in the barrel.
Oak: American and French, brings vanilla and tannins, particularly for the French oaks
And that’s just *some* of what was on offer. Apart from the big names, none of these have distribution in the UK so it was almost like we got a sneak peek to discover the breadth of this spirit.
Congratulations to Hugo for pulling all this together and getting all the cachaças into the country for our tasting fun. As a first event, we hope it raises awareness of cachaça and it can come back next year much bigger for a more general audience, more education/masterclasses and more time!
Until next time, keep rumming!