June 2017: Cachaça (part III)

This is the third time that Flight Club has featured Cachaça. First, we tasted a variety of bottles purchased from the US. Last year, we introduced aged versus unaged Cachaça, with bottles sourced from Brazil. This year, we are taking a trip to the state of Minas Gerais, known for producing top-quality Cachaça.

Cachaça

I have been fascinated by Cachaça since I featured the spirit last year. I’ve gone to Brazil a few times since and brought back with me several new bottles to try. One in particular has become my “go to” bottle and absolute favorite: Aurea Custodio 3 year, from Minas Gerais. We will also be reviewing the 5 year aged Aurea Custodio.

Minas Gerais is located in the Southeastern region of Brazil. Its capital city is Belo Horizonte. The region is well known for heavy mining activity, which gave the State it’s name (Minas = Mines; Gerais = General). The region is hot in the summertime, but can get to low temperatures in the 50’s in the winter.

I love visiting Minas. The people are very friendly, the food is delicious, and there is a great variety of craft Cachaça. As it holds true for every Brazilian, “Mineiros” are crazy about futebol. Their main soccer teams are Cruzeiro (Raposa “Fox”), Atletico Mineiro (Galo “Rooster”) and America-MG (Coelho “Rabbit”). One of their biggest soccer stadiums is called “Mineirao,” which was one of the host sites for the World Cup 2014 held in Brazil. There’s so much history in Minas Gerais related to Portuguese colonialism, country independence, religion, etc. This review is about Cachaça, but I’m happy to provide a little more history if anyone is interested.

Cocktail: Cachaça “Mula sem cabeca” (Moo-lah, sein, ca-be-sa”)

Cachaça

Last year I featured “Capirinha”. Caipiroska is the same drink, but with Vodka instead of Cachaça. This year, I decided to find a nice summer drink that involved Vodka and use Cachaça instead. I named it “Mula sem cabeca” (Mule without a head), which is a Brazilian folklore story.

Ingredients: Leblon Cachaça, Ginger Beer, Bitters, Ice.

Recipe: Add 1.5 oz of Cachaça, several ice cubes, 5 oz of Ginger Beer, one dash of bitters and mix.

Cachaça

Bottle 1Espirito de Minas (aged 18 months in an oak barrel)

Distillery: Fazenda Santa Luzia

Proof: 86

Price: R $90 (US $30)

Purchase location: Cachacaria Nacional (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) www.cachacarianacional.com.br

Tasting Notes: 

Nose: A strong blackberry syrup note right up front, followed by butter, raw sugar cane, celery, lemon, and cheddar cheese.

Palate: Very sweet, with dominating pineapple and plantain.

Finish: Very little, with the pineapple and plantain lingering for a moment, then turning a bit bitter.

Why this bottle is featured:

This bottle is featured in most 5 star hotels, restaurants, and bars in Sao Paulo as a “go to” bottle to drink straight or for cocktails, mainly due to its “softness” in palate. Wanted to share with the rest of the group the bottle is most commonly found in bars in Sao Paulo – the largest financial city and population of Latin America.

Cachaça

Bottle 2: Primeira de Minas

Distillery: Fazenda Cristal e Alto Alegre, Faria Lemos-MG

Proof: 80

Price: R $60 (US $20)

Purchase location: Belo Horizonte Airport

Tasting Notes: 

Nose: Very buttery, with some brown sugary and anise, then turning towards an herbal and agave mixture.

Palate: Vanilla and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.

Finish: Minty butterscotch, with some tobacco leaf and vanilla.

Why this bottle is featured:

Found a small Cachaça shop at the terminal as I was walking to my gate. Couldn’t resist and picked this bottle for how it looked, I confess. It’s gotten really good reviews, though.

 Cachaça

Bottle 3Sagatiba Velha ( aged 2 years in American white oak)

Distillery: Sagatiba

Proof: 76

Price: R $100 (US $33)

Purchase location: Cachacaria Nacional, www.cachacarianacional.com.br

Tasting Notes: 

Nose: Hard candy butterscotch; wedding cake; pineapple; banana peel; cantaloupe.

Palate: Vanilla simple syrup and diluted lemon drop.

Finish: A quick transition from the palate then disappears without a trace.

Why this bottle is featured:

Sagatiba was one of the first companies to market their bottles as “premium” in bars and restaurants – and did a good job. Their bottles brought a new modern design, which helped with their marketing campaign. Sagatiba was featured at Flight Club before. This is an aged version of Sagatiba.

Cachaça

Bottle 4Aurea Custodio (aged 3 years in European oak)

Distillery: Aurea Custodio, Fazenda Uberabinha

Proof: 82

Price: R $170 (US $52)

Purchase location: Cachacaria Nacional (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) www.cachacarianacional.com.br

Tasting Notes: 

Nose: Scented baby wipes; butterscotch; celery; some copper.

Palate: Butterscotch and fennel; papaya; heart of palm.

Finish: Butterscotch and spearmint, followed by vanilla cream.

Why this bottle is featured:

This Cachaça is aged 3 years in European Oak and has won several awards in Brazil and abroad. It was ranked Number 46 in the first national Cachaça contest and jumped to Number 23 in the second contest.

I was first introduced to this bottle by my cousin, who lives in Dallas. You can only find Aurea Custodio in Belo Horizonte. Trust me, I’ve searched everywhere in Brazil to no luck. You can buy it in Belo Horizonte or online, but with delivery exclusively in Brazil. If interested, you must have a Brazilian connection traveling to the US.

Cachaça

Bottle 5Aurea Custodio (aged 5 years in European oak)

Distillery: Aurea Custodio, Fazenda Uberabinha

Proof: 80

Price: R $200 (US $60)

Purchase location: Cachacaria Nacional (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) www.cachacarianacional.com.br

Tasting Notes: 

Nose: Fresh sugar cane; freshly mowed grass; iceberg lettuce, cantaloupe, pineapple, banana peel; pepper and mozzarella.

Palate: Butterscotch candy; fresh sugar cane; celery; all of the flavors seem a bit muted.

Finish: Butterscotch and vanilla, but both are very faint.

Why this bottle is featured:

This Cachaça is aged 5 years in European Oak and also won several awards in Brazil and abroad.

Cachaça

Bonus Bottle: [Unlabeled]

Distillery: Unknown, Sete Lagoas, MG

Proof: Unknown

Price: N/A

Purchase location: Not available for sale

Tasting Notes:  

Nose: Very earthy and grassy; grilled artichoke; grape leaves.

Palate: Sharp sugar sweetness; waxy; bamboo shoots; watermelon.

Finish: Short; black licorice and white sugar.

Why this bottle is featured:

Mineiros have a passion and great pride for their manufacturing of Cachaça. Recently, I was in the city of Sete Lagoas, about an hour car ride from Belo Horizonte (the capital). While having lunch with a restaurant owner, I told him about my interest in Cachaça and trying different bottles. The gent immediately signaled to the waiter asking for his “special” bottle of Cachaça. Here comes a bottle of Johnie Walker Platinum with a clear liquid inside. He said that this is from a friend of his who loves distilling Cachaça. This is very common in Minas Gerais, and how many famous distilleries begin their story of distilling, marketing, and distributing Cachaça around the country. There are 4,000 known labels of Cachaça and another 36,000 unknown, like this bottle.

Gentlemen devoted to the finest.

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