When Cadenhead’s announced their recent outturn, it featured the slogan around the world and back again for good reason. Beyond the homestead of Scotch, we found ourselves in France for the aged delights of cognac and Armagnac before venturing across the Atlantic for bourbons from Heaven Hill and a Tennessee distillery. A fine selection of releases and the unexpected element came via a detour to Brazil for their Cachaça spirit.
I was intrigued, as despite most of my increasingy limited time going towards whisky, I do believe it is important to explore and appreciate other spirits. Cachaça is native to Brazil and dates back to the 1500’s, which possibly predates rum. Pronounced kah-SHAH-sah, it is made up from sugar cane juice rather than molasses. It’s popularity in Brazil comes partially due to its flexibility and basis of many cocktails including famously, the Caipirnha.
Outside of Brazil, it is the mixologists that will spread the word. A variety of releases are available from the big online retailers. These tend to fall into 2 camps with the unaged white Cachaça being the preferred option for cocktails. Aged in casks, gold Cachaça, is seen to be of sufficient quality to be a standalone drink. The majority of these are aged 3 years, although what we have here is a decade in maturity, which puts us very much at the top of the Cachaça tree or cane.
We forget that Cadenhead’s origins are very much as a wine and spirits merchant, situated in Aberdeen in 1842. The bling and dazzling appeal of whisky means that alternative spirits are often dismissed and frowned upon, despite offering great value and something different. This could be my first and last Cachaça, I certainly hope it is better than my last foray to Brazil. This took the form of a Cadenhead’s 1999 rum from the Epris distillery. A very industrial producer, it was very forgettable and destined for a life as a mixer, solitary confinement at the back of the cupboard, or down the sink; a fate that still awaits it.
Cachaça, like rum in Brazil, has its more industrial producers who produce bulk over flavour. At least we are on safe ground with an age statement, but what of the distillery itself? This Cachaça was part of a trio of releases. The youngest at 2 years of age was joined by a 5 year old release, with 5 and 10 from the same Sapucaia distillery, which is a recent construct. The 2 year old coming from the Magnifica de Faria distillery. Sapucaia is situated north of Sao Paulo and is set amongst fertile land that produces the main ingredient to its distillation. I suppose this is terroir on another level? A variety of spirits are produced at the distillery including a Florida style gin and bizarrely, limoncello.
There’s a seasonality to the sugar cane and its use in distillation. Speed is of the essence as traditionally once cut in the field, the cane should be used within 24 hours. Failure to do so will affect the viability of the spirit. Thereafter a natural fermentation is utilised that takes advantage of the natural yeasts that exist on the cane itself. Copper stills are used to distil and the team are looking for the heart of the spirit known as curaçao. This is then laid to rest in oak or peanut wood casks. Hardwood such as Garapa is easy to work with, plentiful, and features a predictable grain that sees popularity in decking and flooring.
This 10-year-old is bottled at 40.3% (the bare minimum for Cachaça is seen as 38%), with an outturn of 414 bottles from a single cask. It’ll set you back around £40 and this seems to be a fair price given its excessive maturation and prices online for much younger offerings. A thumbs up for the presentation as well, hopefully Cadenhead’s will give us some mezcal next time around.
Cadenhead’s Cachaça Sapucaia Velha 10 Years Old – review
Colour: Pinot Grigio.
On the nose: lime peel, all spice, lemon zest and Kiwi fruit. Buttercup, banana leaf, mace and orange juice round off a light and summer themed presentation.
In the mouth: gentle, delicate and plenty of green apples and limes. More refreshing qualities with grapefruit, Kiwi fruit and a playful fruity/sweet sensibility, underpinned by some earthiness.
Well, I’ll never say no to a new experience so I’m pleased to have delved into this new spirit. My own impression is that this example is a little too subdued for my whisky taste buds. Perhaps a younger more robust example will offer a more fertile experience.
There is the sense of character and purpose from the contents. A refreshing sipper that is far better than any gin I’d care to digest. I’ve learned something during this exploration and while this won’t be MALT’s most popular article by a long shot; it is important that we try to bring you new things.
On the scoring scale with next to no experience of this spirit, I’m left to consider were I’d place it amongst my expeditions outside of Scotland. Average is average and thus…