Thursday, 8 May 2014

Silver and Gold: Abelha Cachaça

A caipirinha - the perfect Cachaça cocktail!
Cachaça is the Brazilian spirit of choice. It's pronounced ka-shah-sah and its made similarly to rum, though generally from sugar cane juice rather than molasses, which is a by-product of the production of sugar.

It's thought the production of this delectable and little known liquor dates back to around 1500 when slaves, given left over sugar cane juice from the plantations they worked on, left it to ferment to produce a booze which was used by the slave owners to stimulate hard work and incentivise the workers.

Across Brazil there are estimated some 30,000 - 40,000 different small producers of Cachaça producing differing levels of the spirit to varying degrees of care and success.

It comes in two styles - white and gold, un-aged and aged. White Cachaça can be aged by some producers for up to 12 months, with the colour then removed by filtration to maintain the purity of the spirit, whilst Gold Cachaça due to legislation must be aged for at least one year in barrels no bigger than 700 litres.

The most common, or familiar use of this spirit in Europe is as the main component of the Caipirinha - a cocktail Laura fell in love with last year - but Lucienne also blended it with marmalade to create the Seduced by Seville cocktail.

I've been lucky enough to have been sent two examples of Abelha Cachaça - a producer that really stands out not only for quality but for its 100% organic production.

Abelha (Ah-Bey–lya) Cachaça Silver (£21.40, The Drink Shop) is ‘a premium hand crafted spirit’ which has been rested for a short time and they claim makes a perfect Caipirinha. In the glass its crystal clear and slightly viscous. The nose is best described as intense. It’s huge. You get lots of bananas and toffee and a touch of cream. It’s like a big banoffee pie, smells clean and fresh and is impossibly inviting.

A small sip is profound. It immediately fills the palate with those sugar rich and fruity flavours, the alcohol is warming and necessary and with a light acidity helps to superbly balance the sweetness. The mouthfeel is richly coating and gorgeously exotic. The oily texture lives on as the flavours lead to vegetal yet still retaining the honeyed sweetness. It’s a treat and an experience to sip but I’d bet that with a bit of sugar, a bit of lime and a lot of ice you would transported to ecstatic.

This is a versatile spirit and could successfully replace white rum in many favourites to add another dimension.

Abelha Cachaça Gold (£25.61, The Drink Shop) ‘is aged for three years in 250 litre garapeira wooden barrels’ and this careful, attentive aging allows some impurities to evaporate but softens the spirit a touch. It’s still intense, gorgeously aromatic and the mouth filling oily-ness is present and correct it’s just got subtlety on its side.

The sweetness is there, the bananas are there but they are tempered, or enhanced by hints of stewed apples and the flavoursdevelop on the palette. There’s a touch of butter from the wood and this all goes together to produce an utterly sippable spirit. It’s still Cachaça. Definitely. And it would be an interesting proposition to many a mixologist, but it drinks excellently on its own.

The carnival capital of the world is shortly about to host a very big party with people from all over the world in attendance to enjoy one of sports great events. I’m really looking forward to the World Cup (our slim chances of getting to the knockout stages notwithstanding) and all those thousands of football fans making the journey have a lot to discover and a lot look forward to too.

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