Origin: Fazenda da Quinta Agronegocios Ltda., Carmo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Age: 2 years
Finish: New Jequitiba Rosa
In our first non-rum sugarcane spirit review, we head South of the Caribbean to Brazil. Cachaça is a geographically-protected spirit derived from pressed sugarcane juice with a shorter fermentation period (~24 hours), and under Brazilian law can be sold between 38% and 54% ABV, with up to 6g/L of added sweetener.
In the USA, cachaça is not nearly as well-known, marketed, or coveted as rum, but it is the most popular spirit in its native country, with Brazilians consuming an estimated 396 million gallons annually. Likely their drink of choice? The famous Caipirinha, Brazil's answer to the Mojito, and also their national cocktail.
Avuá is a bottler of cachaça, that sources terroir-driven distillate from all over Brazil. Their different expressions offer signature notes from both the region they were produced in, as well as the wood used in the cask they were aged in, when applicable; these include French Oak (or carvalho), Amburana, and Bálsamo casks.
Today, we are looking at Avuá Jequitibá Rosa cachaça. Here's what the bottle has to say about its provenance:
Single-sourced from the hills of Carmo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Hand-crafted and aged up to two years in a Jequitibá Rosa cask, a high density, dark-colored hardwood found only in central and southern Brazil.
The juice is 100% pot-distilled and bottled at 80 proof. The labeling offers a bit more information about my specific bottle, indicating this is bottle #59 from batch #9. I bought this through the Spritual Adivsory club at Joe's Wines & Liquor earlier this year, and I am looking forward to finally sharing my notes.
Very light straw, high clarity, medium viscosity
Sugarcane, brine, light marshmellow, fresh-cut cherries
Grassy sugarcane, salt water, ethanol, brine
Medium-long, herbal, slight bitterness
Cachaça is often characterized as being "rougher" or less refined than rum, when comparing different sugarcane-derived spirits. While that may not represent the category in its entirety, that is what I have found in my tasting notes for the Jequitibá Rosa bottling.
Most of these notes are similar to what you may find for a lightly or un-aged sugarcane juice-based rum (such as rhum agricole, clairin, or an aguardiente), with a light straw color in the glass, and high clarity.
The nose offers fresh sugarcane sweetness, a soft, light marshmellow note, and hints of fresh-cut cherries. I wonder how much of this is the cachaça itself, and how much influence the Jequitibá Rosa cask has on the bouquet; the result is a nice and warming, well-rounded aroma.
The palate offers grassy, herbal sugarcane, salt water, brine, and a dose of uncontrolled ethanol. In my growing understanding of distillation, I would say this likely has to do with the short fermentation period, which may not allow stronger esters to develop. This may lead to a thinner palate than one may expect from an unaged Jamaican rum or AOC rhum agricole, which likely has a longer fermentation period.
The medium-long finish is somewhat thin, quickly leaving behind any sugarcane notes to lean into an herbal, then bitter trail. To its credit, the bottle does indicate this bitterness is present in the experience. However, the credit only goes so far, as this isn't a serviceable bitterness, at least when sipped neat.
As mentioned earlier, this is a bit rougher around the edges, and doesn't offer enough character in a standalone setting to outweight its downsides. I do commend the team at Avuá for using diverse and unique varieties of wood to age their cachaça, and doing so in a reportedly sustainable manner. While I likely won't be pouring this into another glencairn neat, I look forward to seeing how this will play out in cachaça riffs on traditional rum drinks (or if we're not kidding ourselves, plenty of caipirinhas!).