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Now that temperatures in Europe are getting from ‘Brazilian’ back to normal, it’s about time we start to taste some more rum and cachaça.
First up comes from the Osborne stables – the famous sherry producers in Spain. Under the Santo Grau label they bottle some rather special cachaças. Let’s start with the Coronel Xavier Chaves. The name comes from what is thought to be the oldest sugarcane mill in Brazil, located in Minas Gerais, that apparently belonged to a cousin of Tiradentes, the notorious Brazilian freedom fighter.
But the most unique part of this cachaça lies in it’s maturation. If we can call it maturation? This cachaça is the result of a privileged terroir and it is not aged in wood. Instead, it rests for six months in underground paraffin-coated stone tanks built 250 years ago that were given the status of National Heritage.
The Cachaça: Santo Grau Coronel Xavier Chaves
Origin: Coronel Xavier Chaves – Minas Gerais
Distilled: 2015 – Pot still
Maturation: 6 months – stone tanks
The Nose: A very grassy cachaça with some rather striking and different aromas. A soft see breeze and even a whiff of soft petroleum. White fruits, pear. A bit of a ‘dusty’ smell too, peppery and agricol-y, with very nice mineral touches, some grapefruit and green olives.
The Taste: strong vegetal taste, grassy, but with a pleasant sweet touch. Despite the 40% alcohol it has a firm bite. Fruity notes and again those black olives. Also a bit of a cocoa bitter.
The Finish is rather long, fruity haribo sweets with again that pleasant mineral touch. Slowly drying towards that cocoa bitter.
Our Score: **** a ‘different’ cachaça with a sweet and mineral touch. The latter thanks to the maturation in the stone tanks, or is that just our imagination? Either way: a must have in the collection. The beautiful labels – not an evidence for cachaça – are a bonus. Price: around €30
The Engenho Buriti, located in Papagaios – Minas Gerais started production not too long ago in 2010. Only 3 years later their cachaças already won several gold medals at ExpoCachaça, the most important cachaça fair around.
They produce cachaça under the names of Famosinha de Minas, Santuario de Minas, Dona Branca, and Buriti. But they also produce cachaça for independent companies and bottlers, like ABOUT, a cachaça company operating from…Switzerland.
The Cachaça: About Brazil – Gold
Origin: Papagaios – MG
Maturation: 2 years old
Distillation: pot still
ABV: 40 %
The nose: this makes one happy! Fresh and vivid with beautiful hints of cinnamon, vanilla, liquorice, and very subtle on the background something that reminds me of smoked horsemeat (filet d’Anvers). All the aromas are subtle and well integrated. Give it a good 20 minutes in the glass and it becomes a bit more floral.
The taste is extremely well balanced. The 3 main flavours are in perfect harmony: sweet, vegetal and wood. This cachaça might be a bit less grassy than many others, and has a bit of an un-cachaça like sweet touch; but this sweetness goes very well together with the delicate amburana notes. Again some light cinnamon and vanilla and a touch of ripe cherries. With many amburana matured cachaças, the cinnamon really hits you in the face. ABOUT Gold however is much more delicate. The taste actually reminded me a bit of a soft apfelstrudel. Must be why the Swiss like it I suppose 😊
The finish is very long, again a bit sweet with pleasant fruity notes. White fruits: peach, pear.
Our Score: ****. ABOUT Gold? Yep…a gold medal well deserved.
Now let’s talk availability. For now only available in Switzerland apparently. But you do know how it goes. If I taste a magnificent cachaça like this that is not available in my own country (which is Belgium, fyi) I do try to contact the producers to get it over here as well. So with probability: soon available everywhere in western Europe. Because everyone deserves some Gold in their life!
The Cachaça: Calabró
Origin: Arinos – Minas Gerais
Distilled: n.i. – pot still
Bottled: ca 2017
Maturation: Aroeira wood
There’s always a first for something. In this case, it’s my very first cachaça matured in aroeira wood, a timber tree native from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, and typical for Caatinga, Cerrado, and Pantanal vegetation in Brazil. Tannins isolated from the stem bark have anti-inflammatory and antiulcer potency, showing a strong antioxidant property for possible therapeutic applications. The species has shown some efficacy in therapeutic use and may turn out to be of benefit to neuro-disease patients. In popular Brazilian culture, an extract from the wood is also used against fever. So let’s drink this one to our good health!
Normally I don’t talk about the colour of a cachaça or rum. I find it totally irrelevant which of the 50 shades of yellow a cachaça has. It says absolutely nothing about its taste nor its quality. Today I make a little exception though. This must be the darkest cachaça with natural colour that I’ve seen, with a nice red glow.
I actually hadn’t heard of the Fazenda Maiza distillery in MG, where this cachaça comes from. I found it in a small shop annex restaurant along the 040 highway in Paracatu – MG. Since it was matured in an unknown type of wood (for me) and would set me back only around 8-9 euro…why not!
The Nose starts, as expected, on vegetal sugarcane notes, albeit rather soft and delicate with a slightly sour undertone. The second impression reminds me of a delicate woman’s perfume of white flowers accompanied by a touch of sea breeze.
The Taste is herbal with very well integrated wood tones, that never become bitter. Its vegetal side is again subtle and soft, with a little sweet touch. A round and easy cachaça, but rich and full with a very pure taste. I can imagine whisky drinkers to like this cachaça. The alcohol is well integrated.
The Finish is rather long, with an undefined fruity taste and just like in the mouth a subtle sweet touch.
Our Score: **** Considering its price this is definitely worth every real!
The La Mauny distillery, which received its AOC in 1996 has three distillation columns, including one that is completely made of copper. It’s there that Chantal Comte selected this single cask, traceable to the Section T of the La Mauny cellars.
The Rum: Chantal Comte Tour de l’Or 2006
Origin : la Mauny – Martinique
Raw material: fresh sugarcane juice
Distilled : 2006 – column still
Matured : 20% new French oak (Tronçais Forest) and 80% ex-cognac casks
Bottled: april 2017 – 2000 bottles
The Nose: the first impression is rather agricol-y, but in a subtle way. It’s not the in-your-face sugarcane but more a soft herbal, grassy kind of rum. It has a rather sweet floral perfume with hints of tropical fruits. In the nose also an autumn forest: wet leaves and humus. Dried prunes and sultanas and some sour cherries. Despite the high alcohol volume, the nose is rather soft. At the end it reminds a bit of a cigar box with soft cedar wood and a whiff of smoke. Adding water brings out more nutty flavours.
The Taste is firm with pungent alcohol. A soft swet touch and a big wood influence, but not bitter. The wood is spicy. After adding some water the rum gets very dry (ah, the irony!) bringing back the humus and a basket full of mushrooms. An autumn rum with a firm herbal touch.
The Finish is rather long with vibrant wood until the very end, turning just a very little towards bitterness. The herbal taste is now accompanied by some mocha.
Our Score: ****
Let’s admit it… as rum lovers we often look at big brands like Bacardi or Havana Club with a certain dédain. But what about their ‘better’ expressions? Drinkable or not? Let’s find out with the Havana Club Selección de Maestros (a rum that replaces the Havana Club Barrel Proof in the range) for which the casks have been hand-picked by the maestros roneros from the company’s finest aged stocks. The rums selected by the maestros roneros are finished in special casks of white (American) oak chosen for their aromatic properties before being bottled at a higher strength than the standard range for a more intense, immediate flavour on the palate.
The Rum: Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros
Raw material: molasses
Bottled: ca 2017
The Nose starts with pleasant floral notes accompanied by a slight vegetal sour touch. Spicy oak, nutmeg and a whiff of aniseed. After about 10 minutes in the glass it gets much fresher. Confit lemon peel, raisin and even a bit of a salty aroma. After 10 more minutes also some spicy ginger and a delicate touch of green tobacco.
The Taste is medium sweet with toasted sugared almonds, nicely balanced oak with soft bitters, and a touch of leather. Fine tobacco leaves and peach on syrup. The alcohol strength is perfect!
The Finish is rather long and slightly drying with well-integrated wood. Definitely not too sweet, but with a touch of sweet sauced pipe tobacco. Also orange peel, and at the very end some juicy white fruits (peach, nectarine).
Our Score : ****. A very nice Havana Club? Yes, it does exist!
The Jaguar Edicion Turrialba is also bottled under the name Jaguar Cordillera. It’s branded as a rum from Costa Rica, but is actually a blend of rums from diverse countries. Colombia and Peru for sure, and maybe Venezuela – info on that is contradictory.
The Rum: Ron jaguar Edicion Turrialba
Raw material: molasses
Distilled: column still
Matured: 10 yo, ex-bourbon casks
The Nose: a lot of oranges and dark sugar with some warm vanilla custard, a bit of a nutty aroma and some slightly sour vegetal notes.
The Taste: sweeter than the nose predicted. Strong taste of tangerine and vanilla, and a very pronounced taste of soft mocha. Is this the Colombian rum in the blend maybe? Because if you like Dictador rum, you’re going to like this one too. Bot the nose and the taste is rather good, but they don’t match. A delicate whiff of tobacco gives it a bit more depth.
Finish: medium long, sweet with lots of mocha again.
Our Score : ***
OK, let’s do just one last Santa Terezinha…
The Cachaça: Santa Terezinha Carvalho
Origin: Espirito Santo
Distilled: n.i. – pot still
Maturation: 3 years first fill American oak
The Nose: soft vegetal with a very pleasant floral perfume. I have sultanas, a bit of bourbon vanilla, coconut and a cognac like flavour. Nice and elegant, soft and easy. A really inviting nose.
The Taste: medium sweet with lots of wood – this really seems to be a distillery signature. The taste actually contrasts a lot with the nose. Where the nose indicates a floral, soft and easy going cachaça, the taste is firm with big wood.
Finish: again very woody and bitter, quickly dropping.
In the relatively small State of Espirito Santo near the Atlantic coastline, the Santa Terezinha distillery started production in 1942. Santa Terezinha is an artisan distillery working with respect for the environment. We’ve seen it all before with other distilleries: manual harvesting without burning the fields, swift pressing of the cane, the bagaço that is being used to heat up the copper pot stills (direct heating), and so on. But what makes Santa Terezinha really different is the particular way of fermenting the calda.
Once the juice or calda has been extracted, an equal amount of boiled sugarcane juice is added. To that mixture, the distiller also adds roasted and grinded bagaço (the dried sugarcane stems) as well as cornflower. To bring this mixture to the right temperature, a big stone is heated and then dropped into the mixing tank. In the meantime leaves of oranges and tangerines are being burned over a fire next to the tank, to clean or to purify the air. After four to five days, the mixture is all ready to go into the fermentation tanks. There it still takes an exceptional four to five days of fermentation to get the garapa ready. Once distilled, 80% of the spirit is used as coração.
All this means a very complex and time consuming method, combining the old traditions from back in those days when slaves made the cagaça with traditional European methods from the viniculture, brought to Brazil by European immigrants.
The Santa Terezinha cachaça is then matured in casks or tuns of oak, jequitiba rosa, bálsamo, umburana, or sassafras. Labels and boxes are often designed by famous Brazilian artists like Hélio Coelho and Haroldo Bussotti, making the bottles also real collector’s items.
The Cachaça: Santa Terezinha Serie Artes
Region: Espirito Santo
Distilled: pot still – lot 2017
Matured: amburana, 6 months
The Nose is rather elegant with soft vegetal aromas of fermenting most and a pleasant and again rather soft herbal touch. Also hints of sweet hay in good balance with a touch of white pepper and fresh sugarcane. Give it a good 15 minutes in the glass and it becomes more floral (rose petals)
The Taste is a bit sweet and rather vegetal on the first impression. As it was with the sassafras version, the second impression is more woody, but this time not as bitter. Some very subtle cinnamon (I suppose these amburana casks are really old, not giving much flavour anymore). Firm sugarcane and a delicate fruitiness reminding me a bit of sweet red fruits.
The Finish is rather woody with a sweet note, and is medium long. Slowly drying towards the end with soft-bitter wood but no aggressive tannins.