Cachaça is so much more than the clear Caipirinha essential you’re used to seeing. In Brazil, cachaça as a category is just as diverse as the whiskey section of any good American liquor store. It comes flavored, sweetened or aged, and ranges in color from clear to yellow to copper-hued. Though cachaça has yet to truly take off to such extremes in the US, exposure from the World Cup in 2014 and the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics means Brazil and its main boozy export are more popular and varied stateside than ever before.
Aged cachaça is one of Brazil’s most intriguing spirited exports to date. Where silver cachaça is vegetal and grassy, aged cachaça is complex and almost honeyed with layered notes of wood and tropical fruits. Unlike many unaged cachaças, aged cachaça can and should be sipped straight. They can also add delicious depth to a traditional or fruit-spiked Caipirinha, or be used as a substitute in rum, whiskey and tequila cocktails.
Brazilian law requires that 50 percent of the cachaça in a bottle be rested in barrels for at least a year in order to be considered “aged.” Though it can be, and often is, aged in oak, which imparts flavors and aromas similar to whiskey, cachaça also benefits from its Brazilian heritage (hello, diverse flora of the Amazon rainforest!). Many producers choose to age their cachaça in native woods like amburana, cedar, freijó, garapa, balsa, vinhático and jequitibá.
Though the selection of aged cachaças—often labeled as ouro (“gold”)—available in the US is still limited compared to the hundreds of versions found in the motherland, more and more are popping up on liquor store shelves across the country. To help you get started on your aged cachaça journey, we picked out a few bottlings to add to your summer drinking roster.