Cachaça (pronounced ka-SHAH-sa) is one of the most unique spirits in the world. Essentially a rhum agricole—from Brazil rather than the French island of Martinique—cachaça is distilled from raw sugarcane juice rather than molasses (like 99 percent of rum on the planet). The vibrantly funky spirit, known as hogo in its native country, can only be made in Brazil and has been in production since the 1500s. While it’s the most consumed spirit in Brazil, cachaça is only just beginning to become popular in the United States. As more and more bottles become available stateside, there’s never been a better time to explore this exotic category of spirits. With flavors ranging from light and fruity to extremely funky and almost earthy, there’s a cahaça for every palate. To make exploring the South American spirit easier, we compiled six of our favorite cahaças available in the U.S. now. If you’re a rum lover, this spirit is destined to become your new favorite.
One of the best introductory cahaças, Leblon is bright and full flavored, but not too intimidating or challenging on the palate. Named after the famous beach in Rio de Janeiro, this cachaça was one of the of the first to be sold on the U.S. market. After distillation, Leblon’s cachaça is shipped from Brazil to France where it’s aged up to three months in ex-Cognac casks before bottling. On the palate, the spirit is ripe with notes of fresh sugarcane, a blanco tequila-esque vegetal pepperiness, banana and lime peel. While the spirit is sippable on its own, it’s best enjoyed in tropical-tinged tipples and as a replacement for silver rums.
Another great gateway bottle that will help you acquaint yourself with the unique flavors of cachaça, Novo Fogo Silver is as funky as it is vibrant and fresh. One whiff of this spirit reveals its true character—as you put the glass to your nose, you can literally smell the Brazilian soil in which the sugarcane was grown. The first sip reveals a symphony of tropicality, first with bursts of mango and overripe banana, and then with a touch of tart passionfruit. With a hint of salinity and an earthy, mushroomy funk on the finish, the spirit becomes almost savory as it leaves your palate. When it comes to making Brazil’s signature cocktail, the Caipirinha, there is simply no better spirit to use as the base.
A collaboration between the distillery's’ master blender Erwin Weimann and Jean Ponce, Yaguara’s brand consultant (and notable Saõ Paulo bartender), this small batch unaged cachaça is rustic and extremely funky. With an aroma that’s reminiscent of fruit punch mixed with overripe fruit, Yaguara Branca is as robust as the ripest Jamaican rum (think Rum Fire or Wray & Nephew Overproof). On the palate, the spirit has a medley of tropical flavors—including, guava, papaya, mango, coconut and banana—and savory notes of sage, thyme, elderflower and bergamot. On the finish, it burns bright and hot with an almost oily vibrancy. Amazing when mixed with tropical fruit juices and coconut milk, this cachaça is a perfect match for Piña Coladas and other islandy libations.
Produced three hours outside of Rio, Avuá (pronounced av-wah) Cachaça is pot distilled from pesticide-free, organically-grown sugarcane using pre-colonial methods akin to processing agave for mezcal, sans pit roasting. One of the purest expressions of raw sugarcane juice, this spirit tastes so beautiful that it almost creates a spiritual drinking experience. Rested in stainless steel before bottling, the cachaça is creamy and mouth-coating, with a vibrant herbaceousness. There are notes of honeycomb, cut grass, fresh-pressed pineapple juice and mango. Outstandingly delicious, this is an absolute must-try.
One of the more unique cachaças on the list, this bottling is part of Novo Fogo’s double-wood series. It’s essentially the same juice as the Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça, except the spirit is aged in two different casks instead of stainless steel tanks. First, the spirit is aged in repurposed American oak barrels, then in arariba casks—an indigenous Brazilian hardwood that’s also known as zebrawood—for a few months before being bottled. With a vibrant red hue from the zebrawood, the Novo Fogo Tanager has a distinct, spiced savoriness from ageing. Almost creamy on the palate, this cachaça has notes of cinnamon, allspice, clove, dried hay, wet clay, and pipe tobacco. Like a finer whiskey or Scotch, the Tanager Cahaça should be sipped neat and savored.
The third offering in Avuá’s native wood experiments, Avuá Jequitibá Rosa Cachaça is aged for two years in barrels made from jequitibá wood, a tree indigenous—and exclusive to—Southern and Central Brazil. Unlike anything that we’ve ever tasted (and we’ve tasted some strange things), this cachaça is boldly fruity and spiced. There’s an unusual mix of flavors on the forefront of the palate like horchata, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Malt-O-Meal with a drizzle of maple syrup. Then the spirit finishes with a woodsy, almost briary note and bursts of fresh raspberry. According to Avuá, this cachaça should be sipped neat alongside an ice cold beer. Only 600 bottles will be released in the United States this year, so get it while you can.