For most people, the difference between rum and cachaça is unclear, but that confusion is understandable. When cachaça was first distributed in the United States, distributors and liquor stores labeled the spirit as rum rather than giving it its own distinguishable category. They did this to save time and money importing the spirit. But while the two spirits are essentially made from the same thing, that is where there similarities end. Here, you can find out what the real differences are between cachaça and rum.
They’re Produced in Different Parts of the World
Unlike most spirits, rum can be made anywhere in the world, so production is not restricted to one specific region or country. Although it is most commonly associated with the Carribean, rum is made in South America, Mexico, the United States and Asia. Cachaça, on the other hand, is a distinctly Brazilian spirit that is closely aligned with Brazilian culture and cannot be made outside of the country.
They’re Made from Different Types of Sugar
Rum is a very generic term for a spirit, and it can be applied to a number of different distillates that are made from a variety of sugar types—including molasses, demerara sugar, raw sugar, beet sugar, honey or sugarcane juice (rhum agricole). Unlike rum, cachaça can only be produced from freshly pressed sugarcane juice. It can only be made from Brazilian-grown sugarcane, and distillers typically use varietals that are indigenous to the country.
They Are Aged in Different Types of Barrels
Like rum, cachaça can be bottled and sold both aged and unaged. However, the two spirits are generally aged in different types of barrels. Rums are aged in oak casks, which are often second-fill barrels that once held either bourbon or sherry (much like scotch producers reuse barrels). When cachaça is barrel-aged, it is aged in casks made from hardwoods indigenous to Brazil. Notable Brazilian woods used for aging cachaça are Amburana, which lends a cinnamon-y flavor to the spirit; Zebrawood, which imparts a vibrant, red-hue and a distinct fruitiness; and Jequitibá Rosa, which gives the spirit a touch of bitterness and tropical fruitiness. Other woods used are Tapinhoã, Cabreuva, Balm and about a dozen other trees exclusive to the country of Brazil.