Brazilian Spirit: In Search of a Purer, Nobler Cachaça

Brazil's sugarcane spirit Beleza Pura Cachaça (pronounced ka-SHA-sa) can be found in every single boteco (bar) in Brazil for as little as 25 cents a shot. Though it is commonly referred to as a "Brazilian rum", there are in fact several differences between it and the Caribbean spirit.

While rum is distilled from molasses (which yields a higher sugar content), cachaça uses mostly the fresh sugar cane juice as a source; that difference can be immediately noticed in the nose – most cachaças smells like cane, while rum has a more sugary smell.

Several Brazilian companies mass-produce a cheaply-sold product that is aimed for the masses; some of it is labeled as "aged" but in fact has caramel added to give it color (causing worse hangovers, as one producer once admitted to me).

A lot of that has wound up on the shelves of New York bars as the popularity of caipirinha (cachaça, crushed lime, sugar and ice) grew over the last few years.

There are, however, other smaller companies who dedicate themselves to making a higher-quality product, although until recently that was hard to find outside of Brazil.

"Brazil is capable of high-quality spirits," says Olie Berlic, a former New York sommelier who took upon himself the task of introducing premium cachaças to the American market after a five-year tour-de-force that began when Berlic traveled to Brazil in search of wine.

"I couldn't find any wine producers who had a good portfolio," he said. He then set his sights on the distilled product, and set out to find companies who produced high-quality cachaça.

"I tasted over 800 brands, and tried to find the players; I was convinced that a higher quality product had a place in the market." He finally found a producer in São Paulo who had been mapping the sugar cane plantations for 20 years.

To bring it to the U.S. market, he wanted to create an original name that promoted "the sophistication and spontaneity of Brazil", Berlic said.

His Brazilian-born wife came up with the name Beleza Pura (Pure Beauty), which refers to the purity of the product and also to the beauty of the country.

"I identified regional elements, and created something fresh and clean without any additives, rich in the palate, with a long finish and overall purity," Berlic says.

In addition to his own brand, Berlic also created a portfolio of premium cachaças, such as Armazém Vieira, in Florianópolis (in the south of Brazil), which uses a fermented, wine-like sugar cane juice to make cachaça and then ages it for 4, 8 and 16 years, and Rio's Rochinha, another small producer that ages their product in Brazilian oak, which gives scotch-like notes to the taste.

Watching Berlic conduct a tasting is an educational experience – he doesn't only pour the cachaças but he also instructs the audience about each region where the liquid is produced, the aging process and mixing suggestions.

It is clear that he is in love with what he does. More recently, he introduced a 108-proof Brazilian absinthe in the U.S. market, "working with the producer to give it a younger appeal."

Berlic also focuses on giving back to the country that gave him his livelihood, and his company has partnered with the Dreams Can Be Foundation, a U.S. not-for-profit organization that works with several organizations in Brazil to benefit needy children. Berlic's company donates a percentage of the profits to them "to help the children to have a better opportunity".


Note: This article has appeared, in different form, on the New York Press


You May Also Like

Brazil’s Embraer Announces Firm Order Backlog Amounting to Record US$ 17 Billion

Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer reports that its firm order backlog for the Commercial Aviation, ...

Brazilian Consumers Have Never Been So Confident

Brazilian consumers’ confidence in the economy and their own personal finances is on the ...

ILO Warns in Brazil that LatAm’s 53% Unemployment Rate Might Get Worse

The International Labor Organization (ILO) calculates that, if steps are not taken to create ...

It’s Easier to Be a Dollar in Brazil These Days

The unification of the free (commercial) and fluctuating (tourist) exchange rates went into effect, ...

Brazil Brings Internet to the Inner Cities

In an effort to bring the Internet to low-income families, the Brazilian government is ...

They Don’t Speak Spanish in Brazil (Excerpts)

The ignorance level regarding Brazil is higher than you might presume. I once spoke ...

Brazil in a Recession? No Way, Says Minister, Jobs Are Still Plentiful

Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega has recently put down the disappointing performance of the ...

Brazil’s Lula in Davos: Preacher and Salesman

A day away from the official opening of the world’s most important capitalist encounter, ...

Another Government Party Official Steps Down in Brazil Due to Corruption Charges

The secretary general of the PT, SÀ­lvio Pereira, has requested a leave of absence. ...

Brazilian President Visits UK. End of Farm Subsidies in the Agenda.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will be in the United Kingdom between ...