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


  • Show Comments (12)

  • Ernest Barteldes

    Yes, this is a reprint
    As mentioned at the bottom of the piece, this is a reprint of a NY Press article which appeared earlier this year; the difference is that
    this is the unedited piece…

  • pample

    ArmazÀƒ©m Vieira
    By the way ArmazÀƒ©m Vieira is excellent and was introduced to it about 8 years ago by a friend in Rio. It sells in NY for about 4X-5X what you pay for in Rio. I can;t speak for the other cachacas being imported. And yes I would agree that this article is more like an advertisement, but it first appeared in the NY press.

  • Brazilian Dude

    We’ll be waitin’.
    See ya.
    Oh, BTW, take a look at the fortaleza posts. A lot going on – still!

  • Ernest Barteldes

    I know about the song, and I told that to Olie… he only heard the tune after he’d given the brand its name; and oh, this is definitely not a press release; I have a long cachaca article in the works (the angle being the imports to the US) which will probably please those who look for more thorough pieces; this is more an eats and drinks article, without any serious approach. You had to see the NY Press edit, it was way shorter

  • Brazilian Dude

    BTW, Ernest…
    Your wife probably told you this, but “Beleza Pura” is also the name (and chorous) of a hit song by Gilberto Gil in the 70’s, and became a slang expression at the time, very popular with “cabeÀƒ§a” people.
    As for cachaÀƒ§a, well, nice article, i see you were in ernest about it (sorry, had to get that out of my system… ;-)): however, I’m a single malt man meself, laddie.
    Oh, and congrats for the fortaleza article.

  • Ric

    Àƒªta Velho SÀƒ¡bio
    I was had an acquaintance who was the owner of an old and reputable cachaÀƒ§a factory in the Amazon. I flew a mutual friend over to see him one day and we had our noon meal with the cachaÀƒ§a producer and his family in their historic house. I noticed he was drinking wine.

    I asked him about his drinking preferences and he informed me that neither he nor his family drank their main product, cachaÀƒ§a. Of course they bottled other products, but he didnÀ‚´t drink his or any one elseÀ‚´s cachaÀƒ§a.

  • Michael William


    [quote][/quote]Enlighten me,please.

    Maybe my comment sounded a bit critical. As I said, I am new to the site so I did not realize that what are clearly commercial marketing initiatives were posted in the section that normally contain news items.

    The fabrication, exportation, and marketing of quality Brazilian cachaca is a topic that would be of interest to me actually, although Ernesto claims I “do not get it.” This article however is simply a press release and does not discuss any of these topics in a meaningful or credible way.

    There are actually a number of high-end cachacas being distributed in the U.S.and Europe. This brand does not appear to be one of them however.

  • Ernest Barteldes

    Not propaganda or press release; just an article about a guy who is doing a good job in promoting a high quality spirit…. Some people just don’t get it…

  • João da Silva

    [quote]ETHANOL !!

    In Ethanol,we trust 😉

  • João da Silva

    Michael Willimas
    [quote]How much were you paid to write this press release? It is thinly veiled propaganda. As a new member of this site, I didn’t realize the news section promoted commercial press releases. The picture used for “Beleza Pura” looks like a pre-blended Caipirinha which by its very nature would be absolute garbage.[/quote]

    Do you think that Ernesto sold his soul to write the press release?

    Enlighten me,please.

  • ch.c.

    The world best known CachaÀƒ§a with the largest production is :
    ETHANOL !!

    And Lula is addicted to it in more than one way.

  • Michael William

    How much were you paid to write this press release? It is thinly veiled propaganda. As a new member of this site, I didn’t realize the news section promoted commercial press releases. The picture used for “Beleza Pura” looks like a pre-blended Caipirinha which by its very nature would be absolute garbage.

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