Cachaça is closely related to rum and rhum agricole. We have summarised here what distinguishes it from these and how it is produced.
This is the second part of our series of posts dealing with rum, rhum agricole and cachaça:
Part 1: Chronology of Rum, Rhum Agricoles and Cachaça
Part 2: Cachaça
Part 3: Rhum Agricole
Part 4: Theatrum Botanicum – Sugar cane.
Part 5: Sugar cane processing in Antigua in 1823
Teil 6: Rum
Cachaça is an independent spirit related to rhum agricole and rum with its own history and production method. A sugar cane spirit (Aguardente de Caña) was distilled from sugar cane wine (Garapa Azeda) as early as 1532. The name “cachaça” for the distillate was first mentioned in 1640.  Further information on the history of cachaça can be found in our post Chronology of Rum, Rhum Agricoles and Cachaça.
Today, there are an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 cachaça producers in Brazil, mostly small, artisanal operations that produce around 1.5 billion litres of cachaça annually.   
What is cachaça?
In 2000, an attempt was made to protect cachaça as a Brazilian product. However, due to a lack of delimitation possibilities, the World Trade Organisation came out against protecting the term “cachaça” in 2001. Therefore, in 2003, Brazil issued a decree defining how cachaça should be produced and thus delimited, and subsequently protected it through bilateral agreements, with resistance coming from Martinique and Portugal in particular. In the meantime, however, the name “Cachaça” may only be used for distillates produced in Brazil. 
How is cachaça made?
Around 600 sugar cane varieties are available for the production of cachaça. As with rhum agricole, the sugar cane juice is squeezed out of freshly harvested sugar cane in the sugar mill using rollers. The sugar content of the juice is adjusted by adding water before fermentation.   
Fermentation is started by adding yeasts.  To initiate fermentation, a leavening agent (fermentation accelerator) is often added or a mixture of corn starch, flour and bran mixed with sugar cane juice. Some producers, on the other hand, let the sugar cane ferment spontaneously by the yeasts present on the sugar cane and in the ambient air, while others use cultured yeasts.  
Fermentation takes place in large vats or barrels and lasts between 24 and 36 hours. In industrial production, fermentation takes about 24 hours, in traditional production up to 36 hours. The longer fermentation time allows the flavours to develop better.    Fermentation results in an alcohol content of between 15 and 18 vol%.  
Distillation is then carried out using various methods, such as discontinuous in the pot still or continuous with columns.   For cachaça, it is specified that the alcohol content of the distillate must be between 38 and 48 vol%.  Products with a higher alcohol content may no longer call themselves cachaça, but are marketed as aguardente (de cana), whose alcohol content is a maximum of 54% by volume.  
Cachaça is considered matured when it has been stored in wooden barrels for at least one year. The barrel volume must not exceed 700 litres. Different types of wood are available. Depending on which source you believe, between 22 and 28 types of wood are possible.        Up to 6 grams of other ingredients may be added before bottling. These may include sugar, but also other additives such as mandarin leaves, which are added during distillation. 
A maximum of up to 30 g of sugar per litre may be added to cachaça after distillation, but if more than 6 g of sugar is added, it must be labelled “adoçada” in Brazil.    In Germany, however, this additional designation is not mandatory. 
It is important to know that at least 50% of the content of a matured cachaça must have been matured for at least 1 year. A matured cachaça is called “envelhecida”.  
To assess the effect of the maturation period on the distillate, one must take the environment into account. Due to the environmental influences, a cachaça that has been matured for one year can be compared to a Scotch whiskey that has been matured for 3.5 years. Cachaças are not only matured for a short time, but also for 16 years, for example. 
On the one hand, a cachaça can be produced traditionally (artisan) and is then called “Cachaça artesenal” or “Cachaça de Alambique”. On the other hand, there is also industrial production.   One can find many sources that list what distinguishes these two types from each other. However, we are not sure whether these differences apply in principle or whether, for example, what is supposed to distinguish an artisan cachaça might not also apply to some industrially produced products. That is why we deliberately refrain from making this seemingly subjective distinction here. If you are interested, you can read up on it yourself:    Our assumption is supported by the fact that the designation “Cachaça artesenal” is not yet permitted in Brazil due to the lack of a legal definition of binding criteria. A distinction between them is therefore arbitrary.  
The importance of cachaça in Brazil is shown by the multitude of synonyms used for it. There are hundreds of them, from a-do-diabo to zuninga. 
- Helmut Adam, Jens Hasenbein, Bastian Heuser: Cocktailian 2, Rum und Cachaça. 1. Auflage. ISBN 978-3-941641-41-9. Wiesbaden, Tre Torri Verlag, 2011. Page 86-88, 92.
- http://www.cachaca-online.de/herstellung/anbaugebiete/menue-id-100054: Anbaugebiete.
- https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cacha%C3%A7a: Cachaça.
- http://www.cachaca-blog.de/was-ist-cachaca/: Was ist Cachaça?
- http://www.eyeforspirits.com/2012/10/27/rum-oder-cachaca-der-kleine-aber-feine-unterschied/: Rum oder Cachaça? Der kleine aber feine Unterschied. By Philip Reim, 27. October 2012.
- http://www.maracuja-cachaca-maniok.de/cachaca-artesanal-produktion-2/: Cachaça artesanal Produktion.
- https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cacha%C3%A7a: Cachaça.
- http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/you-know-rum-what-cachaca-180951700/?no-ist: You Know Rum – But What Is Cachaça? By Natasha Geiling, 30. June 2014.
- http://www.cachaca-online.de/herstellung/reifung/menue-id-100054: Reifung.
- http://www.mapadacachaca.com.br/en/articles/synonyms-cachaca/: The Synonyms of Cachaça. 8. January 2014.
- http://www.cachaca-online.de/herstellung/bezeichnung-artesanal-und-alambique/menue-id-100054: Bezeichnung artesanal und Alambique.
- http://www.caipirinharecipes.com/main-differences-artisanal-industrial-cachaca/: Main Differences Between Artisanal and Industrial Cachaça. 27. August 2014.
- http://www.cachaca-online.de/cachaca/holzsorten: Holzsorten.
- Thomas Maihen: Die Barfibel. Getränke & Marken. ISBN 978-3-8442-5233-0. Seite 129-133. Berlin, epubli GmbH, 2012.
- Jericoa-Degustationspräsentation für die Zyankali-Bar Berlin, 2015
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