There's a lot for new cachaça appreciators to glean from Jeffrey Morgenthaler's first dispatch from Bar Convent Berlin ("Berlin Bar Convention").
First, there's the book Cachaça: The Soul Of Brasil by Jared Brown and Anastasia Miller of Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux (EUVS). Jeffrey saw a presentation by the authors, sponsored by Sagatiba. Personally, I'm glad someone is making a serious study of cachaça and its history.
For example, look how old cachaça really is, as related by Jeffrey:
Cachaça is nearly 500 years old, the second-oldest spirit in the new world. Jared and Anastasia gave us a quick timeline:
1531 - Tequila
1532 - Cachaça
1537 - Pisco
1627 - Rum
1640 - Rhum Agricole
Ah, yes. Rhum agricole. That's a question I get often: "What's the difference between cachaca and rhum agricole?"
Obviously, rum is made from molasses, while cachaça and rhum agricole are made from the juice of the sugar cane. But what are some of the other differences between agricole and cachaça? Besides the country of origin and the yeast strains involved, I was happy to hear of one other difference, that rhum agricole is made from sugar cane juice which is cooked (practically Pasteurized) before fermentation [Ed. note: Ed Hamilton disputes this claim in the comments on Jeffrey's entry], while cachaça is made from the very freshest juice of the cane plant, usually distilled within three days of harvest. This does result in a much more raw, natural flavor than rhum agricole.
By law, cachaça must be distilled to between 38 and 48% abv. Rhum agricole on the other hand must be distilled to not more than 75% abv. Most distillers distill their rhum agricole at about 72% abv.
Then there is the aging process, rhum agricole must be aged in small oak barrels while cachaça can be aged in a variety of woods.
Jeffrey got to try the near-mythical Sagatiba Preçiosa, said to have been a once-forgotten lot discovered in 1982.
According to the U.K.'s Whiskey Exchange:
Distilled in 1982 (although obviously not by Sagatiba themselves), this stock was left to mature in very old limousin oak cognac casks for over 20 years. Sagatiba Preciosa received 96/100 from the Beverage Tasting Institute in Chicago, putting it in their 'Superlative' category, a standard which only 25 other world spirits have reached.
If scarcity does indeed create value, then get ready for this — based on the Whiskey Exchange's price, a bottle of Preciosa will set you back more than US$380 (VAT incl.) at current exchange rates. A bottle even went for over US$1,200 at a Christie's auction over two years ago.
Finally, my readers from both the brand and bartending side should check out Jeffrey's presentation "How To Use The Web To Connect The Global Bar Community."
Great work, Jeffrey. Keep it coming.