I saw a lot of great places during my five-day tour of Rio de Janeiro state's cachaça country, but only one could be fairly described as "magical".
Cachaça Maria Izabel is located in a quiet, tranquil bay. To get there, you must brave a road that perhaps only meets the minimum definition of the word, that is, most rocks and vegetation are cleared away so that one place can be sorta kinda connected to another. Once you arrive at the distillery, however, you're a million miles away from everything else.
We spent a morning with She-Whose-Name-Is-On-The-Bottle, Maria Izabel Costa, herself. She is the serene cachaça earth-mother who watchfully presides over this blessed hamlet, pursuing her divine craft with a charming modesty.
The tasting highlight was clearly an ultra-special batch that she kept in a large jug. She didn't say much about it save for the fact that, every so often, luck smiles upon this secluded cachaça grotto and all environmental and temporal factors come together perfectly. I imagine this is much like when some musicians describe a mental place they sometimes fall into where they simply cannot play a wrong note. And, like Eddie Van Halen's "brown sound" or Jimi Hendrix's tone on "The Wind Cries Mary", it is not likely to be imitated.
Of course, I didn't leave without purchasing some goodies. First, some oak-aged 2007 special reserve. Then, some cachaça truffles and candy!
For the rest, check out the video and slideshow.