Generally, when I think of Brazil, I think of statuesque Brazilian beauties in bikinis on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro beneath that really tall statue of Jesus atop a mountain sadly looking down at all those half naked people partying. Well, that’s certainly not what the people of Brazil think about because they are very, very busy downing over 240 million liters of Cachaça every year, making it the second largest selling spirit in the world. I’ll just bet you don’t know what the number one world’s best selling spirit is! It’s a South Korean rice and barley spirit called Jinro soju. Now, that we’ve hop scotched around the spirit world, let’s get back to that Leblon Cachaca.
Although both rum and Cachaça are made from sugarcane-derived products, specifically in Cachaça, the alcohol results from the fermentation of fresh sugarcane juice that is afterwards distilled, while rum is usually made from by-products from refineries, such as molasses. By the by, the distillation of Cachaca pre-dates rum by 100 years. And just what is it that all those Brazilians are doing with their Cachaça? Well, they’re either drinking it straight or mixing it into a Caipirinha, which is very simple to make by just using a bit of lime and sugar and ice and, of course, the Cachaça. OK so break out the limes, and let’s give this a go.
Leblon is produced at its own vertically integrated distillery,called Maison Leblon, and the cane is hand-harvested from Leblon’s nearby fields and quickly delivered for pressing. The juice is fermented for 20 to 24 hours before being transferred into the Alambic copper pot stills for single-batch distillation. The distillate is then rested up to six months in Vintage XO Cognac Casks from France. The various batches are then master blended, and the final batch is filtered and bottled in glass. Since Leblon Cachaça is distilled in Alambic copper pot stills, in smaller batches, and not in faster column stills, it is classified as an artisanal cachaça.
Leblon Cachaca comes in a tall clear bottle with the logo’s lettering boldly standing out in bas relief. The nose is very reminiscent of roasted agave, as it is very vegetative in nature and sweet smelling. On the palate, the sweetness shines through, followed by a musty, oaky, grape like, roasted squash flavor, followed by a hint of citrus. This is truly unlike any other spirit I have tasted but comes close to being a cross between rum and tequila but far more earthy. The finish is a vegetative agave like sweetness that is actually quite smooth and lasts a medium amount of time. Adding a little simple syrup and lime and ice transforms this drink into the popular Caipirinha, and I can understand why it is the favorite drink of millions of South Americans; it’s totally yummy, sweet, citrusy and can be consumed endlessly, but I might warn against that last recommendation.
Maison Leblon Reserva Ospecial combines the flavor of the best tasting cane with the aroma and quality of French oak. This special distillate is aged up to two years in the highest grade new Limousin French oak barrels, then blended. The color is that of a light golden honey, and it comes in a tall skinny bottle with cursive writing traveling vertically up the front. The nose of this aged spirit is also reminiscent of an aged tequila in that it is vegetative and oaky, but more refined than the less aged Cachaca, and has hints of vanilla and honey as well. The palate is oaky, smoky, and complex, layered with vanilla and honey and funky fruit but is smooth with little or no alcoholic bite. The finish is smooth and leaves an oak, and almost cognac like, after taste. This could be a sipper, as is and also adds nuanced flavor to a Caipirinha. It is definitely worth the extra money.
After tasting both of these spirits, I feel like I have just sucked on twelve sugar cubes. That sweetness kind of sneaks up on you, but hey, you’ve just been drinking distilled sugar cane after all.
Leblon Cachaca is 40% ABV (80 proof) and can be found in 750ML bottles for between $21.99 to $30.00. Maison Leblon Reserva Ospecial is also 40% ABV (80 proof) and is sold in 375ML bottles for between $17.99 to $28.00 per bottle.
By George Brozowski