In New Orleans during the Tales, one of my my Brazilian friends handed me a very interesting brand of cachaca I`ve never tried before – Rainha Das Gerais. This is an artisanal cachaca distilled in alembic copper stills and aged in oak barrels for 5 years.
When I open the bottle the nose that reaches me is sweet with a hint of sugarcane and vanilla. The flavour really surprised me, its deep and rich with a sweet buttery aftertaste that is just lovely. I have only detected this kind of buttery flavour in two other spirits before – El Dorado 3 year old cask aged white rum and in Elements Eight white rum.
The texture is like velvet in your mouth. The finish is medium with sugarcane, and a hint of earth and oak. A sip of this floods you with pleasant flavours. Its balanced and delicate but with a little bit of fiery kick.
The more cachacas I try the more surprised I get as to how varied they are. So then to think that there´s about 5000 brands or more in Brazil its kinda mind boggling. I really would like to see more of them being exported. I`m especially interested in the artisanal cachacas, and I think artisanal is the way to go.
Artisanal cachacas are made with the traditional natural farming techinques without chemical spraying and buning of the sugarcane fields as well as using the natural yeasts growing on the sugar cane.
From what I hear, it seems that most part of the very good handcrafted cachacas isn’t exported outside of Brazil. This cachaca here is a small batched (only 5000 bottles a year) and its an amazingly tasty product. I wish more of these would find their way out to the world.
Rainhas das Gerais is handcrafted at a small farm and distillery in Minas Gerais. Raimundo – a chemical engineer by trade started to work producing cachaca in 2008. When Raimundo retired he decided to produce cachaca at the farm he already had as a way to keep in contact with his academic field and work as a chemical engineer.
Also having the new challenge of creating a high quality cachaca could be something that brings new ideas and more thoughts on a new rage of work. Having fun was also a big part on the project, this was the start of Rainha das Gerais.
It was first introduced to the public at the Feira cachaca (Cachaca Fair) in Belo Horizonte. Since then all the bottles carry the following sayings: ”Na terra de Grande Sertão Veredas reina a Rainha das Gerais” (in the land of Grande Sertão veredas reigns Rainha das Gerais)
This phrase make reference to the famous book “Grande sertão: Veredas” by one of the most amazing Brazilian writers, Guimarães Rosa. A good part of the book happens in the region of Brazil called Sertão (backcountry) that embraces areas including the north of Minas.
The Canavial (cane field) after the harvest.The left over ”leaves” called palha after the cut are left in the field to retain the moisture of the coming rains, prevent the growth of weed and also acts as a natural fertilizer. At the right pic is the ”Carro de boi” on the way to pick up the recently cut cane.
The sugar cane is hand selected and hand harvested. The fermentation occurs without any chemical additives and the product is distilled in a copper pot alambique The intense artisanal hand labor help creating job opportunities on the countryside. It´s a natural process of production, sustainable and ecologically correct.
The aging in oak barrels and the Mineiro (Mineiro means from Minas Gerais) style of making cachaca are the two main ingredients that give this cachaca, produced in the Sertão (backcountry) of Minas Gerais, it´s unique personality.
It´s fundamental that the cane comes from our own farm Raimundo says. Only by growing our on cane we can assure the proper care during cultivation, the harvest techniques and to ensure the perfect timing between the harvest and the pressing of the juice.
The terroir is also very important for our cachaca. The region where our farm is located has a very well defined dry season and the temperature range between days and nights during this season is quite large. This results in a sugar cane ideal for the production of a quality cachaca.
The preparation of the yeast used in the fermentation takes 7 days and goes according to the tradition of the alambiques Mineiros (old distillers from Minas). No chemical yeast or additives are used and the yeast is natural from the farms environment, meaning that it uses wild yeast for the fermentation. The fermentation of each batch takes between 24 to 36 ours, occurring the formation of secondary compounds that help to give Rainha da Gerais it´s distinct flavor.
Alambique copper pot still
The distillation using a copper pot still is a slow process, that helps in the oxidation of unwanted compounds enhancing the bouquet of the distillate.
The aging in Oak casks during 5 years develops in soft flavours and provides it´s golden color. After the aging process Raimundo samples the cachaca from every cask, and blends them to achieve and maintain the specific organoleptic properties of his cachacas prior to bottling.
To produce Rainha das Gerais. Raimundo has only 3 full time employees at the farm, during the harvest period 5 more temporary workers are hired. This results in a small production of only 5000 liters per year.
Finally the AMPAQ quality seal is attached. Ampaq stands for ”Associação Mineira de produtores de cachaça de qualidade” or Association of quality cachaça producers from Minas Gerais.
Something to be on the look for…
I love the buttery flavour and sipping it is all i`ve done with it since i opened it. But I got to find out how it mixes in a fairly simple cocktail allowing the flavour of the cachaca to dominate.
Rainha on the Rise
2 oz Cachaca
0.5 oz honey and passionfruit syrup
Small squeeze of fresh lime
Small float of Ting (Jamaican grapefruit beverage) to top
Garnish with pineapple and lime
Dissolve the honey in passionfruit syrup by heating it up a little, then cool. Shake all ingredients except Ting, strain and serve with crushed ice. Top up with just a little bit of Ting and garnish with a pineapple leaf and slice of lime.
Cachaca and fresh fruits are really made for each other…and what Ting isn`t made for please tell me!
My impression with Rainha das Gerais is that its one of the best cachacas i´ve had so far, I love its sturdy yet smooth buttery flavour and that`s the key – it has so much flavour!
The cocktail turned out nice and fresh, perfect for a hot summer day.
Many thanks to Raimundo and Mauricio for letting me and many others sample this lovely cachaca, providing pictures and help with translation without which this post wouldn´t have been possible.