Cachaça: Artisanal vs Industrial

The spirit cachaça combines two very different beasts; artisanal cachaça and industrial cachaça.  There are colossal differences between the two types of cachaca which result in an unmistakeable contrast in aroma, body and taste.  As Abelha is an artisanal cachaça, we highlight some of the differences between these two production possibilities.

Source sugarcane

artisanal cachaça uses locally grown sugarcane that can be assessed for quality and sugar content prior to harvest and use.  Industrial stills will use mass produced and harvested sugarcane. 

sugar cane

Fermentation

Artisanal cachaça uses a natural fermentation with local yeasts whilst in contrast many industrial stills will speed up fermentation by adding various chemicals.

fermentation 2

(Natural Fermentation Process)

Distillation

This is the big difference.  Essentially industrial cachaça is produced in a column still through a continuous distillation process whilst artisanal cachaça is produced in a pot-still in batches.  Column stills allow for a more accurate separation of alcohols but the final product lacks the distinctive body and flavour of an artisanal cachaça.

Marcos, Abelha’s Master Distiller, explains, “The main difference between industrial and artisanal cachaça is the distillation process; industrial cachaças are produced in a column still via continuous distillation; no separation between the beginning and end of the distillation. Artisanal cachaças are produced in alambique, (copper-pot still) which allows separation to improve the composition, body and flavour of the resulting cachaça”.

distillation

(Cooper pot still for distillation of artisanal cachaça)

column still for industrial cachaca

(Column still for distillation of industrial cachaça)

Addition of sugar after distillation

It is within the law to add up to 6 grammes of sugar per litre of cachaça and this happens to varying degrees across the many thousands of cachaça producers across Brazil.  (We do not add any sugar to Abelha following distillation!).  However you can also add more than 6 grammes per litre of cachaça if you then label your product as cachaça adoçada.  Keep an eye out for this on bottles as they are likely to be industrially produced.

Ageing

Barrels

(Wooden Barrels where the artisanal cachaça is aged)

Artisanal cachaças are often aged to add new and complex aromas and flavours and to mellow out the spirit as it takes on some of the characteristics of the wooden barrel.  Or it can be rested to allow some undesirable compounds to oxidise/evaporate (see Abelha silver!!).  Industrial cachaça is produced for the mass market – over 1.6 billion litres of cachaça are produced and drunk per year (almost all of it in Brazil!) – so is rarely aged.