Serious Eats: Drinks
That's The Spirit: Novo Fogo Cachaça
I like to think of distilleries as remote places: a lone building on a windswept Scottish cliff overlooking stormy seas producing a briny whisky, a frozen cabin in a Siberian tundra pumping out crystalline vodka. While these thoughts may be romantic delusions, today's distiller proves that you can have your fantasy and drink it too. Novo Fogo is located on the edge of Brazil's coastal rainforest, the Floresta Atlântica, and produces two styles of seriously delicious organic cachaça.
Novo Fogo begins by pressing their homegrown sugar cane to yield a high quality cane juice—of which only about 11% makes the cut to be fermented into cane wine (the rest is reused as a fertilizer for the sugar cane fields). This wine is distilled in a copper pot still, and voila—cachaça! The spirit destined to be bottled as their Silver rests in stainless steel barrels for over a year, while the Gold spends a minimum of two years in oak bourbon barrels before bottling. But how does distilled rainforest sugar juice taste?
Novo Fogo Silver
Crystal-clear in the glass, the nose of this cachaça is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-sorry... There's a hint of cane sugar as well, but seriously, sweet roasted bananas. It's quite smooth and soft, without being too viscous on the palate. You'll taste those ripe bananas, some minerally sea salt, vegetal undertones, and a light rum kiss. It finishes quick and clean, with grassy notes of freshly cut sugar cane and some gooey stewed plums. This spirit is dangerously balanced and crisp and unlike any other cachaça I've ever tried.
Novo Fogo Gold
After spending time in oak barrels, the aged cachaça is a pleasing light caramel color, with vanilla, toffee, and subdued bananas on the nose. Tasting reveals an oaky base and banana bread flavors, with a salty note, and an eggy, yeasty thing going on (the distiller suggests brioche—I buy that). It's similar in body to the silver version. Banana comes back strong in the finish, with a long lingering oak coda. I really like this expression as well, but I think I slightly prefer the silver for its distinctive profile—the aging brings the cachaça more in line with other brown spirits.
This superior cachaça is not limited to being the core of a killer caipirinha: the gold version would be great in a dark and stormy, or you could experiment with some of the silver in place of tequila to make a bananarita.
Or do what I do—sip it neat, and taste the rainforest.