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Master Series Questions by Liquidity from South Africa for Walter Caetano, Masterblender Cachaca Germana

 

Liquidity interviewed Walter Caetano, master distiller for Germana Cachaca, all about cachaca as a product and Germana as a brand. We are proud to have Germana as part of our exclusive UK agency portfolio. To browse the range please click here >>>

Germana Sugar Cane

What is Cachaca?

Cachaca is made of sugarcane and is a national product of Brazil. After many Years of struggle with the United States of America it has been recognized as a product produced in Brazil and totally different to the way Rum is produced. For us, the Brazilian producers of artesanal Cachaca this means a big step in recognizing our product and giving us a dominion as Champagne and Cognac have, to give you an example.

 

How is it made?

Cachaca is produced with fermented sugarcane syrup, which is then distilled. The secret of good Cachaca is to only use the heart’ (“Coracao" alcohol graduation between 38 and 48 degrees) and to separate the ‘head’ (“Cabeca" alcohol graduation higher then 48 degrees) and the ‘tail’ (“Rabo" alcohol graduation lower then 38 degrees).

 

The history of Cachaca goes back some 400 years. Can you give us a brief overview?

Cachaca was actually ‘invented’ by slaves that worked the sugarcane plantations. Leaving rests of sugarcane syrup in earthen ware pots in the sun where the liquid started to ferment and as it started to evaporate the ‘steam’ would rise to the lid of the pot and turn into droplets.

These droplets were then licked up and as you may be able to imagine very potent! From there on actual distillation started taking place and Cachaca was born.

 

What is the difference between Cachaca and Rum?

Cachaca is produced from distilled ‘wine’ of sugarcane. Rum is distilled molasses which is left over when producing sugar.

 

Germana Barrels
Why do you think Cachaca is the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage in Brazil?

In the beginning it was because it was cheap and everyone had access to this product.

You must understand, that until today nearly every farm that produces sugarcane has a distillery.
(To be able to distill does not mean that you automatically have control of the quality and the necessary hygiene.)

The leaves and the end bit (stem) of the sugarcane is used as cattle feed. The leftover (Bagaco), after being pressed is dried and used to heat the still. We don’t burn any wood to heat our still.

Today Cachaca is Brazilian tradition and life! The Brazilian way! 

Just imagine: “Hot, temperamental Cachaca, succulent tropical fruit, sugarcane sugar and refreshing cold ice! Delicious!!!!”

 

 

Germana Cachaca

 

Tell us a bit about the history of Germana?

Germana was founded in 1912 by Sergio Caetano. Later his children came into the company. For many years the company was 100% family owned. With time and growth two partners entered the family business, but only, after being accepted as being part of the big Caetano family clan!

 

What does the name Germana mean?

The name when looked up, in the dictionary means "pure"! In the 1850 there also lived a nun on top of the Serra de Piedade near Caete (hometown of the big family Caetano). This nun collected herbs from the mountainside, put them into bottles of Cachaca to extract the healing essences and healed whomever needed healing with those potions. Her name was Freira Germana.

 

Germana 2yr
Can you tell us about your 2 year old Cachaca?

Our 2 year old Cachaca Germana is called Traditional, a Cachaca da Palha! This special Cachaca is aged in Balsam wood and Oak wood barrels.

The perfect balance of the different wood types makes it absolutely unique. It can be drunk as a shot or be used to be mixed in Caiprinhas.

 

What is the difference between regular and artesanal Cachaca?

Regular, or as we call it, industrial Cachaca is produced in chrome steel stills with high columns which are designed to produce alcohol for industrial products, such as pure alcohol for the medical industry, ethanol for cars and such. The ferment used is chemical and allows for the “Wine" to be ready for distilling within hours. The high levels of alcohol (product of high columns) using the head and heart are then reduced with water and chemicals and sugar are added to make it into ‘Cachaca’! The people of Brazil usually call it “Pinga”.

Artesanal Cachaca is a 100% natural product, without any addition of chemicals or sugar. The ferment used is made of Corn that is planted at the farm, also without any addition of chemicals.

This corn is then ground by an old watermill between stone millstones so that the flour does not heat up as it would if milled with an electrical mill. To produce “Wine" from sugarcane syrup takes between 12 to 24 hours as the process is natural and depends on outside temperatures.

Distilled in copper stills with a “low rate of alcohol” as artesanal stills function with a low column. Only the ‘heart’ product is used!

 

Cachaca bottles are wrapped in the bark of a banana tree. Why is this?

Packing the Cachaca Germana bottles in banana leaf is how everything started. Today it is the symbol for Cachaca Germana! It also protects the bottle from breaking easily, works as thermal insulation and protects the Cachaca from ultraviolet rays.

When first packed in banana leaf one hundred years ago, Sergio Caetano wanted to protect the bottles from banging against each other and breaking, while he was traveling to the gold mines with his mule train to swap Cachaca, cheese, smoked meat etc. for petroleum (for lamps), nails, wire, etc.
This is also why our 2 year old Cachaca Germana Traditional is still packed in banana leaf. Keeping up the tradition and looking after history! Our other 4 products have other appearances today.

 

Walter of Germana Cachaca
What do you do when you are not working?

I love to read, look after my milk cows, produce cheese from the milk and smoke meat and fish the old fashioned way. I take great pleasure to be with my children and show them the old traditional ways Riding is a great passion fo mine, taking trips of up to a week, living in and of the wild and open spaces of Minas Gerais!

 

What does your average day at work, entail?

I am very proud of our Cachaca Germana! I am the master blender, but I also control the growing of the sugar cane, the planting of corn to produce the ferment, the cutting, pressing, fermentation of the sugarcane syrup, the distilling, the aging in barrels of different wood types and the blending of our Cachacas which makes Cachaca Germana so unique.

 

How do you drink Cachaca?

Straight as a shot. Artesanal Cachaca is of such high quality that it is absolutely delicious being drunk pure. Important, that you never forget to drink water when you are drinking distilled products as you have to add the liquid you are loosing through de-hydration.

 

Tell us a bit more about yourself, where do you live, are you married, do you have kids or pets?

I live in a 300 year old farm house near the farm and distillery in the village of Novo Uniao, which is 65 Kilometers from Belo Horizonte, Capital of Minas Gerais. I am happily married and have 4 great children. I love horses and my passion, excluding Cachaca Germana, is riding, camping in the open, producing cheese and smoked meat and fish and enjoying nature at it’s purest and fullest!!!

 

Walter Caetano interview 23rd. of May 2012