Cachaca, Brazil’s national drink and the iconic heart of the Caipirinha cocktail, is one of world’s most popular spirits and product developer and distributor The Responsible Trading Company (RTC) that has led the way raising its profile. With the goal of producing better quality sugar cane by teaching smaller growers how to farm organically on the highland sandy soils in the north-eastern state of Bahia, RTC was set up in 2008 by entrepreneur Tom Stockley and organic farming visionary Marcos Vaccaro.
The partnerships they have struck give back to local communities so workers are paid a good wage, farmers are guaranteed a just price for their cane, a healthier ecosystem is maintained and the operation is fully sustainable.
Their award-winning Abelha Organic Cachaca brand now stocked in the UK by the likes of Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Master of Malt, as well as high-end bars including the Barrio Bars chain and Lounges and well as the Shangri-La and Marriott hotels.
The next drive is cementing Abelha in the US, says Stockley. “The US is the biggest, most challenging spirit market, but we have had a very positive start, with a great reception in New York.”
The spirit starts life in Bahia’s scenic, protected national park of Chapada Diamantina, where diamonds in the water courses filter it naturally.
The cane is processed within 24 hours of being cut and then fermented using yeast found growing naturally on green sugar cane. From here the cachaça is distilled in small batches in a traditional copper still. Only a fraction of the distillate is kept to ensure the highest possible quality.
The resulting spirit is then either rested (descansada) for six months in steel tanks or aged for three years in small garapeira wooden barrels. It is then cut with water from a deep natural aquifer under the farm which is pure and has the perfect pH acidity.
“The fewer artificial chemical products that are sprayed, which in our case is zero, and the more we do to work closely with local farmers and communities, the better the cachaça, the better the environment and the better for everyone,” adds Stockley.
“With the world’s attention on the tragic fires in Brazil’s Amazon and the approval of controversial new pesticides, we can be extremely proud of what we are doing as a business when it comes to our ethical and sustainable approach and I believe these will be key strengths for us as we look to grow the brand in America and beyond.”
After surviving bans and covert distilling cachaça was legalised on September 13th, 1661. The by-products from every distillation of Abelha (Portuguese for bee) are all recycled and reused elsewhere on the site including to help power master distiller Vaccaro’s car whose home is a tree house.
Abelha Cachaça Silver is a premium hand-crafted white cachaça with an intense fruity/vegetal nose, fresh sugar cane and stone fruits taste with a smooth, dry finish.
Abelha Gold Cachaça, aged for three years in small Brazilian ash wood barrels, is more mellow.
For signature serves try:
50 ml Abelha Cachaça Silver
1 lime, sliced in half lengthwise and cut in 1/4 or 1/8’s
1 tablespoon of sugar
Lime slices to garnish
In a double rocks glass, combine the lime segments with the sugar and use a muddler to gently crush and squeeze out the lime juice from the limes. Add the cachaça and stir well. Add crushed ice and stir. Serve immediately with a slice of lime.
60 ml Abelha Cachaça Gold
10 ml lemon grass syrup
7.5 ml Falernum
2 dashes The Bitter Truth – Lemon bitters
Stir all thoroughly with ice. Strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass and garnish with a lemon zest twist.