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Leblon Natural Cane Cachaca

Review: Leblon Natural Cane Cachaca    82.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on Aug 1, 2013

Leblon Cachaça is produced at the Leblon Distillery in Patos de Minas, in the center of Brazil’s major sugar cane growing region. At Leblon they use both traditional and European wine-making techniques to produce their Cachaca. According to the Leblon website:

“Gilles Merlet, famous master distiller from the Cognac region of France, takes Cachaça to a whole new level with his ‘French touch,’ transforming our distillery in Patos de Minas to the state-of-the-art Maison Leblon. Gilles produces small batches using alembique copper potstills, then polishes the Cachaça in XO Cognac Casks for an ultra-smooth taste. The Cachaça is then blended across batches for flavor complexity, body, and aroma.”

I find it interesting that as Cachaca is expanding its market appeal outside of Brazil, the spirit seems to be evolving to appeal to a broader audience. I expect the cognac enhancement will leave a tangible imprint upon the Leblon Cachaca’s flavour. I guess I will find out as I sample the spirit.

Note: I was provided with a sample bottle of Leblon Cachaca for review by the Kirkwood Group who are the local distributors here in Alberta.

SAM_0864 LeblonIn the Bottle 4/5

Leblon Natural Cane Cachaca arrives in a tall green tinged bottle with the label printed directly upon the bottle as shown to the left. The back of the bottle has some information about this particular brand of Cachaca explaining that Leblon has been rested in cognac casks for up to six months, making it a lighter more delicate cocktail spirit unlike harsh cachaca and rums. The intent of the back label is clear; Leblon is trying to distance itself from traditional Cachaca and present itself as something new and sophisticated.

While I do not necessarily agree with the portrayal of traditional Brazilian Cachaca (and certainly not rum) as harsh, I also appreciate good marketing when I see it.

In the Glass 8/10

When I poured the spirit into my glass, I saw that it had a heavier consistency than I was expecting. When I tilted my glass and twirled it, I noticed legs which were relatively thick for a spirit which had seen the inside of a cognac cask for only six months. However, when I did a bit of research I learned that it is acceptable to add small amounts of sugar to the cachaca spirit prior to bottling. I believe the heavy consistency, and the relatively thick legs are an indication of this added sugar.

The nose is very interesting. I sense that same sort of warm vegetal (almost musty) aroma filled with earthy notes of broiled squash and zucchini, as I remembered when I reviewed PITU Cachaca. There is also a similar lightly sweet impression of sugar cane. However, I also notice a distinct aroma of fresh green grapes in the air. Undoubtedly, the cognac cask enhancement has left its imprint upon the spirit..

For a person such as myself with limited experience with the typical Cachaca aroma, I find the vegetal, musty aroma daunting, yet I cannot deny the relative ‘smoothness’ I sense in the air as there are no sharp acrid tones causing me distress.

In the Mouth 49.5/60

The flavour is a unique mixture of sharp white pepper, and earthy flavours which remind me of lowland agave, grilled zucchini and squash. (Actually, the sharpness of the white pepper also reminds me of agave.) There are also hints of zesty citrus flavours and a mild impression of what I will call ‘musty grass’. As I suspected, the spirit also has the unmistakable flavour of green grape running through it. This ‘grapiness’ does not dominate in any way, rather it serves as an accent upon the overall flavour which is dominated by that white pepper, earthy fruit and musty grass.

As this is a mixing spirit (the back label highlights this fact), I decide to forgo anymore sipping and dive right into the cocktail experience. The first cocktail I construct is of course the National Cocktail of Brazil, the Caipirinha (click on the link for the recipe). I also try a modified Margarita which I have termed the Macharita and a cocktail of my own, the Amazing Tickle. All of my machinations work out well, and I notice that the Leblon Cachaca seems to carry some of that spicy white pepper and a lot of that earthy musty fruit-like flavour into the cocktails. Getting into the swing of things, I try a Cachaca based mojito the next day (see recipe below) and again I am pleased by the soft fruity flavour that pushes through the cocktail. As a mixer, Leblon Natural Cane Cachaca is solid.

In the Throat 13/15

The finish has more of that white pepper, musty grass, and earthy fruit.  The exit is relatively smooth for a spirit of very little age, which I am sure aided those cocktails I made earlier.

The Afterburn 8/10

Leblon is regarded by many in North America as the most premium Cachaca both in terms of flavour and in quality. (How it is regarded in South America is unknown to me, although I suspect that the resting period which the spirit underwent in Cognac Casks would be considered nontraditional in that part of the world). That cognac enhancement seems to have had a positive effect upon the flavour and the finish of the Cachaca. It is a solid mixing spirit which carries a touch of refinement, and I am sure that this was the intention of its producer.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Cachaca Reviews.

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Recipe

SAM_0867Caipirito

1 1/2 oz Cachaca
1/2 Lime cut into wedges
1 Tsp Simple Syrup (Dissolve a sugar cube in 1 Tsp hot water then let it cool)
Mint Leaves
Large Ice Cubes
4 oz sparkling water (or Club soda)
3 sprigs of mint

Add Simple Sugar and Mint to a mixing glass
Squeeze half of the lime juice into the glass
Place the rest of the lime wedges into the glass
Muddle
Strain the mixture into a highball glass full of ice
Add the Cachaca and sparkling water to the highball glass
Stir lightly
Garnish with a second sprig of mint and a lime slice
Enjoy Responsibly!

Please remember to drink responsibly, the aim of my blog is to help you drink better spirits and cocktails…not more spirits and cocktails!

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My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

4 Responses to “Leblon Natural Cane Cachaca”

  1. Thanks for the reply here. my first comment was to indicate I had posted your link at my FB Business page where we reviewed Cachacas from a limited – so far – analysis. The expert I told you about is also in Canada with a business called Spiritech. I understand the limitations on obtaining samples. I have only found four in our market at our best Liquor store so far. I’ll have to go to see my work Email to get you the example that Steve Wright (Spiritech) mentioned. Have you noticed that extreme aroma in the other examples you have had a look at? I have found some technical and professionally written PowerPoints and papers which I crudely translated with Google Translate and hope to write up a nice piece about this beverage one day.

    Gary.

    • Hi Gary

      I did look over the Facebook Page of Brewing and Distilling Analytical Services, LLC, and appreciate that you posted a link to my review there. I will admit though that all of those graphs and such were a little beyond the scope of my particular knowledge. I tend to taste spirits and attempt to describe what I taste in terms of enjoyment using descriptors which I hope are easy for everyone to understand.

      The “extreme aroma” which you are describing has been present in varying degrees in each of the three Cachacas I have reviewed to this point. I describe it as “vegetal and musty” in my latest review (Review: Thoquino Cachaca) although I suspect that description needs more refinement.

      A possible reason for the unique aromatic experience which Cachacha delivers is that Cachaca is generally distilled to a much lower proof than Rum or Agricole Rhum. This lower distillation proof probably results in more esters and fusil-like components to be present in the final distillate which perhaps gives the spirit that ‘extreme aroma’ which we both noticed. Maybe you have some thoughts on that?

  2. Not sure if an earlier post got lost or is awaiting moderation but here goes again. I reread your post and agree with you on the Leblon aroma being a bit off-putting. I’d also like to see you review more brands and especially super premium ones ( I think one recommended to me – I’ll have to find the name – is only available in N.Y). I know a distilled spirits consultant who knows a lot about this beverage and would be interested in your site. So far Novo Fogo – the Silver and Aged are the only two other ones I have had the opportunity to taste and test.

    • Hi Gary

      Your earlier comment was probably harvested by my spam filter. (Sometimes it makes mistakes.)

      The musty/vegetal aroma which seems characteristic of Cachaca was both very interesting, and very challenging for me to describe. This mustiness carries through to the palate and even to the cocktail. I suspect, that over time one gets used to this aroma/flavour and perhaps even enjoys it, much the same way that the flavour of beer is off-putting when you take your very first taste, but is apparently enjoyable once one becomes more familiar to it. As for other reviews, I have a review of a brand called Thoquino in the works, and I have also been promised a sample of Agua Luca for review. So yes I will be reviewing more Cachcaca in the future. Understand however, that this is a spirit which has only a small presence in my market (Alberta), and my opportunities for reviews are rather limited.

 
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