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Pitú Cachaca

Review: Pitú Cachaca  80.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on July 25, 2013

Cachaca is a spirit similar to (but not quite the same as) rum. The roots of Cachaca predate the distillation of rum stretching back almost 500 years to the early sixteenth century when Portuguese colonists brought cuttings of sugar cane to Brazil. The spirit they created is distilled from the fermented juice of sugar cane. Its popularity in Brazil is enormous as Wikipedia quotes 2007 figures which state 1.5 billion liters of Cachaca are consumed annually in Brazil. The Brazilian consumption alone is high enough that if Cachaca were considered its own spirits category (as perhaps it should be), it would be the ninth largest spirits category in the world.

Pitú Cachaca (which according to the label on the back of my bottle is pronounced Petee-too Kah-sha-sah) is produced by Engarrafamento Pitu Ltda., an eight decade old family run company located within Pernambuco, in northeast Brazil. Their Cachaca is made from the juice of newly harvested sugar cane which is milled to extract the juice, then filtered and fermented before undergoing distillation with the final product rested in marrying tanks to soothe the flavour before bottling.

(I was provided with a sample bottle of the Pitú Cachaca by PMA Canada who are the local importers of the Spirit here in Alberta.)

SAM_0840 PituIn the Bottle 4/5

In Brazil, (and in a growing number of places throughout the world) this spirit is recognized by the red Pitú on the label. This creature is sometimes mistaken for a lobster, but it is actually a shrimp-like crustacean which is found in certain Brazilian rivers. One of those Brazilian streams, the Riacho Pitú flows near the production facilities of Pitú Cachaca, and the company chose to name the spirit after the nearby river, and the crustacean which dwells in that stream has become the symbol of their Cachaca.

Pitú is an authentic Brazilian spirit which arrives in the tall clear bottle shown to the left. The back label of the bottle tells us that Cachaca is the Spirit of Brazil, and also provides a recipe for Brazil’s National Cocktail, the Caipirinha.

Note: The spirit is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

In the Glass 8/10

The Cachaca is clear in the glass, and when I tilt and twirl that glass I see that it deposits a light oily film on the inside. The crest of that oily film gives up a multitude of small legs which crawl back down into the spirit quite slowly. The nose is very interesting. Pitú has a warm musty vegetal aroma filled with earthy notes of autumn garden fruits such as broiled squash and oven baked zucchini. Some grassy notes invade the senses as does a light impression of cane syrup and grilled pineapple. As the glass sits, a light building up of white pepper and citrus zest develops in the breezes above the glass as well.

In the Mouth 48.5/60

The initial entry is lightly spicy as I taste white pepper with citrus undertones. Very quickly the musty earthiness of the Pitú Cachaca kicks in as the vegetal flavours remind me of grilled pineapple, sautéed mushrooms and baked butternut squash which are all tainted with dabs of earthy lowland agave. If I stretch my imagination, I believe I taste hints of lemon grass and a small ripple of mint running through the spirit as well.

(Note: I understand the spirit does not contain any agave in its distillation, But there is a very real agave-like flavour that I taste.)

For the uninitiated, this is a rather strange experience as these unfamiliar flavours do not settle easily into a paradigm of cane flavour that is familiar to the average rum enthusiast. I remind myself that this is a different beast than rum, and to be fair, the Cachaca spirit it is not meant to be sipped neat from the glencairn glass as I have just done. Pitú Cachaca is spirit taken directly from the still which is meant to be consumed in a mixed cocktail with fresh fruit. The cocktail of choice in Brazil is the aforementioned Caipirinha, and if I am to get to the bottom of things then I must make some Brazilian style cocktails, and I begin with the Caipirinha!

Once I mix my cocktail, I understand more clearly why this bar drink is the National Cocktail of Brazil. The fresh lime and sugar work wonderfully with the musty vegetal flavours of the Pitú Cachaca, and the result is a warm earthy cocktail full of funky goodness. I can see why everyone in Brazil is crazy over this. Of course I mix a few other cocktails following the Brazilian tradition of mixing fresh fruit and sugar with the Cachaca. I find the spirit remarkably easy to mix with, and you can find the results of my experimentation down below.

In the Throat 12/15

The finish is lightly spicy with more white pepper and citrus zest apparent in the exit than in the delivery. The spice fades quickly however, and I am left with lasting impressions of warm earthy flavours of balsam, baked zucchini, and grilled pineapples. As I indicated earlier, this spirit is not a sipping spirit, however this Cachaca has enough character such that these warm punky flavours easily push through the cocktails I built.

The Afterburn 8/10

Pitú Cachaca is a very different flavour experience. The spirit has a much richer taste profile than I was anticipating, and this flavour appeals to strongly in the cocktail format. My score reflects its strong cocktail character.

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

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Suggested Recipe

SAM_0827 Amazing TickleAmazing Tickle
(An Arctic Wolf Cocktail)

1 3/4 oz Pitú Cachaca
1/2 Lemon
1 oz Orange Juice
2 teaspoons crystal sugar

Cut the half lemon into four wedges
Squeeze by hand into an old-fashioned glass the juice from the two largest wedges
Place the other two wedges into the glass
Add 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 oz of orange juice
Muddle (mash the ingredients together using a muddler or a wooden spoon)
Add 1 3/4 oz Cachaca
Stir to dissolve the remaining sugar
Fill the glass with crushed ice
Serve with a straw

Yumm!

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SAM_0885 Pitu CacharitaCacharita
(a recipe suggested by the makers of Pitú Cachaca)

1 1/4 oz Pitú Cachaca
3/4 oz Triple Sec
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sugar syrup (optional)
ice
Splash of soda (optional)
Lemon slice for garnish

Chill a cocktail glass and rim the outside with coarse salt
Place the tequila, lime, Triple Sec, and sugar syrup into a metal shaker
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into the chilled cocktail glass
Add a splash of soda if desired
Garnish with Lemon Slice
Enjoy!

And of course, I want everyone to remember that the aim of my blog is not to encourage you to drink more spirits … it is to encourage you to drink better spirits.

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You may (loosely) interpret the scores 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)

3 Responses to “Pitú Cachaca”

  1. Bill said

    I was introduced to Pitu in Recife (also known as the city of Pernambuco in Pernambuco state), Brazil in 1957.At that time it was a popular drink in the bars served srtaight in a shot glass along with an orange hog plum to clench your teeth on as the burning sets in.

  2. Scott said

    We don’t see many cachacas in North America for comparison, but Pitu is an undistinguished supermarket brand in Brazil. There is a growing industry there in barrel aged, artisanal cachacas that would no doubt merit a higher score from Rum Howler. Let’s hope the Olympics and World Cup inspire some importers to bring them here.

    • I have a few other brands in the pipeline which hopefully will bring more context to the Cachaca reviews. My sense of the Brazilian marketplace is that it is literally flush with different brands and styles, with hundreds of small distilleries sprinkled throughout the cane growing areas. The challenge for anyone who reviews Cachaca is to try to gain a sense for what this spirit really is about given that only the tiniest fraction of brands is available outside of Brazil.

 
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