Armazem Vieira Onix

Armazem-RG3-USE

Product of:  Florianopolis, Santa Catarina Island, Brazil 
Aged:  up to 16 years
Price: R$240 / US$120
Alcohol: 40% ABV
Context:
Cachaça
RG Rating: 9.5

Tasting Notes
In appearance, texture and smell, Onix reflects its source:  fresh-pressed sugarcane juice.  The color is a very pale straw.  The aromas smell exactly like the stalks of fresh pressed sugarcane; grassy, woody, slight lemongrass and the almost putrid odor of fermenting sugarcane juice.  Ahhh – close your eyes, sniff,  and be teleported to the distillery.

Then take a sip and experience an initial taste that is sweet just like mild fresh sugarcane juice, on a moderately heavy, somewhat oily body.  I had half-expected the Aririba wood to impart a slightly bitter taste, but the flavor is extremely pleasant.  The finish returns you full circle to the start, with mild grassy sugarcane stalks and a residual woody sense.

Production
Armazem Vieira uses the cana fita or crioula (creole) species (Saccharum sinense) of sugarcane, which was originally brought from the Azores and Madeira islands.  

After crushing in the waterwheel powered mill, the garapa (fresh sugar cane juice) is boiled in copper trays to reduce and sterilize it.  To the resulting a melado (sugarcane honey) is added water and regional wild yeast, initiating fermentation. The “wine” is distilled in one pass through a traditional alambique copper pot still, to 48% ABV. 

Armazem Vieira ages its spirit for up to 20 years in barrels made from a species of wood known as Aririba, grown in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest*. Aririba imparts a unique color, bouquet, and taste. 

After blending using a Solera method, the Cachaça is filtered for clarity and purity, and bottled on site in transparent recycled glass bottles that reveal the finished product’s depth and brilliance.  The bottles are  personalized with the seal-stamp of the company’s bar-cantina. On the label is written “SANTA CATARINA ISLAND – BRAZIL”, as well as the initials of the owners´ surnames “SGB”.

History 
Sugarcane spirits production began on Santa Catarina in 1748. In Florianopolis, where Armazem is produced, there were once over 100 stills making cachaca, and a large percentage of them were made of clay.  The tradition of distilling sugarcane spirits on Santa Catarina was begun by immigrants originally from the Azores and Madeira islands.  Over time, the island became a tourist destination, and today, only Armazem Vieira continues to distill sugarcane juice into cachaca.   

Armazem Bodega-RG1

The Name
Armazem Vieira is the name of a marine warehouse built in 1840 in in Florianopolis, the state capital of Santa Catarina island in Southern Brazil.  The original owner, Sergio Vieira, maintained a trading post, or armazem in the building.  The historic building blends Masonic and Azorean architectural styles.  It is situated on one of the first trails established on the island, and was recognized as a historic landmark in 1984. Today it is home to a distinctive art nouveaux bar bar, as well as the barrel aging facility and bottling line for the cachaca that bears it’s name.

Armazem Box Label-Rg1

Opinion
We’re accustomed to seeing rums aged in oak barrels for a dozen years or more display a dark amber or brown color.  Armazem cachaça is aged not in oak, but in barrels made from the indigenous Aririba tree, which can be harder than American White oak and has smaller pores – perhaps that’s why it imparts less color to the spirit. I was deeply curious to learn how these hardwoods develop aromas and flavors.  Armazem amazed me. The 16 year old Onix cachaça delivers all the fresh sugarcane flavors and maturity of aging in local hardwood that a fine cachaça should.

Brazil:  Please send more.  
Viewers:  Reward yourself by collecting and sipping Armazem Onix wherever you find it.

Reviewed:  November 2013 at The Rum Gallery, USA.

Notes on Wood:  As you would expect, Brazil’s rain forest is not only Earth’s largest Oxygen producer, it is also fertile ground for many species of hardwood trees.  Many of them are suboptimal for aging distilled spirits.  Regardless, distillers use what they have, and several species are used for making barrels, including:  Amburan from the prolific cachaça-producing state of Minas Gerais; Balsamo from Ceará; Jequitiba or Caririana Legalis from São Paulo; Jatoba or Hymenaea courbaril and Ipe or Tabebuia from Rio de Janeiro.  

© Dave Russell 2017