Novo Fogo Gold

Novo Fogo Gold

Product of:  Brazil
Aged: 2-3 years
Price: $36
Alcohol: 40% ABV 
Sugar: 0-5 g/L 
(estimate)
Context:  Aged Cachaça 
RG Rating:  9

Tasting Notes
Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça derives its light amber color from two years aging in small oak barrels. A delightfully complex nose delivers aromas of fresh cut sugar cane with floral notes and hints of nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla wafers, and alcohol. The initial taste enters a dryly on medium body, followed by vanilla, cinnamon, and raisin flavors. A medium-long finish begins dry, with bitter chocolate and lingering spicy. 

Anecdotes 
The Novo Fogo distillery is relatively small by Brazilian cachaça standards.  The facility lies on the fringe of the Atlantic rainforest near the town of Morretes, further south than many Cachaça operations.  The region’s moderate climate allows for only a single sugarcane harvest each year.  The process of making Novo Fogo Gold is essentially the same as for Novo Fogo Silver, the aging is what differentiates the two cachaças.  

Production begins with sugarcane cut fresh from fields.  Unlike many sugar cane growers, the cane fields worked for Novo Fogo are not burned prior to harvesting.  Burning enables faster harvesting (and drives pesky rats away).  Novo Fogo disdains the practice due to its negative affect on the concentrated sugars residing in the base of the cane stalk, and because burning can impart a charred aroma and/or flavor to the finished product. The cane is pressed shortly after cutting, and the bagasse is burned for fuel in the steam boiler that heats the still.  Discarded bagasse is used as a natural fertilizer in the cane fields. 

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Novo Fogo's distiler creates his own fermentation starter by combining corn flour, rice flour and lime juice  into a mash or paste, which is placed in a cloth bag and dunked in a bucket containing a small quantity of sugar juice to start the fermentation.  The starter mix is then removed, and the fermenting juice is added to a big vat of fresh sugarcane juice, where the real fermentation happens. The fresh sweet juice is fermented for 24 hours to a 7-8% ABV low wine.  

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Novo Fogo is distilled in one pass throught a 750 Liter copper pot still to 48-54% ABV.  The heads and tails are selected out, leaving the heart of the spirit.  According to distiller Agenor Macarri Junior, separating the heart from the heads and tails is the most import part of distilling.  The spirit is aged in approximately 220, 50-gallon used Kentucky bourbon barrels that have been pressure washed, disassembled, sanded, re-coopered, and re-charred to a medium toast.  The distillate that becomes Novo Fogo Gold is aged in for at least 2 years before bottling. No additives or chemicals are used, and the process yields a fine tasting cachaça certified organic by the USDA.   

Packaging is nearly identical to that used for Novo Fogo Silver.  I believe the hand blown bottle’s guitar shape contributes to sure handling by speedy bartenders, while its long neck, covered in woven jute potato bag material, makes pouring easy.  The top is a wood-capped synthetic cork, and a hand signed label includes a batch number.   A recipe book (printed on recycled paper) adorns the neck.

Opinion
It’s a pity we don’t have a wider selection of cachaças to choose from in the USA - all the more annoying when you realize just how many different varieties exist in Brazil.  Typically, Americans are stuck with some the worst exports, so it’s no wonder the native Brazilian spirit is misunderstood and under-appreciated here in the States.  Novo Fogo to the rescue!  Their gold cachaça smells like an aged rum, with aromas of sugarcane, oak and vanilla that combine a sweet Spanish style ron and an aged Agricole rhum.  Served neat, there are just enough congeners and other fusel aromatics to keep the nose interested. Flavors of wispy sweet vanilla and white pepper are delivered on a body that’s more full than the bulk of white cachaças we Americans are forced to tolerate.  Novo Fogo Gold is refreshing on its own; sipping with an ice cube adds anise and immediacy to the flavors.  Or serve Novo Fogo Gold in your next round of caipirinhas for a deeper flavored cocktail.

Reviewed: May 2011 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017