Novo Fogo Silver

Nov Fogo Silver

Product of:  Brazil
Aged: 1 year in stainless steel
Price: $30
Alcohol: 40% ABV
Context:  White Cachaça 
RG Rating:  9.5

Tasting Notes
Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça is clear in color, the result of resting in stainless steel tanks as opposed to aging in oak barrels.  Natural aromas of earthy cane rise as easily from Novo Fogo as if you were standing near a sugar cane crusher.  Surprisingly, the spirit does not emanate much sweet aromas (more reminiscent of honey), with a hint of floral lime and vanilla.  The initial taste is particularly easy on the tongue, both vegetal and slightly sweet, a hint of grilled red peppers and mild anise.  A medium-heavy body is a pleasant break from typically thin silver cachaças, and the finish is brief but with a delicate caramel sweetness, almost like a digestif.

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 Silver is essentially the same as for Novo Fogo Gold, the aging is what differentiates the two cachaças.  

Novo Fogo cane fields-RG

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. 

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.  

novofogo 001

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 Gold.  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 (# L9321 for this review).   A recipe book printed on recycled paper adorns the neck.

What sets Novo Fogo apart from other cachaça’s imported to the USA is the natural cane flavor.  Too many of the silver cachaça’s available here in the USA taste like warmed over neutral spirits; basically vodka replacements with some added body and sweetener. Novo Fogo has more authentic flavor due to its organic production (USDA certified) and copper pot still distillation, which usually yields a heavier spirit with more flavor than column stills produce. and aging for one year in stainless steel helps mature the spirit. Saúde to Novo Fogo for stepping up with a more premium product that mixes as well as it sips.  If that’s what Novo Fogo (Portuguese for “New Fire”) means, then welcome to the party! 

Reviewed: December 2010 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017