Balsamo, or cabreuva, is an increasingly popular wood in which to age cachaça. This tree, whose scientific name is Myroxylon balsamum, can be found in Central America and South America, and does not appear, at this time, to be in danger. In Brazil, according to Mapa da cachaça, the tree can be found from Bahia in the northeast of the country, all the way to Rio Grande do Sul, which borders Uruguay.
The use of balsamo in cachaça aging is most associated with the state of Minas Gerais, though I don’t think the tree is abundant there. Perhaps the most famous cachaça, which has the same name as the most famous cachaça producing region, is called Salinas. I’ve offered my opinion on their traditional, balsamo-aged cachaça elsewhere.
But now, Balsamo has caught on in other places, so a wide range of distilleries use the tree for aging, which makes sense, given its wide availability.
Balsamo provides a very unique flavor. The best balsamo-aged cachaça is very heavily anise. On the internet, I’ve found its nose described as herbaceous and its palate described as astringent. I don’t know that I would describe it that way at all. I would say that it’s not for everyone. It’s popular in Brazil because it is very unique.
Further, balsamo-aged cachaça is often used in wonderful blends. The balance it can have with other woods, including oak, makes it a powerful tool in cachaça creation. Numerous blends with more than three types of cachaça includes balsamo. But there are also several well-balanced blends that include only balsam and one other type of wood.
Anyone interested in unique flavors, which challenge the palate and the nose, will love balsamo. The delight balsamo brings to Brazilian cachaça lovers cannot be understated. It is not for everyone, however. I wouldn’t blame anyone who tried a balsamo-aged cachaça and didn’t like it. The blends are a different story. I’ve yet to have a blend that included balsamo, which overwhelmed its flavor.