In the top five most popular kinds of wood to age cachaça, Jequitiba-rosa is a star. Found mostly in Southeast Brazil, each tree is known to live for more than just a few years. According to Wikipedia, the oldest on record is 3,000 years old! And of course, like so many other Brazilian trees, it’s in great danger of extinction.
Though oak is a much-favored, globally recognized wood used to age spirits, it’s expensive. The exchange rates between the Brazilian Real and US Dollar or Euro have been better than they are now, for sure. But even when the currencies were more balanced, oak barrels were still a luxury. Thus, the search has been frantic for a Brazilian-wood that can approximate the flavors that so many people around the globe enjoy. Research at the University of Sao Paulo found that Jequitiba-rosa, along with cerejeira are just as good as oak in terms of reducing acid, and creating flavorful cachaça. Jequitiba-rosa is also shown to have many similarities to American oak, with similar color, aroma, and notes of vanilla.
I have yet to have a cachaça that has only been aged in Jequitiba-rosa. But I have had it in a blend. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint the impact the wood had on any of those, so I won’t pass along my own feelings on this rare wood. It is certainly next on my list.
It’s extremely sad to me that yet another wood I’m writing about is in danger of extinction. While it’s great to hear about certain efforts to restore native flora to various regions of Brazil, I’m afraid the current rate of environmental degradation will overwhelm any positive responses.