I had the opportunity in late 2021 to visit Tapua Farm in Linhares, Espirito Santo, the home of Princesa Isabel. A little over two hours from Vitoria, Princesa Isabel is remarkable not only for its cachaça and its production methods, but for the people who make it.
In the darkness of the Vitoria evening, a hint of humidity in the air, Marcel and I gathered our belongings and sought out our driver. He’d come all the way from the distillery just for us. We piled into the truck and hunkered down.
The noise and lights began to thin, but the traffic never seemed to. Headed north out of Vitoria, there’s only one two-lane road. The state is a major agricultural center, and the largest coffee producer in Brazil, huge tracks careen up and down. To our right, beyond the low mountains, the sea hummed. On our left, other mountains rose into the distance, enveloped in the night.
I didn’t quite know how long it would take us to reach Fazenda Tupã. It was late, almost 11 pm by the time we made our way into the main house where Dr. Adao waited for us. He’d had dinner prepared and a bottle of cachaça set for us. He sat with us and talked as we sat and ate and drank together. We hadn’t settled any business, but already I could tell that I’d come to a special place. Dr. Adao’s enthusiasm, his hospitality was immediate.
We awoke early the next day. The sun had already risen and now, with the daylight, I caught a glimpse of the rolling green hills and the Rio Doce, which lay at the edge of the farm, carving its way through Espirito Santo.
The sugarcane had already been harvested that very first time, and so as we drove up toward the fields, the cane remained short, green, stretching into the distance. A little dog named Buti (Boochee) had climbed into the truck with us and made himself perfectly comfortable.
We started with a drive through the recently harvested fields, which sat high above the river. From there we could see the grandiosity of the farm and the land. Across the river were coffee producers. Below, we could see the cows. They grazed lazily on the grass in the cool early morning.
Standing in the bare fields, which seemed to stretch on and on, it shocked me that Princesa Isabel only produced around 30,000 liters of cachaça per year. Having already become well-known, winning awards, it amazed me that this big place produced so little.
They weren’t producing cachaça at the moment, but still, after the field tour, we drove down to the processing area. The equipment sat quiet, our footsteps echoing. Behind the production area, solar panels shone brightly in the mid-day sun. It started to get hot.
The production area hugged the curves of the hill, and followed its descent, meaning there was no need for a lot of electricity to move the cachaça from one process to the other. Gravity worked its magic.
From the production area, we trudged past the sculptures made by Isabel, which dotted the walk. We moved into the tasting area, a grand space rented for parties that overlooked the rest of the farm and the river. We began our tasting then, moving from product to product, indulging in the plethora of wonderful cachaça available.
Princesa Isabel is well-crafted cachaça, its smooth, uninhibited flavors remain consistent across aging styles and lengths. They’re not known for their blends. Each wood stands on its own, each bottle a work of art. The tasting area is as perfect as the cachaça, and under the clear blue morning skies, I didn’t feel bad in the last about indulging early.
Soon, we moved into one of the aging areas beneath the tasting area. In the temperature-regulated area, casks of oak stood, a lone window giving in enough light to make the area comfortable. We moved from barrel to barrel, tasting the different ages, discussing the finer points of newer versus older oak.
Their commitment to excellence is what drew me to them immediately. Each step in the process, they knew, was critical to creating an excellent, distinctive spirit. Planting the right cane, creating the right recipes, getting the right master distiller, finding the right fermentation, using the best wood—these steps matter to the Cellia family. They are what make Princesa Isabel excellent, and in a short time, one of the most recognizable cachaças on the Brazilian market.
For all these reasons, I wanted to present these extraordinary cachaças to a broader US community. There is no better introduction to cachaça than Princesa Isabel. To get to know their products better, head on over and purchase our Princesa Isabel bundle.