An ongoing series evaluating the schools outlined by Mapa da Cachaça in an article from several years ago.
UPDATE: After writing and publishing this piece, I saw a post on Instagram essentially echoing the same sentiment. However, a respondent claimed that they have been doing experiments and can note the difference between sugarcane varietals. This, of course, has yet to be published. However, I will gladly update this post if more evidence becomes available.
In this school, according to Mapa da Cachaca, producers distinguish their cachaça by the type of sugarcane they use. A few producers (and by a few, they mean maybe a few dozen out of the more than 1,000 producers) believe that the sugarcane they use impacts the the sensory characteristics of a cachaça.
There is no evidence that anyone can distinguish the sensory characteristics between different types of sugarcane. And because a few distillers try to make consumers believe that there is a difference doesn’t mean the distinctions matter. Producers tend to use varietals that will flourish in the particular place they live. They don’t invest in sugarcane to provide different flavors because they have no evidence that this is a thing. Further, most producers don’t indicate anywhere on their products the sugarcane varietals they use, and thus, without speaking to them directly, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for a consumer to gather this information.
So how can sugarcane varietals be a school if different varietals don’t, according to current studies, provide sensorial differences? They can’t.
Maybe at some point, a study will come out showing that different varietals do provide noticeable sensorial differences. But most consumers, even if this can be proven, won’t be able to tell the difference. Or, if they can, few would be able to tell the name of the varietal used.
We’re not talking about grape varietals, which clearly provide sensorial differences and have relatively easy names. We’re talking about sugarcane varietals with names like SP801842 and CTC-5. Yes, of course, there are non-technically named varietals. For example, there is Cana Caiana, which is very difficult to grow, and some producers consider exceptional. But still, no one seems to be able to point to the distinguishing sensorial characteristics that make this varietal unique.
As far as I’m concerned, sugarcane varietal use is not a school. Varietals only separate producers in the sense that producers are separated by geography and use different types of sugarcane depending on their region. Until we get more information, we don’t need to distinguish cachaça in this way.