There aren’t a lot of books about cachaça that are in English. In fact, I don’t think I’d come across one book that has the intention of educating an English-speaking public about cachaça until I received a gift from my in-laws this past Christmas. The Cachaça Bible, is a bilingual presentation of everything one should know about artisanal cachaça.
The book’s author, Ricardo Ditchun, has created an outstanding resource for those interested in learning more, with a plethora of beautiful photos to support the text. There are great tidbits of history, including a story about President Juscelino Kubitschek, who often left to meetings to “reflect on providence.” It turned out this meant that he was sipping on a cachaça called Providence.
The book also educates the reader about the laborious nature of artisanal cachaça creation. Sugarcane must be hand cut in order to preserve sucrose, which is at its core, otherwise the quality of the final product will be low. On top of that, one ton of sugarcane produces only a few dozen gallons of final product.
Other great details of the book include a thorough presentation of how cachaça is made, differences in regional attributes among cachaças, a sampling of the 2,000 nicknames for cachaça, and cocktail recipes for the adventurous drinker. On top of all that is a list of the top 100 cachaças that everyone should try before they die.
As a whole, the book is well-rounded, providing context for the creation of cachaça, as well as practical tips for its consumption, and what drinkers can expect from various production styles. On the downside, the English translation is sub-par. There are parts of the translation, particularly around the description of how cachaça is made, which are quite strong. While most of the book is understandable, it’s lacking the style that is necessary for a professional book published in English. Many Brazilian translations into English, this one included, translate words that should be left in Portuguese, use run-on sentences, and show a limited ability to choose the right wording. As an example, from p. 51:
“Behind the naming conventions used to identify the different varieties, there is crucial data associated with genetic improvements made to highlight biological features, according to climate and geographic conditions present in the land where sugarcane will be grown.”
But, while the English could use a good polish, that doesn’t take away from the substance of what is being conveyed, or the absolutely beautiful pictures that accompany the text. There may not be another modern book on cachaça that compares to this in terms of breadth.
While it appears that the author hasn’t yet found an American or UK publisher, it is available on Amazon in Brazil. Perhaps it may be worth a wait until the English translation improves, but I don’t think anyone should sleep on this book. If you have an interest, and you’re willing to put up with some deficiencies, make the investment.