December 20, 2008

Have you heard of Januária?

By now, you probably know that I like cachaças and caipirinhas. A spirit that is linked in so many ways to Brazil's cultural identity and our historical connection to sugarcane. Many afficionados will say that the best cachaças are distilled in the State of Minas Gerais and the most famous brands come from a place called Salinas. However, a new town is on my cachaça watch list.  It's called Januária.

A few days ago, Alexandre Chiavegatti a friend who also loves to scout for unknown and hard-to-find brands, gave me a bottle of "Velha de Januária" (which I had never heard of). Yesterday in Brasília, I walked into a liquor store and found another brand from the same location called "Caribé". So I bought two bottles, one for Alexandre and one for my pantry. I just love collecting these little obscure brands which are pretty much distilled in the same way that was done in 17th century colonial Brazil and then aged in casks made from wood with romantic names like amburana or jequitibá rosa. It feels like, every bottle I buy, in a way is a celebration of a little piece of small town Brazil. A Brazil of open fields, dusty roads and simple people who know how to live in a slower pace.

For those curious, Januária is a little town (pop. 65,000) hidden in the northern part of Minas Gerais, 613 km from the state capital Belo Horizonte. This is what Wikipedia says about the place...
"The first explorers arrived in 1553 looking for gold. They were led by Castelhano Francisco Bruza de Espinosa and Padre João de Apicuelta Navarro. The first settlement was called Brejo do Salgado, due to the salinity of the streams and the marshes. The first sugarcane mill was set up and soon a chapel followed dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Amparo. In 1833 Brejo do Salgado became a "vila", or town and the seat was transferred to the left bank of the São Francisco River, the name being changed to Januária, in homage to Princess Januária, daughter of the Emperor Pedro I."

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