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Forget what you know about cachaça. Brazilian distiller Sagatiba elevates the 500 year-old spirit to an artform, applying years of research to the process for a drinking experience that rivals the finest out there.

We had the privilege of meeting master distiller Gustavo Nahor recently when he visited CH HQ to fill us in on the extensive process of making Sagatiba and introduce us to their Velha, an aged cachaça. Made in copper pot stills (like whiskey and others), the laborious process also includes a two-year aging process in French oak barrels. Free of caramels and sugars that flavor others (it goes from "barrel to bottle"), the result is a smooth drink with a complex palate that's perfect for sipping. We're looking forward to a 23 year-old version that's due out by the end of this year.

Pura, their non-aged cachaça, is also multidistilled and the first premium label to hit the market. While it can deliciously replace vodka in any number of mixed drinks, it's also surprisingly good on its own with flavor hints of the fresh green sugarcane.

Sagatiba Velha is currently available in Brazil and in Europe, and will be introduced in the U.S. this fall. Pura is available from Astor Wines in Manhattan for $25. For a complete list of Sagatiba's distributors and online merchants, check out the Sagatiba site (click on Products > Where to buy).

If you want to throw a cachaça party of your own you can win a case of Sagatiba's Velha, as well as a copy of the book on the history of cachaça, "The Soul of Brasil," and Sagatiba's CD of Brazilian music! To enter, follow the contact link at the bottom of the page, select Sagatiba Giveaway and tell us your best drink recipe using cachaça by Thursday, 24 July 2008, 11:59pm EST. You must be over 21 and live in the U.S. to win this contest.

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