What do you call the stuff in that bottle?

Originally posted 23 April 2012

One thing that can confuse a rum scholar is the variety of names for the exact same thing. For example, here are three labels from 1945 that Ypioca of Brazil provided a bit too late to get in the book.


As you can see, two are labeled Aguardiente, the third “Delicious National Whiskey.” Both were produced in the same facility using the same ingredients, cane juice and water, and both would now be sold as cachaca. The differences in the names were 100% marketing, and depended on where in South America these bottles were to be shipped. (These are from the 1940’s, well before there was any attempt to market cachaca outside Brazil.) This problem is not limited to South American brands – as noted in a May 2006 article in a trade magazine called Drinks Buyer Magazine Asia, “In the Philippines, gin is made from molasses. In fact, India and the Philippines could be classed as major rum-drinking nations if some of the “gin” and “whiskey” there was properly classified.” Though international truth-in-labeling laws have extinguished most of the outright counterfeit products, there are still plenty of bottles that are labeled in ways that make it hard for an unwary patron of poorly lit bar to know what they are imbibing.