How to make artisanal cachaça in Paraty

by Simo Capecchi in Paraty (Rio de Janeiro), Brazil. Photos by Laurel Holmes.

Entrance of Engenho d'Ouro distillery

When I applied for teaching in the v° Symposium, I was captured by the proposal of sketching inside some distilleries in Paraty. The Sketched Reportage workshop idea was to visit some small producers of cachaça to report the making of the popular brazilian distilled alcoholic beverage.

I love to use drawing as a tool to understand things or process. Not only because I studied as an architect but because it is really one of the best use we can do of drawing.
Plus, I needed a way to get more in touch with the new place, a part from contemplating panoramas. Asking to locals to explain their activity seemed a great opportunity and it has been!

With three different groups of sketchers I have been in two distilleries where we met really nice people passionate of their work like Norival and Adriano in Engenho d’Ouro distillery  and Lùcio and Fabricio at cachaça Pedra Branca. A day before the workshop I went for a survey to understand the process and being able to synthesize it to the group: three hours are not much for a reportage but hopefully we would at least produce a draft and got ideas for future more detailed works.

How to make Cachaça

The first suggestion I gave was to make a single drawing of “how to make” instructions: a sequence of actions can be described in steps, like an annotated map or an infographic drawing. It’s a big effort to be selective but useful in any kind of drawing. I showed a few examples taken from historical illustrations about sugar cane production or from authors like Wendy MacNaughton and I did this one above myself (that was colored later on), where the process is resumed in five main steps: sugar cane harvest, grinding, fermentation, distillation and aging. My full reportage here.

Different approaches to the “all in one page” explanation are the ones below by participants Rafael Fonseca, Genine Carvalheira, Jason Das and the one by Camilla Santino about the manioca flour production.

Rafael Fonseca
Rafael Fonseca at Engenho d’Ouro distillery
Genine Carvalheira
Genine Carvalheira at Pedra Branca (on her blog)
Jason Das
Jason Das at Pedra Branca distillery, Paraty
Camilla Santino at cachaça Engenho d'Ouro
Camilla Santino on the manioca flour making process at Engenho d’Ouro, Paraty.

I then suggested to focus more in one or a few steps for more detailed observations and I gave a flyer with examples of different layouts, ways to combine text and drawing in the page or how to choose what to draw. Some sketchers has been really productive, like Nelson Paciencia that has already a well organized and personal way to describe things, combining words and drawing in the page (see a funny reportage in his blog).

Nelson Paciencia
Nelson Paciencia at Engenho d’Ouro distillery, Paraty.

Other participants where at their first attempt on such a task, being more used to draw landscapes or portraits, but nevertheless seemed to enjoy the experience, like Tina Koyama from Seattle that wrote me “Your workshop was one of my most memorable experiences in Paraty! I learned a lot, and it was a very rich experience to learn and sketch a process. I did only a few sketches but they feel very “alive” to me because I was trying to understand the process”. More by Tina on her blog.

In both distilleries they let us taste sugar cane fresh, than they grinded it in front of us so we could drink the fresh juice, than let us taste it once fermented (a sort of wine or mosto) and finally we could taste the distilled product, the cachaça, that has been aged and bottled in a few different flavours… what a treat, it has been a real drink and draw meeting!

And at Engenho d’Ouro we could also taste some delicious sweets made with sugar cane and manioca flour.  More photos and participants drawings in this set.

Engenho d'Ouro distillery

Many sketchers coming from Brazil where familiar to the whole process but others, like me, have never even saw a sugar cane before. Everything was new to me but at the same time I felt so “at home”, not only because I met so many people with Italian origins, but it is true that Brazilians have such a natural kindness that I really enjoyed every moment of my trip.

I was lucky enough to have Laurel Holmes joining me at Engenho d’Ouro distillery, so here is her photo reportage.


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