What is Cachaca? Rums Close Cousin from South America

Cachaca (Ka-shaa-suh) is a colorless unaged spirit from South America made from sugar cane juice. There are of course some exceptions-some are aged and have color, some are made from molasses.The bulk of them come from Brazil (which has over 5000 brands plus probably an equal if not greater number of bootleg, homemade brands/producers).It could be considered a type of rum as the ingredients are the same but most rum producers are happy that the Cachaca producers keep making the distinction.
Cachaca has been becoming more popular of late (read commercially viable beyond a very narrow ethnic/specialty market)by dint of aggressive marketing in Europe and North America. This is in no small part because it is one of the last frontiers of exploitable drinks.
Vodka has been done to death,gin is complicated to make,Rum is crowded (and good luck against Bacardi White and its marketing muscle),whiskey takes too long to make and there are limited distilleries,whereas Cachaca has a huge number of distilleries who produce it if for virtually nothing,are close to their markets (in terms of shipping-compared to China or Korea – other possible future producers of the next “New” spirits) and are willing to but your label on their product for very little.
Problem is, most of the stuff tastes like (and is used for) fuel. All it is is plain old ethanol (read drinking or drinkable alcohol) and most of the producers use a criterion of quantity and cheapness over quality.It was and is a drink of the poor in South America much as Moonshine or Samagon is in other countries-cheap, fiery alcohol sold for pennies per drink. (liter of Cachaca in a slum is about 25 cents).
There are of course exceptions to this rule, much like the fact that there are very good or excellent bootleg whiskey or vodka producers, there are distillers of Cachaca that take pride in their products- and produce them legally.
Most cachaca (legal) is produced in column stills- a high volume/ low-cost way of producing massive quantities of alcohol (same way ethanol plants for fuel do- with much the same results).
Higher end artisanal Cachaca is made in Alembic type pot stills in batches and carefully distilled in small batches with an eye towards quality.
Almost all of this Cachaca is drunk as Mojitos- a mix of Cachaca, mint, and sugar with or without some lime juice thrown in.Basically, a Mint Julep using unaged white spirits instead of a whiskey. Most of the cheap and/or illegal stuff is drunk straight out of the plastic bottle or jug it came in – usually a recycled drink or sometimes a pesticide bottle.