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Savanna Lontan 2007 & The Wild Parrot Savanna & Velier Savanna Indian Ocean Stills - Rum Review

La Réunion is a a beautiful volcanic island near Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean. Less than a million people live in this French Department. One of the things I noticed when I started doing a bit of research is that they have Google Streetview on the island! I love that! A lot of islands don’t and that’s so unfortunate. It’s great to roam the streets of a gorgeous island! Never mind the streets, how about virtually climbing a volcano?! Here are a few screen captures of Streetview in Réunion, to give you an idea of what it’s like there. I want to go now!






Another beautiful thing is Distillerie Savanna. It’s one of four rum distilleries on Réunion Island, the others being the Rivière du Mat distillery, Isautier distillery and La Part des Anges. The first mention of a distillery in the Savanna region was in the 1870s, located in Saint Paul. Things changed in the 1940’s, when Emile Hugot consolidated several sugar factories, including Savanna, into the Bourbon Sugar Company. The distillery operated until 1992, when it was moved to its current location in Saint-André, right by a sugar factory.


Savanna is quite special, as it produces rums from molasses and cane juice. Most distilleries only use one sugar source to make rum from. Both are supplied to them by Sucrerie de Bois-Rouge. Molasses for their lighter and Grand Arôme (high ester) rums, cane juice for rhum agricole. When you look at a satellite image of the area around the distillery, you’ll see that the distillery, sugar factory and cane fields are all next to each other. So it’s a field to bottle operation.



The next part is for people who are interested in the more technical stuff. When it comes to fermentation they are using Saccharomyces Crevisae yeast for their agricole. For their other rums they are using several strains of yeast and bacteria. Fermentation times depend on the type of rum. 24 Hours for regular molasses rum, 36 hours for agricole and 15 days for Grand Arôme. After fermentation the wines are at 7% alcohol for regular molasses rums and 3.5% for Grand Arôme. The distillation is done with a Savalle column still, where the rum comes off at various strengths. 72% alcohol for Grand Arôme and agricole, molasses rums at either 78% or 94.8%. They produce 10 million liters of rum per year, have a storage capacity of 2.3 million liters and export 80% of their product to Europe. One thousand barrels and 5 large vats are in their ageing warehouse.


The interest from people in rum enthusiast groups seems largely down to Savanna’s Grand Arôme and HERR (High Ester Rum Réunion) higher ester rums. With the former being distilled on a column and the latter on a small pot still. They are absolute flavour bombs thanks to their long fermentation. Besides that, Savanna seems to be flying under the radar somewhat, which is unfortunate. I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes in the next few years however.


Two of the rums I tasted are molasses based, one is agricole. I didn’t taste these blind as I couldn’t think of any reason why I would prefer one over the other.


The Cast


1. Savanna Lontan 2007, Grand Arôme, 9 year, Cognac cask, 46%

2. Velier Savanna Indian Ocean Stills 2012, 6 year, Cognac cask, 61%

3. The Wild Parrot Savanna, Grand Arôme, 11 year, cask WP07639, 63.9%




Nosing


Savanna Lontan 2007

I’m smelling grapes, oak, raisins, newspaper, olives, light plastic and cheese. Very interesting nose.


Velier Savanna Indian Ocean Stills

Grapes, oak, green apple, olives, light bubble gum, caramel, mint, white pepper and cheese. It’s slightly metallic and thin.


The Wild Parrot Savanna

Olives, glossy magazine, oak, light plastic, cheese, band aid, sausages, menthol and rubber. It’s dusty. Feast for the nose.


Rum 3 wins the nosing round, rum 1 is a close second.


Tasting


Savanna Lontan 2007

I’m tasting olives, oak, rubber, cheese, wine and some nice wood spice on the long finish. It’s quite vegetal and estery. Tons of flavour.


Velier Savanna Indian Ocean Stills

Rather sweet and on the thin side. Strong on minerals and herbs, raspberries, light olives and plastic, a bit peppery on the medium finish.


The Wild Parrot Savanna

Olives, oak, plastic, band aid => it’s medicinal, cheese, figs. It coats your mouth in intensity. High in esters, but they aren’t completely overpowering. Finish is long and there is very little burn for this abv.


Conclusion


Wow what a flavour experience. It’s one of the reasons why I love rum so much. It can take you into so many different beautiful sensory journeys.


The Lontan is missing a little power compared to the other two, because of the lower 46% abv. However, the flavour is still so intense that it took me a long time and tons of water to wash it out of my mouth. I’m scared to think what this will taste like at 60%. I’d love to try that! It’s impressive that they’ve reached such flavour intensity without releasing it at cask strength. Major winner for me. It reminds me a bit of New Grove rums. If I want to describe the style I’d say a combination of St Lucia and funky Jamaican rum comes close.


The Velier is a lot less intense and complex. It’s not really a fair comparison though, as this is not a molasses rum like the other two, but a rhum agricole. The mineral and herbal profile is nice and it drinks like a much lower abv rum, but I also found it rather sweet and easy going. I’m not a fan of the bubble gum note. Perhaps an easy going entry into the realm of Savanna rhum, but it’s not for me. I can think of quite a few more interesting rhum agricoles.


Wild Parrot Savanna impressed me a lot. Fully tropically aged for 11 years. It’s fat, round and complex. It packs a punch, even though there is very little burn for a 60% rum. It's estery, but not like a Hampden DOK. Much more approachable than that. It’s one of those rums that keeps on giving, the more time you spend with it. I would love to have a continuous supply of this one. Great rum!


One thing is for sure, I need more Savanna Grand Arôme in my life and so do you! Especially if you like the funkier high ester rums from Jamaica and South Africa’s Mhoba for example. I'm looking forward to exploring their entire range, including their lower ester molasses rums to see how they hold up. The fascinating rum journey never ends!


Scores


Savanna Lontan 2007 – 85

Velier Savanna Indian Ocean Stills – 67

The Wild Parrot Savanna – 89


Click here for info on the scoring method.

Click here for the complete list of reviews.


Thanks to Jeff and Meredith Olszewski for the Velier and Wild Parrot samples!


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