If you like high-ester rums today’s bottling might be of interest to you. By Jamaican standards, it should be at least continental flavoured. Moreover, we once again walk on the hidden path of not extremely popular distilleries. It’s time for the Savanna HERR 2006 10YO.
Savanna is one of three distilleries on La Réunion, the french overseas department in the Indian Ocean (the others are Rivières du Mât and Isautier). Founded in 1870 in Saint Paul on the west of Réunion, it more or less always distilled from both, molasses- and cane juice wines. After several ownership changes, the distillery has been moved to Bois-Rouge in 1992, with the ageing cellars following three years later. At least today, the entire supply- and production chain is fully integrated, from the sugar cane to final bottling. Somewhat surprisingly, all of Savanna’s r(h)ums are produced by a column still established in 1964. Solely based on tasting I probably would not have believed this! There is one exception however: The HERR, which has secretly been distilled by an alambic pot still. I hope there is more to come. Anyways, I have no idea where Savanna has been hiding all the time but even for many articulate rum nerds, at least outside of France, it has been a somewhat ‘recent’ discovery. My guess is that Tereos’ (a global conglomerate dealing with sugar, beets and their derivatives) acquisition of the previous owners in 2010 has a lot to do with it. A very nice overview of Savanna by Lance can be found here.
HERR stands for High Ester Rum Réunion and is one of LMDW’s (La Maison du Whisky) anniversary releases. When I saw this rum for the first time I knew I just had to get some of this juicy distillate! I have already tasted some Grand Arômes by Savanna which I liked a lot (and which I shall review in due time) but which have been bottled at 46% drinking strength. Hence I could only imagine what these Grand Arômes would taste like at cask strength. Typically, Grand Arôme denotes high ester agricoles, such as Le Galion used to produce on Martinique. Savanna’s Grand Arômes (i.e. the HERR or the the Lontan series) are traditional rums however, even though the distillery, as stated above, also produces agricole.
Dégustation “Savanna HERR 2006 10YO”
Key Facts: This single cask rum has been distilled in May 2006 at Savanna on La Réunion and bottled after 10 years in an ex-cognac cask in May 2016 for LMDW’s 60th anniversary. This is the only release by Savanna so far that has been distilled by a discontinuous alambic pot still. Cask 502 yielded 686 0,5 litre bottles at a cask strength of 63,8%. Even if this has been ageing in continental climate this requires a very large cask.
Colour and viscosity: Russet. Medium sized legs flow back down relatively quickly.
Nose: What a beast! (Almost) no Hampden is able hold a candle to the HERR in terms of esters. While these typically emerge as pineapple and banana with Jamaican rums, there is no argument what’s the dominating flavour here: Rotting and foul strawberries! I have never had anything quite like this, not even with other Savannas. The aromas are so intense, I bet even my neighbors can smell it through the wall of my apartment. Paradoxically, the nose is quite fresh (spearmint), even though the foul strawberries are clearly the dominating aroma here. Then glue and very medical, almost Laphroaig-like aromas such as gauze bandage. Is this actually drinkable?
Palate: Oh yes, totally, even though it is a bit weird at first. This stuff is freaky and definitely not made for the faint-hearted. There are incredibly many esters, foul strawberries, fresh mint, hubba bubba chewing gum (remember?) and these blue candies whose name I’ve forgotten (edit: Wick Blau if you know it). It definitely brings back memories. The rum is relatively thin but its intensity is second to none, the adstringency is unreal! This is another love it or hate it rum and no matter what you do, try getting a sample of it!
Finish: Infinite with strawberries. By the way, if you ever dare to include this in a tasting session make sure to taste it last. You won’t be able to sensibly taste anything after this anymore.
The Savanna HERR 2006 10YO is not a rum I’d want to drink every day. Perhaps not even once a week or once a month. You really have to be in the mood for it and as far as I am concerned, it doesn’t happen very often. That said, it’s incredible stuff. There’s nothing out there that’s remotely similar to this, not even high-ester Hampdens. It’s a different beast to be tamed and every now and then I am up for the challenge. However, I don’t think I like it just as much as some of the other reviewers out there who were a bit more positive, i.e. Lance, Flo and Christian for German-speaking readers or Cyril for my francophone friends. The lack of complexity places it a bit short of a truly great one for me.