Savanna might be one of if not the most aspiring rum distillery these days, together with St. Lucia‘s St. Lucia Distillers and Barbados’ Foursquare Distillery. At least since the Savanna HERR 2006 10YO it jumped onto people’s radars. But not only their most extreme expressions are worthy of a deeper exploration, they have some other pretty interesting r(h)ums as well! What is more, Savanna is able to produce several vastly different styles. As you would expect from a French overseas department, Agricole is of course one of them. The following is a code list of their different styles:
- Intense: a traditional, molasses based rum which is low on esters, contrary to the
- Lontan: grand arôme (high ester) rums made from molasses and long fermentations.
- Créol: Rhum Agricole, made from fresh sugar cane juice.
What also helps, at least with the rum geeks, is the fact that they provide the customer with basically all of the information you need, very much in the tradition of Foursquare. Unfortunately this is still rather special among official bottlers. There are more similarities with the other two aspiring distilleries outlined above. Just like Foursquare, Savanna tend to experiment quite a bit with different barrels, do not blend pot- and column-still distillates however (a pot still has apparently been installed just recently). Similarly, very much in the tradition of St. Lucia Distillers, they experiment with different fermentations and distill from both, molasses and fresh juice. I guess it’s no coincidence that these upcoming distilleries have quite a few things in common.
If you want to learn more about Savanna and its history, let me refer you to this article and the information provided therein.
Savanna Intense 2002 8YO (46%): After spending the majority of its life in Cognac casks, this rum got to finish for 29 months in Port casks. The long time in these barrels should have shaped the rum considerably. The nose is a typical column still rum whose profile differs from those of its Spanish brothers however. There are fresh scents of garden herbs, prunes and dark berries, rum pot with all of its candied fruits, caramel and leather. An interesting mix! The first sip reveals more of the rum pot and most notably the herbs, with plenty of sweet candy notes here and there. Again some of the ‘fresh’ aromas we’ve found in the nose. Now sugar cane and caramel. The rum comes with many layers which take some time to be discovered. I did not have any particular expectations on the Intense range but still the rum managed to surprise me quite a bit. I am not sure how much we should attribute to the Port cask but the rum pot would be my first guess. Fortunately we can directly compare it to a simple and straightforward cask-strength Savanna. I do not have much to say about the finish but it adequately supports the character of the rum.
Savanna Intense 2000 6YO (60,4%): This is the simple, cask-strength rum I’ve refered to above. It’s trivial to say but this is way more powerful than the 2002 8YO with 46%. However, the nose is less telling, even after giving the rum a lot of time to open up. I’d say this is more typical and closer to your standard Spaniard. Frankly, the nose is rather boring with hay, caramel, unripe fruits and notes of tobacco perhaps. I really do not get that much. Taste-wise it’s a very different experience. The attack imposes hay, green apples, red berries, a few unidentifiable herbs and rock sugar on us. Sweetened milk-tea pops into my mind but the rum is not incredibly sweet, it’s just an association. The alcohol is a bit sharp so we can only take tiny sips but after the fourth or fifth I can find a few additional notes such a pears and oranges. A drop of water also helps here I must say, it might even be necessary. Unfortunately, the finish is very forgettable once again. It’s decent booze but nothing I would ever buy. The 2002 8YO was just so much better.
Savanna Créol 2004 7YO (46%): With Savanna there are sometimes discrepancies between the distillation and barreling date. While many producers of agricole like to store their new make in steel tanks for a few months before putting the spirit into a barrel, this period is about two years for this one. I have no idea what the motivation behind this might be. Funnily, the nose is not too incredibly different from that of the Intense 2002 8YO at first glance. I get gooseberries, fresh herbs and sugar cane, menthol and a continental fruit basket. After a while also a mix of light berries. It’s quite nice. At the palate more of the gooseberries, red currants and brambleberries. Then a mix of fresh herbs paired with quince. It’s almost as if I am set back to my parent’s garden. In the finish we can again find the menthol again. A lovely agricole which is decidedly different from the Caribbean counterparts, yet I cannot quite say what’s so different about this one. Perhaps it’s just because this is a new profile for me. I’ll keep on looking out for more!
Savanna Lontan “Chai Humide” 2007 8YO (60,4%): Chai Humide translates to “wet cellar”, which in this case means that the rum has been ageing very close to the ocean, a practice that especially some distilleries on Islay seem to advocate. Moreover it’s a Lontan so we are talking Grand Arôme! Nose: Overripe red grapes, grilled pineapple à la Hampden, passion fruit, a touch of lime and some sort of spice mix that’s very dominant on the vanilla. It’s a bit smoky as well. Taste: More of the smoke and then clearly a Lontan. Wick Blau drops, strawberry, plenty of spices such as cardamom and vanilla and slightly medical notes. Now also rooibos tea and cashew nuts. Generally the palate differs a great deal from the nose, which is quite interesting. Finish: Quite long with something slightly akin to whipped cream. Also cardamom and some smoky notes. This rum is like a slightly more moderate and more sipable version of the HERR but their profiles are actually quite different. I must say that I would choose this rum more often than the HERR but if I am in the mood for a real killer this wouldn’t even come close to beating the HERR. All in all, this makes it a very great rum in my book!
Savanna is a very remarkable distillery since they are able to produce a wide array of rums, which are all quite good. I am not aware of another distillery that has such a large spectrum of different styles. My favorite has to be the Chai Humide but especially the Intense 2002 8YO was quite good as well. Actually I also wanted to review the Rum Nation Savanna 2000 15YO but after I already had it in the Advent Calendar Blind Tasting it didn’t make much sense to include it again. Nevertheless, at least with Savanna it seems like we should stick to the official bottlings for now!