2020 marks the 150th birthday of Savanna and they decided to celebrate the occasion with a special “Wild Island” collection. On papaer, it should be a good cross-section of the distilleries styles and of course we are hoping for “better than usual” releases with this special series. I wonder if that is even possible though…
Savanna Traditionnel 2003 16YO “Armagnac Finish” (52,7%): Many of the traditional rums that have been released lately by Savanna have been really good and we shouldn’t expect anything less with this one. Nose: Quite intense and rich but somehow also dusty and opaque. After about half an hour it is closer to some Demerara column stills than any other Savanna I know. I get earthy and mineral notes, salt water and other, rather salty impressions, ever so slightly smoky and medical notes as well as a mix of herbs and spices which I cannot really name. Quite a weirdo. Palate: Rich and full of spices, salty licorice, molasses, palm sugar and plums. I am not sure how much we should attribute to the Armagnac finish. After all, essentially all Savannas are maturing in ex-Cognac casks and Cognac and Armagnac are both Brandy at the end of the day, but of course most Armagnacs are more special than any given Cognac Long story short, I think this is quite good! Other impressions would be sweet chestnut, walnuts perhaps, and smokey salt. The finish is rather long with wood, salty licorice, molasses and a spice mix. At first, I was somewhat disappointed, but it grew quickly on me. What a start! (86/100)
Savanna Grand Agricole 2012 6YO “Calvados Finish” (57,6%): I’ve been a sucker for these Calvados-finished Agricoles so I have been looking forward to try this since its announcement. Nose: Oh yeah, I get lots of vanilla, apples, sweet pear, warm butter, some wood, and clearly also oranges. The nose is straightforward but also quite promising. Palate: Strange. On the one hand, this is a relatively light, grassy and fruity Agricole, on the other hand it is also decidedly heavy, earthy and mineral as you’d get them mostly in Guadeloupe. Either way, it is very nice, and the combination of fresh cane juice, vanilla and the Calvados is as good as it gets. Other impressions include orange jam, apricot and hay perhaps. Finish: Medium long with orange jam, wood and grains – almost new nuances that we are getting here. My expectations have been matched, and even exceeded. Nicely done! (86/100)
Savanna Grand Arôme 2005 13YO (56,4%): Grand Arôme then, probably rum’s best kept secret to this day. Nose: Good lord. Esters galore! I get foul strawberry, lots of glue, ripe pineapple, mango, mixed fruit jelly, slightly artificial coconut, wine gum and even some marzipan. Just wow! Palate: Oh my strawberry bubble gum. HERR, anyone? Of course this isn’t a HERR, but the profile has some serious similarities, even though I am starting to think that this pineapple note is probably even more dominant. We get many of the notes from the nose again but “fruit mix” or “mixed fruit jelly” really describe this rum the best. Now all of sudden also more tannic notes, which provide the proper background support. Finish: Looong and fruity, with some of the tannic notes coming through every now and then. Once again, there’s nothing I’d pick out in particular – this just remains an incredible fruit bomb. Easily one of the best Grand Arômes released by Savanna so far! (91/100)
Savanna Grand Arôme 2003 15YO (66,5%): Did Metallica give their permission for this label? I am not so sure. Nose: I cannot believe that this is 65%+ territory. The nose is smooth and way milder than you’d expect. Just like the 2005 13YO, it is incredibly fruity, but this one is rather shaped by grapefruit and papaya, while pineapple and mango can be found as well. Behind that, pastry and something close to coconut, as well as more earthy notes. Palate: It was clear that this is an ester monster but the palate tells an even more extreme story. I get acetone, glue, and nail polish remover, the pineapple from the nose and sweet pastry a la New Yarmouth. It is a very good, in your face-type of rum but personally, I think I prefer the more balanced, slightly more complex expressions. Finish: Medium long with the esters, fruits and some wood. Another top notch release that will make many Jamaican rums jealous, without being a copycat though. (88/100)
Disclaimer: These rums have been provided by Savanna free of charge. To the very best of my abilities, this did not affect my judgement.