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IB Savanna High-esters: Velier Savanna HERR 2006, Japoniani series (12 years) & Wild Parrot Grand Arôme Selected with Pietro Caputo, 2007-2018 (~11 years)


Background: a Savanna head-to-head. The Velier HERR comes from a limited edition Japoniani series, with labels illustrated by Luca Gargano himself (apparently on a flight from Japan). This would be my first brush with an aged HERR. On the other side, we have the Wild Parrot Grand Arôme selected by Mr Caputo of the Caputo 1973 fame. Same distillery, two different high-ester styles, this can get exciting.

Name: Velier Savanna HERR 2006, Japoniani series (12 years)

Nose: par for course for a high-ester Savanna, the top notes are vinegary, like an old balsamic; the vinegar gradually morphs into the Chinese black zhen jiang formula; more salty, savoury notes become apparent; tang cu li ji, a Sichuan version of sweet and sour pork; smoked ribs with barbecue sauce; salty liquorice; som tam followed by basil fried rice, a sumptuous Thai meal; with time, it becomes greener and creamier; autumnal notes of terpenes leaf compost; rum and raisin ice cream; a great deal of vomit; Sarsi; clove cigarette; kvass; Weizenbock; then starch and grains take over for a while; grilled tteokbokki; salted senbei; lemon barley drink; oat digestive biscuit; the base notes are earthy and industrial like a heavy Caroni -- I get petroleum and tar mixed with black soil and petrichor.

Palate: the unique fermented taste of baijiu-- albeit at a much lower intensity -- garnished with a dash of Chinese rice vinegar; strawberry milk, in which both the strawberry and the milk have started to go bad; vomit; a hint of rotting meat; tang cu li ji, this time braised with an excess of dang gui; Sarsi; Vanilla Coke; the taste of baijiu comes back in the mid-palate, this time with a greater intensity; smelly beancurd doused in Vietnamese fish sauce; artificial watermelon flavouring that is far too sweet; ditto, with strawberry in place of watermelon; finally, tropical fruits the likes of pink guava and red dragon fruit show up in the back-palate, together with some sweet smokiness that reminds me of caramelised cane syrup.

Finish: long and phenolic; rifle oil; cooking gas; exhaust fumes; charred wood; burnt plastic; the herbal notes come in at this juncture to save the finish from being too extreme; wormwood; anise; liquorice; a distinct and egregious rotten egg note; raspberry soju, barley drink, fermented malt, fresh clippings, cling wrap and rubber balloon make up the aftertaste.

Conclusion: more funky but not quite as complete as this gem. Going by the notes alone this should score 92-93 points, but the change from the sharp baijiu note on the front-palate to the dark and deep funky finish is a little too jarring, and there is more artificial sweetness on the tongue than I am fully comfortable with, so I am docking a point or two from its score. Still an immense experience, and very much worthy of its LE status.

Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 90/100


Name: Wild Parrot Grand Arôme Selected with Pietro Caputo, 2007-2018 (~11 years)

Nose: oh this is a lot more accessible! Less vinegary, and no association with vomit at all; sweet and appetising; grapes, strawberries and pink guava, in milkshake form; grilling candied pineapples and dried apricots over an open flame; sweet sherry; figs; brown sugar; talcum powder; liquorice in honey; savoury notes show up with time; pork floss; both dark and light soy sauce; smoked salmon; the base notes are less earthy than the Velier and more in the category of “barnyard funk” -- grass, hay, dry earth and manure.

Palate: a nice herbal and smoky entry; Chinese sweet herbal drink like wang lao ji; a grassy agricole note; gan cao hua mei, preserved plum flavoured with Chinese liquorice root; grilled apples; cinnamon; liquorice sticks dipped in honey; this mirrors much of the nose, really; creamy, fleshy fruits galore; I get papaya, alphonso mango, banana and even custard apple; grape and strawberry bubblegum; the back-palate is sweet and dessert-y, with notes of custard pudding and burnt caramel.

Finish: the smoke comes back, supported by a strong spine of umami; the saltiness of soy sauce, the sweetness of fresh fish and a certain degree of fermented funk combine to give me the impression of magurozuke with a side of natto; yoghurt and fried potatoes, dahl and rice, such Indian influence; spearmint Mentos; an aftertaste of grass, wood and herbal jelly doused in honey.

Conclusion: what a smooth crescendo of utterly appetising notes, especially on the tongue. I consider this one of the simpler Savanna high-esters, yet it does “simple” with such aplomb and such -- dare I say -- elegance, that I cannot help but give it my utmost respect. Of course, what is simple for a Savanna is still far beyond the reaches of many distilleries in terms of complexity.

Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 88/100




Image Courtesy of u/zoorado