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Rum Reviews

Savanna Rhum Tres Vieux, Artist Edition by VAST, 2023 Release, 52% ABV

 

When discussing "rhum agricole," enthusiasts would generally think of the French Caribbean islands, notably Martinique and Guadeloupe, and even Haiti. However, nestled on the other side of the globe, far from these traditional bastions of cane juice rhums, lies Réunion Island—a French territory that, while perhaps lesser-known in the rhum agricole sphere, also harbours a rich community of rhum distillers.

 

(Source: BBC)

 

Sugarcane cultivation on Réunion Island dates back to the early 17th century when sugarcane was introduced to Réunion by the French. The climate and volcanic soil of the island were well-suited for sugarcane cultivation. Through the next centuries, Réunion’s culture of sugarcane cultivation became more and more intertwined with the colonial trade networks that connected Europe, Africa, and the Americas, which facilitated the exchange of crops, distillation techniques, and knowledge between colonies. Around the mid-19th century, the collapse of coffee plantations shifted the focus of the island's economy from coffee to sugarcane. And sugarcane as a cornerstone of Réunion's agricultural landscape. Capitalising on its burgeoning sugarcane industry, Réunion began to distil rhum since then.

 

 

While Réunion does not have an AOC designation for its rums like Martinique, rum lovers increasingly recognise the quality and distinctiveness of rhums produced in Réunion. The Savanna Rhum Distillery (Distillerie Savanna) is one of the best known Réunion Island rhum makers that is increasingly gaining a following from rum connoisseurs.

The distillery was founded in 1948 by the Harel family which was already involved in sugarcane cultivation and rhum making since the 1800s. Savanna produces a staggering variety of styles of rhum across ingredients (both molasses and cane juice rhums), equipment (both alembic pot still and column still rhums) ester count (high and low ester rhums), and cask finishing styles (French Limousin, Allier, American oak, ex-Port, Moscatel, Calvados, Cognac or Sherry).

 

 

Of these parameters, Savanna stands out for its ability to produce both molasses rhums and cane juice rhums. The main lines of Savanna rhums are:

  • Savanna Intense (molasses based)
  • Savanna Créol (cane juice based)
  • Savanna Lontan (high ester molasses based, also known as grand arôme)
  • Beyond these main product lines, there are also blends of both various styles of rhum. The Métis for instance is a blend of both cane juice and molasses based rhums.

The subject of our review is the first of the new “Artist collection” limited edition range from Savanna. Savanna’s Tres Vieux by VAST is a blend of 3 different batches of molasses based rhums. The first was distilled from a ‘C20’ column still. The other two batches were distilled from Savalle column stills.

The rhum is then aged in a humid cellar since 2015 and bottled in 2023.

Let’s give it a taste.

  

  

Savanna Rhum Tres Vieux, Artist Edition by VAST, 2023 Release, 52% ABV – Review

 

Nose: Rich, sweet and spicy. Opens with this sweet spiciness that’s a dead ringer for those Korean spicy wings laced with gochujang sauce. Melds into a syrupy sweetness of caramel and apple juice with an underlying floral presence intertwined with fresh herbs – mint, fennel and cilantro, and perhaps herbal jelly. Prickly spiciness can be felt on the nose.

Palate: Rich, syrupy, complex and herbaceous. A pronounced sweet-mintiness jumps out first, with spearmint, mint jujubes, Hacks candy, and liquorice. Both spice and sweetness gradually ramp up - offering sarsaparilla, caramel and tropical nuances like dried mango and a burgeoning mintiness. Plenty of spiced woodiness in the background too – kinda reminds me of hot mulled wine.

Initially, the flavours feel too intense and tightly packed - like trying to untangle a thick knot of rope to be honest. But giving the rhum some time to breathe helps a great deal. Spice softens, heavy oak mellows, and they settle into a more coherent and harmonious blend while fruity elements emerge clearer.

Finish: Relatively short, continuing the theme of sweet liquorice and Hacks candy flavours, plus a touch of dry oak.

 

 

My Thoughts

This is a bit of a firecracker, with a theme of persistent candied liquorice. It also comes at you very high-strung and tense, like a violin string. Give it some time to open up – perhaps 5-10 minutes – and you will have a surprisingly pleasant experience worth an additional start to a 6/10 rating.

My Rating: 7/10 

Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.

@CharsiuCharlie