Brand: Habitation Velier
Origin: Savanna, Cambuston, Saint-André, Réunion
Finish: Neutral vessel
Once again, we visit the island of Réunion, a small patch of land in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar. This is another independent bottling of the island's rum, except this time it's a release from Habitation Velier.
Similar to the previous Réunion rum we reviewed, this Habitation Velier bottling comes from the elusive Savanna distillery. Unlike Bapt & Clem's rum, this Habitation Velier Savanna HERR 2019 bottle features an unaged, single marque of rum.
Savanna's HERR marque stands for "High Ester Rum Réunion", and features an ester count in the range of 225-500 g/hLAA (according to Reddit user /u/LIFOanAccountant's post). While there are other rums that have clearly-documented and higher ester ranges (notably Habitation Velier Forsyths WP 502), this has substantially more esters than a typical rum marque.
This particular release of HERR was produced in 2019 from molasses– fermented using "both dunder and an extra slug of specifically chosen bacteria"– using Savanna's pot still. The rum is unaged, and bottled by Habitation Velier using their signature "medicine bottles", without additives, at a strength of 61.1% ABV.
Special thanks to Mike Hooker of the Austin Rum Society for hooking me up with this sample. I can't wait to try this widely-acclaimed, high ester rum!
Clear, high clarity, low viscosity
Tutti fruity jelly beans, pink bubblegum, fresh pineapple, papaya, dates, light brine, hay
Intense bubblegum and fresh pineapple, bananas, papaya, salt water, green grapes, light serrano spice
Medium, light intensity, lingering fruitiness; pineapple, papaya, lingering spices, bitter cherries
Holy flavor bomb! Habitation Velier Savanna HERR is absolutely not playing around, especially at 122.2 proof. The nose, while full of fruity and slightly savory notes, is deceptively subtle compared to the palate. Upon tasting HERR, you get smacked with a flavor haymaker that would make Mike Tyson flinch; tons of fruit notes that seem to go off like a literal bomb on your tastebuds. Truly, this is a unique sensory experience.
The rum appears completely clear, with high clarity and low viscosity; completely in line with the unaged nature of the distillate.
On the nose, tutti fruity jelly beans and pink bubblegum notes are present, joined by aromas of fresh pineapple, papaya, dates, a light brine, and a touch of hay. The tutti fruity and bubblegum notes jump right out at you, while the rest of the nose takes some sorting out with each passing whiff. It's not lacking in depth on the nose, but even at the high proof, HERR does a great job keeping the aromas somewhat subdued, with barely any perceptible alcohol burn.
The palate is a different story: upon sipping HERR, you are met with growing collection of fruit notes as the rum travels around your tastebuds, before exploding in flavor after being fully consumed. Notes of intensely concentrated bubblegum and fresh pineapple (meat and rind) lead the charge, followed up by a cornucopia of tropical fruit notes like bananas, papaya, and green grapes, and also joined by notes of salt water and a light serrano pepper spice. Truly a remarkable experience, with "high ester" seemingly selling short the intensity in which this rum presents itself. Bravo Savanna!
The finish is medium-length, with light intensity, and offers lingering fruity notes of pineapple, papaya, and some spices, while finishing with a bitter cherry note. The back palate explosion of flavor really packs such a punch that the finish itself is pretty mellow, similar to the surf after a large wave has crashed.
The funk and flavor packed into HERR is incredible, and really makes me interested in more high-ester rums outside of the traditional Jamaican varieties. The punchy bubblegum notes are incredibly strong, but give way to some really intense but enjoyable fruit notes, and I feel like I was only able to scratch the surface of the flavors that may be contained in this rum. This is certainly not a rum I'd be pouring straight into a daiquiri or other cocktail, though I could see this being used in sparing fashion– similar to bitters– in order to season a cocktail, and really make it special.
Savanna HERR is really tasty, and provides an incredibly unique experience; interestingly enough, this has a lower ester count than I would expect, and lower than another favorite rum of mine: the aforementioned HV Forsyths WP 502 release (ester count of 502 g/hLAA). The results speak for themselves, and Savanna truly has a remarkable high ester marque to use when they need to add a little (or a lotta) "umph" to a blend.
I enjoy when distilleries and rum projects like Habitation Velier offer enthusiasts the chance to try a rum typically relegated to mere percentage points in blends. This allows imbibers to truly appreciate the discrete components of finished products; sometimes, the components themselves can be just as impressive as the blends in which they are used. While I have only had the Bapt & Clem's Savanna rum, I fully trust that HERR falls into that category, offering a unique experience as enjoyable as a more traditional rum blend.