The 192-year-old Savoy Ooty gets a makeover

Look up, and wooden beams that originally graced Tipu Sultan’s palace in Srirangapatna could be staring down at you. Dismantled and dragged all the way up the mountains by elephants, they found another home at what is today the Savoy Ooty.

The SeleQtions list
  • On April 11, it was decided that 12 hotels across the country that had a distinct identity were to be SeleQtions hotels, apart from being just ‘Taj’ hotels. Those in the first phase include properties in seven cities.
  • Besides Savoy Ooty, they include President, Mumbai; Ambassador, New Delhi; The Connaught, New Delhi; Blue Diamond, Pune; Cidade de Goa; Tajview, Agra; Devi Ratn, Jaipur; Pratap Mahal, Ajmer; Gateway, Chikmagalur; Gateway, Varkala; and Gateway, Coonoor.

“The beams in Rooms 101 to 103 are of that vintage,” explains Ritesh Choudhary, General Manager. The original building, which came up in the 1820s, was actually a school for European children in the Nilgiris. When the school fell to disuse, Royal Dawson bought it from the Christian missionaries and it became the Dawson Hotel in 1841 (around the same time the Ooty Club came into being). It remained so till 1868 when it changed hands and was renamed Sylks Hotel that catered to the guests who turned up for the inauguration of the beautiful Nilgiris Library in 1866. Savoy became a part of Taj in 1984.

It is obligatory that romance, intrigue and history should lurk around a 192-year-old hotel. Room number 301, formerly Suite 11 A, is where Edward VII rested his royal person in 1875 when he visited Ooty. His entourage stayed there too. In 1915, the Raja of Pudukottai, Martanda Bhairava Tondaiman, whisked his Australian wife away from his palace and came here to allow her to recover from an attempt on her life. Someone who disapproved of their inter-racial marriage tried to poison her.

A view of the Sylks Hotel in the 1800s

A view of the Sylks Hotel in the 1800s  

For a long stint, from April to June 1920, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and his wife Ruttie Petit made room number 38 their home. It is now Room 308 and called the SeleQtions Suite.

Much later, Harold Robbins and David Lean also stayed here. And, Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan loves staying here. The story goes that he once cancelled his trip to Ooty because rooms in the hotel were not available!

Sensology and the Scottish way...
  • In keeping with Savoy’s identity as a heritage property, the hotel played host to another really old brand, The Glenlivet Whisky (born in 1824). There was whisky tasting, called Sensology, to commemorate the SeleQtions tag the hotel had just acquired.
  • Brand Ambassador for The Glenlivet, Stuart Baxter shared the history of the sought-after single malt whisky. Whisky in days of yore was illicitly brewed, but that did not stop King George IV demanding a dram of The Glenlivet by name when he visited Scotland! And then there is a letter Charles Dickens has written to a friend where he urges him to try the ‘rare old Glenlivet’.
  • The tables were arranged with an assortment of ears of barley, cinnamon, some almonds, quarters of sweet lime and pineapples. There were three covered glasses, a vial of indistinguishable ingredient.
  • Stuart defined a Single Malt as “a whisky produced from a single distillery” and then invited the guests to sip the measure of whiskey in each of the three glasses: They were of different vintage — 12, 15 and 18-year-old whisky. As the guests sampled each one, there were murmurs of ‘cinnamon, raisins, citrus, coconut’ and so on... “The flavours in the whisky are taken from the casks, different casks give different flavours and that is why we use multiple casks to curate specific expressions,” explained Stuart.
  • Post dinner, was another whisky treat, as Nadurra (meaning Natural in Gaelic) was served. The warm whisky, that is aged in second and third fill bourbon and then finished in peated casks, slid down warmly with hints of ginger, vanilla and coconut lurking in each sip.

Its rich anecdotal past is what sets Savoy apart, and it is for this very reason that it is one of the hotels that has made it into the exclusive realm of the SeleQtions brand, newly launched by Indian Hotels Company Limited. “SeleQtions is a named collection of Taj Hotels,” explains Ritesh.

On April 11, it was decided that 12 hotels across the country that had a distinct identity and stood on their own and not just as a ‘Taj’ hotel, were to be SeleQtions hotels. “Savoy has its own character. It is old, a heritage structure and, for people, will always just be the iconic ‘Savoy’. It is an identity that is inseparable from Ooty’s own history. We want to make it a hyper-local destination,” reiterates Ritesh.

There is a lot more in the pipeline for Savoy, he adds. Like a high tea on the lawns with croquet that reflects the Victorian footprint of the Nilgiris that has not quite gone away. Then there is something called tea mixology that uses tea in innovative ways in its food, cocktails and desserts.

In the words of Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, IHCL, “SeleQtions will cater to a broader audience of travellers, who prefer staying in hotels with a distinctive character, with a slice of history, defining location or a differentiated theme.”

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 8:19:57 PM |

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