Kill Devil Hampden 17

Now we have the basis laid down for Hampden Estate with its own bottlings here, we can look to explore some independent releases….of which there are plenty. Kill Devil seem to be in possession of plenty of Hampden Rum as their releases from the distillery are growing in number….particularly on the Cask Strength side with a 24-year-old (which I’ve never tasted), a very small release of less than 60 bottles of a 9-year-old Cask Strength rum which will be coming to this site and a limited edition bottling of a Cask Strength 10-year-old for The Whisky Barrel….which I have on order as I write this. Kill Devil are the Rum arm (Golden Devil in the U.S) of Hunter Laing, specialist blenders and bottlers of single malt whisky. They bottle either at 46% (50% as standard in the U.S with no Cask Strength releases) or at natural Cask Strength….un-chill filtered and with no additions or colouring. They apply their whisky principles to their Rum releases. They really are true single cask releases. The Kill Devil range is Hunter Laing’s showcase of the quality and diversity of rum available in the Caribbean and from further afield.  So without further fuss…let’s dig into this bottle.

Kill Devil Hampden 17 – 46% – Pure Single Rum

Distilled in the traditional twin retort pot still at Hampden Distillery in December 1998, some 11 years prior to the current ownership taking over and 5 years prior to it being subject to a government takeover, this Rum was bottled in 2016 giving it over a full 17 years of maturation. There is an 18-year-old bottling from the same distillation date of December 1998 which I will look at in time.

Tasting Notes

Glass: The pale white wine coloured liquid has one hell of a nose. Even at 46% this is bursting from the glass. Huge. Pungent and typically Hampden….but also a touch Long Pond too in its fruity delivery. Esters esters esters. Acetone. Varnish. Buckets of fruit both ripe and overripe. A clear and definite menthol note. Sweet Victoria pineapples. Ripe strawberry sweetness. Almost perfumed. Pineapple mint. Overripe bananas. Guava juice. Sugared almonds. Olives. Smoked cheese. This is a joy to sit and nose. It just keeps on giving. Beautiful fruit, confectionery, fresh mint and sappy pine notes. Not the funkiest Hampden that I’ve tried, but it’s massively pungent.

Mouth: Sweetness is the vibe initially backed with an amazingly medicinal quality of acetone, varnish and a little pine. The sweetness fades relatively quickly but whilst its there the initial overwhelming note is Pineapple….a lot of pineapple. Grilled and sticky sweet. The fade brings a slightly bitter or more likely sour note…like fizzy sour sweets or a past its best fermenting pineapple. Further refreshers reveal more of that base sweetness….green apples, ginger syrup and a light vanilla. Kola Kubes. Pear drops. The sweet / sour interplay of a ruby grapefruit. Citrus oil appears along with that beautiful sweet and menthol pineapple mint interplay that was present on the nose. There is a lack of any real oak influence in this which probably assists in allowing the fruit to shine through. Savoury notes of olives and brine are present as expected but are nowhere near the dominating flavours. At the back-end I found the finish to be of a medium length and as the sweetness of that pineapple fades it boosts the menthol and pine quality to the fore. White wine. Pomelo with a sprinkling of black pepper and a little clove oil. Surprisingly whisky like too. The finish for me after such a flavour and aroma explosion was quite disappointing and by far the weak link here…..thats because it was so vibrant and giving at the front end. But if you carry on refilling your glass…..you always maintain the sweet spot of those aromas and flavours.

4 / 5

An amazing Rum that for me was a little bit of a let down at the finish line. A more vibrant finish would’ve seen an extra half mark on the score. But if you see this, you should buy it. Money well spent.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Hampden Estate – Hampden Gold and Rum Fire Velvet

Amazingly this will mark only the second and third rums from Hampden Estate to feature in the site, the first being the quite excellent Excellence Rhum Collection release. I thought it useful to gather some information and give a little background on the Hampden Estate and their history.

Hampden Estate, known for their incredibly pungent pot still output lies in the northwest parish of Trelawny in the Queen of Spain valley and first operated as a large sugar plantation in around 1753. At this time it was owned by a Scotsman by the name of Mr Archibald Sterling. In 1779 the Hampden Great House was built on the Estate with the large ground floor functioning as a rum store until the early 1900’s. 20 years later in 1799 the upper residential level of the Great House was added.

Hampden Estate Great House

Solidly embedded in Jamaican history, Hampden Estate established the Hampden Presbyterian Church in around 1824 making it the first church of that denomination in Jamaica. Under the ownership of Mr Archibald Sterling up until circa 1827, the Estate then came into the ownership of Dermot Owen Kelly-Lawson, Justice of the Peace of Trelawny. Ena Kelly-Lawson, his daughter, married a Mr Farquharson who upon her death inherited Hampden Estate. The Farquharson’s owned and operated the estate as a sugar and rum production facility until financial difficulties in 2003 saw the government operated Jamaica Sugar Company take ownership . So essentially during a 250 year period spanning 1753-2003, the Estate was owned and operated by only two families. The government ownership was also accompanied by the shouldering of an element of debt to help protect local employment. At one time the Estate was renowned to be in possession of some of the best Cane yield lands in Jamaica and boasted the highest tonne of sugar from tonne of cane milled. But due to a perceived lack of investment from the previous owners it was deemed that the estate had become archaic, therefore inefficient and subsequently unprofitable. In 2009 following a legal dispute relating to the estates previous owners, Everglade Farms Limited owned by the Hussey Family acquired the Estate via public auction as a result of a divestment of assets by the Jamaica Sugar Company. A commitment was made by Everglade Farms to invest $6.2 million into Hampden Estate and Long Pond Sugar Factory (not distillery) and this brought with it an element of stability to the Trelawny economy.

As far as the Rum itself goes….Hampden is a treasure trove of goodness. They specialise in the making of heavy Pot Still rums and have in-depth knowledge in the art of making High Ester Rums that can only be gained from experience handed down from generation to generation. Hampden do not use commercial yeast.  They culture, suspend and regenerate their own. They also use that most mythical of creatures….the dunder pit. They’re also still using fermenters made more than 100 years ago. This is centuries old traditional Rum making at its best…..a place that I’d love to visit.

Hampden make a variety of marques ranging from 50 to 1600 Esters. The higher the ester range, the more intense the aroma of the rum. Their rums are used extensively in the blending of other rums throughout the world and their higher ester rums are used by the food, flavoring and perfume industries. Familiar known marque names will be LROK, HLCF, <>H and DOK but there are many more.

Although certain marques are set aside for ageing, the majority of Hampden’s business comes from bulk Rum sales to the likes of E & A Scheer in Holland.

There is plenty of other reading on the subject of Hampden Estate and one of the most in-depth sources can be found here

All of that brings me to the fun subject of  the two Rums that I have chosen to look at today…..Hampden Gold and Rum Fire Velvet.

Hampden Gold – 40% – Unaged – Pure Single Rum

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum is a completely unaged pale straw gold. Now do we see the uselessness of categorisation by colour? E150a….Spirit Caramel. In this instance they’re not doing it to dupe you, quite the opposite. It’s being done to combat your preconceptions about unaged Rum. To allow a quality distillate to be experienced by those that would otherwise write it off. They’re not hiding it, however it would be good to have some acknowledgement of this on the label. Initial aromas definitely show us that we’re in pure pot still Jamaican territory. Acetone. Pear drops. Tropical fruit….think papaya and guava. Beautiful bruised bananas. Molasses. A touch of freshly cut green apple. Light sweetness.

Mouth: The Rum has a very thin mouthfeel and carries none of the sweetness present on the nose. It’s very spirit driven. Molasses. A light vegetal, almost agricole like sugarcane note. Fresh, ice-cold apple juice. Lidl Apple Loop sweets. Mixed tropical fruit jam. Dialed down funk. Even though its very light (for a Jamaican) and has a very thin mouthfeel, I enjoy it. It doesn’t have the abv to hammer home what makes its origins great but it could be a gentle introduction to the style and at a good price to display the quality of the distillate even down at 40%. Better to nose than to drink, but solid stuff for their entry-level nonetheless. Great in a rum and coke which is where I use it.

3 / 5

Hampden Rum Fire Velvet – 63% – Unaged – Pure Single Rum

Tasting Notes

Glass: Wild. This is more like it. A huge fruity arrival. It grabs you by the scruff of the neck and screams Jamaican! They use dunder at Hampden…and it shows. Plump ripe strawberries and their fresh candied sweet aroma. Lots of citrus oil. Overripe mashed banana. Green cooking apples. Kiwi fruit. Funky as hell. Really heavy vibrant sugarcane notes. Root vegetables…earthy turnips and parsnips. Something rotten on the compost heap. Stinging acetone. A coating of varnish on a cheap cricket bat. Wax. Brine. Olives. Rather weirdly the aroma of passing the flue of the boiler that exhausts at the side of my house. Slightly metallic. Simultaneously both heavy and light. Beautiful natural sweetness. It’s the Rum equivalent of the state that Newt from Aliens was in when Ripley found her.

Mouth: An oily flavour explosion and way more approachable than I expected. That’s not to say you can dive in. You have to acclimatise. Small sips to ease yourself in. Very hot. Very peppery. Very funky. Pear drops. Acetone. Savoury leads the way with olives, brine and freshly cut fiery ginger. Quite herbal. Very agricole like in its root vegetable quality. The sweetness pushes through on the mid-palate though and its very welcome. The juice from a chewed chunk of freshly cut sugarcane. It’s quite sharp too. Cloudy apple juice and apple purée. Fleshy pears. It has a very creamy and oily mouthfeel…its also really floral. Citrus oils. A drop or two of water really helps open the Rum up and releases Guava jam. More apples. Tropical fruit. Salty crackers. Aniseed sweets. The finish is long, warming and returns to the savoury leading with anise, salty olives and vegetable crisps. Crispy seasoned lotus root. Molasses and that magical vapour that can only be fresh, vibrant Jamaican Rum allows it to finish really cleanly. It’s a brute of a Rum that needs a cautious approach….a bit like a game of Buckaroo….gently gently.

4 / 5

This is pretty much the only distillery produce available on the market in the UK with the USA getting Rum Fire which is a higher ester version of the Velvet. There is no doubting the quality and tradition that goes into the production of these Rums. Both are definitely worthy of a purchase. The aged independent stuff from Hampden Estate for me is where the real fun lies though….and it is those releases that will be getting a run out in the coming months as I’ve a wealth of releases from Habitation Velier, Velier, Adelphi, Blackadder and Kill Devil to choose from. Stay tuned.

Newt

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Foursquare Destino – Single Blended Rum – Velier 70th Anniversary Edition

This post has a certain air of inevitability. I was always going to try my best to obtain a bottle of this Rum in one guise or another….

As quite a few of my Foursquare articles have started recently, let me take you back to March 2017 in Barbados. Monday’s are not famed for being great days….but this one as you’ll see was very different. It was mid-afternoon on Monday 27th March and we were stupidly late for our rendezvous with Richard and Gayle at Foursquare Distillery. Traffic wasn’t great, and we had stopped off to grab a Roti and a refreshing drink on the way to Foursquare….when I say we, I am talking about Me, my wife Barnali and our friends Ivar and Mariangela. We toured the distillery again (our second time on this trip), with Richard being kind enough to take us around again…..We tasted fresh from the still Rum, Ivar climbed to the top of the Coffey Still enclosure and we got up close and personal with the barrel houses whilst watching the new one being constructed in front of us. The smell of those places, the aroma of Rum, the barrels stacked in their different positions, labelled to keep full track of their location and contents, the sunlight shining through the cracks in the building and highlighting the dust particles in the air……Experiences like that cannot be truly conveyed to others fully. You have to experience it. It’s an assault on the senses and a real heart skipper when I think back and look at my photographs….again. But to Richard and the guys busy beavering around and getting on with their tasks, this is just another working day.

It’s almost as if they’ve been doing it for over 300 years in Barbados…..

Allow me if you will….again….to take you to the Foursquare Distillery tasting room come boardroom and its bountiful contents. Ivar had just been given his wings (in the Guardians of Rum sense) and we were trying Triptych and Principia. Then Richard disappears for a second and brings back a 200ml labelled flask……’this is Destino’ we were told……..It found its way into our glasses…..

Destino Flask

I only made brief notes on my phone on the day as my excitement levels had peaked…..but they comprised the following:

iPhone Notes

Short and sweet I know, but I was taken aback. This was an experience of a lifetime.

Flash forward almost 10 months and a friend and avid reader of the site was able to secure me a bottle of the Velier 70th Anniversary Edition Destino at retail price…..and sold it to me for zero profit. That is what a large percentage of Rum obsessives are like…..they don’t want to hoard and sell….they want to share experiences and help others share experiences.

Foursquare Destino – Single Blended Rum – Velier 70th Anniversary Edition – 61% abv

Destino translates from Spanish as “Destiny or Fate”……perhaps it was Richards destiny that he would produce something like this? Now the anniversary edition, apart from being a release of 600 bottles taken from two barrels was as a response to Luca wanting Foursquare to make an old Rum for the Velier 70th Anniversary. Richard not being one for cliches and anniversary bottlings agreed to have a differently labelled small quantity run of Destino. Everyone is a winner.

As you can see above, the abv did change from the 62% that we tried. This Rum is a Single Blended Rum…a blend of pot and traditional coffey column still Rum. A minimum of 14 years old, this release has seen a full 12 years tropical maturation in ex-Madeira barrels and a further 2 years in barrels that have previously been used for the maturation of Rum……so a ‘Rum finished Rum’ if you will…..though as we know….Foursquare Distillery don’t do finishes…..its double maturation. So, how does this Rum taste? Did Foursquare Distillery manage to keep track of the barrels, move their position and stop them from leaking for just long enough to fluke a win?

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum is a completely irrelevant (colour is not our guide) deep, dark bronze. Quite oily and clingy when swirled, the Rum also has an olive-green halo where it contacts the glass. The slightest tingle of alcohol vapour disappears in an instant and the Rum jumps from the glass and into the room. A beautifully focused and robust oak arrives first, a deep dark brooding oak with a tinge of bitterness. Pencil shavings and the heady aromas of the rummy oak from the aforementioned trip around the barrel houses. A hint of acetone. Stone fruit…plump ripe blackberries, blackcurrants and a little acidity. Light and non intrusive vanilla is accompanied by dark chocolate notes. A little tannic, but never distractingly so. It’s a very giving Rum that delivers with confidence. Wet corrugated cardboard. Manuka honey. More dark, powdery cocoa. Dusty books. Walnuts. Nothing is rushed here. Time has played its part and the resultant Rum is a joy to sit with. It’s quite difficult to not dig right in, but you’ll be missing out on so much by not giving it time, uncovered, in the glass. It raises a wide smile when considering just how approachable this robust and punchy Rum is.

Mouth: The initial sip is an explosion of juicy hedgerow berries. You’d also never peg this as 61%, such is the level of integration that the alcohol has. There is a sharp bite of gooseberry followed by the rich buttery base of a homemade cheesecake. The mouthfeel is such that your palate is dominated by homemade blackcurant and raspberry jam….dark stewed fruit. It’s incredibly rich. Victoria plum freshness is backed by the sticky bitterness of dried prunes that helps to announce the almost sweet and juicy oaken notes on the mid-palate. This soft, chewy oak dries in a wave over the sides of your tongue and brings a pleasing bitter note. This clears the way for toasted coconut, rich velvety dark chocolate and vanilla. The bitterness that fleets in and out is reminiscent of so many long aged Velier Demeraras. The long, rich finish starts with the nip of tart fruit and homemade jam before the drying oak brings salted liquorice, molasses and buttered chewy malt loaf. You’re left with a beautiful interplay of dark stewed fruit and oak that you can almost chew. Right at the back-end there’s something floral and almost perfumed before the trademark apricot vapours announce themselves. You just have to pour more….which is why I’m halfway down the bottle.

5 / 5

This Rum is so much better than a 5…….But 5 is all that I have to numerically display my appreciation…..perhaps the below can expand on this number….

So there we have it. This is seriously impressive stuff. A real kicking up of gears for Foursquare and a foray into new territory as this may be their oldest Rum matured fully in their own facility….and it is without a shadow of a doubt the best Rum that Foursquare Distillery has produced to date. It just has so much going on. I’m still discovering new things to write about even as I’m wrapping up this review. It has layers of complexity that unfold in front of you. Depth beyond anything they’ve produced previously. The bar that I said Principia had set, has once again been raised. Destino is bottled proof that if you know what you’re doing you can produce something honestly, with integrity and grace that flattens all in its path. There is no quick fix…this is knowledge and good old fashioned time. Foursquare has its production methods rooted firmly in the tradition of the 300 odd years of Rum making on the island of Barbados that preceded it, but their techniques are refined to a point where this kind of stuff is becoming effortless for the distillery.

This is a legacy Rum.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.