Well this almost feels new again…..its been a quite a while since I last wrote anything and personally I was unsure that I’d ever write again. But here we are…..like a bear that has been hibernating for a good few winters, it was time to awaken and reacquaint myself with my surroundings.
The Rum being assessed today is from a distillery steeped in history, a distillery that still utilises techniques long forgotten by a large bulk of the modern Rum making world. We are of course talking about Hampden. Sculptors of magically pungent and often breathtaking Rum using raw materials, surrounding environment and a vast wealth of Rum making knowledge dating back to the 1700’s as their medium of choice.
I have previously written about Hampden Estate, both distillery bottlings and independent bottlings and by clicking here, you can see a few of those posts. I was also meant to visit the distillery in early 2020….but a certain issue know globally as the Covid-19 pandemic put pay to that. Needless to say, Hampden Estate produce some stunning Rum at various ester levels……these include:
OWH (Outram W. Hussey) – Ester level of 40-80 g/hlAA
LFCH (Lawrence Francis Close Hussey) – Ester level of 85-120 g/hlAA
LROK (Light Rum Owen Kelly) – Ester level of 200-400 g/hlAA
HLCF (Hampden Light Continental Flavoured) – Ester Level of 500-700 g/hlAA
<>H (Often called Diamond H) – Ester level of 900-1000 g/hlAA
HGML (Hampden George MacFarquhar Lawson) – Ester level of 1000-1100 g/hlAA
C<>H (Often called C Diamond H) – Ester level of 1300-1400 g/hlAA
DOK (Dermot Owen Kelly-Lawson) – Ester level of 1500-1600 g/hlAA
To achieve some of their truly high ester releases, they also utilise something known as the Cousins Process. Named after the legendary ‘Island Chemist’, H H Cousins, this high ether process was introduced at Hampden Estate by Charles Allan in 1905. This technique was able to show that the “flavour” of Jamaican Rum was not solely the result of alcoholic fermentation by yeast, but by acidic fermentation by bacteria. The Cousins Process essentially utilises a series of steps to turn the fatty acid ester precursors from past distillations into a concentrated liquid that can be used to create some amazingly high ester Rums. Of course, Hampden Estate also utilise Muck (a horrific concoction of acids that create a bacterial dynamite for secondary fermentation to unlock other esters and volatiles) and Dunder (stillage from previous distillations retained and added to future fermentations). Quite an arsenal of tools at their disposal and the skills involved in their creation and deployment cannot be underestimated.
Hampden 12 Year Old 2009 Jamaica – Quarterdeck (Duncan Taylor) – 50.8% abv – 0g/l additives
I was first alerted to this Rum by Eric March, a member of the UK Rum Club facebook group that I run with the prolific Rum Blogger, The Fat Rum Pirate. He contacted me asking if I knew any information on the marque of the Rum as the bottle gives nothing away aside from a date barreled of 30.06.2009, a date bottled of 17.02.2022, indication that it is cask number 27 that had an outturn of 335 bottles and a 12 year age statement. I suggested that running back to other bottles that I have tried in the past, this may be a mythical DOK marque. Eric duly purchased the bottle and upon tasting, being the high ester Rum Geek that he is, agreed with my suggestion of DOK. We still however, have no official confirmation as the bottler doesn’t have the information. Eric was kind enough to send me a sample of the Rum along with one of the excellent Neisson Profil 105 and a crazy Savanna HERR. As soon as I poured the sample, I knew that I needed to pick a bottle up. It had both familiar, and unfamiliar qualities and I was aware that I’d wanted to spend more time with the Rum.
Nose: There’s certainly no mistaking this pour for anything dull and uninteresting……I’m pretty sure that my neighbours can smell it through the walls. Hugely bright, pungent estery acidity pours from the glass. Layer upon layer of inviting tropical fruit sweetness. A trilogy of Pineapple….charred and caramelised with tip-top cream, freshly cut and touching the fermenting fizz of over ripeness, a huge paper bag of pineapple cube sweets. Dried sweet Mango and Papaya pieces. Stinging pear drop acetone and a touch of tropical fruit vinegar. Someone using waxy furniture polish in another room and then blending fiery fresh ginger root with cloves. Walkers Old Fashioned Hazelnut and Caramel slabs. This DOK has a little more to it though…..there’s an underlying and for me quite unmistakable tart blackcurrant and sticky liquorice facet to the rum…..it genuinely does feel like someone liquidised a bag of sweets and poured it into the barrel. Even two hours after pouring, real development is still happening on the nose with more subtlety felt in the form of tomato plants in the garden on a sunny day and some faint appearance of fresh herbs.
Palate: The first striking thing about this Rum on the palate is the insane mouthfeel, it’s big, oily and chewy. Sweet and also Bitter too. That liquorice and blackcurrant comes across almost instantly as soon as your tastebuds have stopped dancing around your mouth with the sheer intensity of the liquid. A “soapy” note around the side of the tongue……almost like a pine shower gel. Bright, acidic, estery fruit as on the nose. Sweet sweet caramelised pineapple. Fragrant Banana chips and sticky, chewy soft liquorice bring the sweetness with the creeping bitterness of a good dark chocolate and the tart berries. The mid palate brings Fennel seeds. Celery salt. White pepper. Salty salami. Olive brine. The lightest appearance of drying oak spice. The biggest problem with DOK is trying to stop it just evaporating on your tongue into nothingness. The oiliness of this bottling however helps it linger for more than a couple of heartbeats and brings something that most DOK bottlings that I’ve experienced seem to lack……a finish. This is the sum of its parts with caramelised almost burnt pineapple, the merest hint of barrel spice (white pepper and clove) and nutty toffee morphing into those liquorice and blackcurrant sweets with just a hint of menthol, resinous pine and drying barrel influence.
In conclusion: It’s a great bottling. I’m struggling to find any faults, off notes or flaws. Even the abv feels right. They’ve done a great job with this bottling as it gives in waves and lasts as an experience for much longer than others of its ilk. For me not a daily drinker, but its certainly not some unapproachable brute either…..age has refined it and knocked the aggressive chip off its shoulder to create a well rounded, if still pungent and loud experience.
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