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.

Excellence Rhum Collection

I’m a regular purchaser from Alexandre Beudet and his Excellence Rhum website in France and it was interesting to see four new bottlings listed on the website tagged as Excellence Rhum Collection….especially as one was a Foursquare and the other was a Hampden. Anyway, a little background. Alexandre created his Excellence Rhum website in 2013 and it has grown in strength, now listing over 1800 different bottlings. It has been my go to mail order for Agricole and they deliver to the UK…Hurrah! For its ‘Collection’ releases, Alexandre has taken the sensible step of releasing the Rums without the addition of sugar or caramel colour. The Rums will also not undergo chill filtration. So for all intents and purposes, presented as the distilleries would want them to be and labelled and bottled in Paris. The plan is to release four new Collection bottlings per yer….good news for us! Anyhow, below is a brief list of the bottlings that will be available as part of the 2017 Collection. In a nod to the excellent, clear and informative labels of the Habitation Velier Collection the labels will also amongst other things have information indicating the distillation and bottling dates, type of still, barrel marks, percentage of Tropical vs Continental age and the Angels Share percentage….For instance, the Guadeloupe has 10% Tropical Age and 90% Continental Age and lost 30% of the barrel contents to evaporation…it was distilled in a Column Still and the barrel marks were SFGB (not a clue).

Guadeloupe Bellevue – SFGB – 1998 – 18yr – 59.9% abv

Guyana Diamond – MPM – 2005 – 11yr – 60.1% abv

Jamaica Hampden – LROK – 2000 – 16yr – 54.6% abv

Barbados Foursquare – MBFS – 2006 – 11yr – 62.8% abv

Now fortunately for me, I have been given the opportunity to try all four releases in the Excellence Rhum Collection due to Alexandre’s very kind offer of a press kit. This wont be definitive thoughts and my final opinion as the 60ml samples only go so far……but as a heads up I have already pre-ordered two expressions……I may want to revisit at a later date…..but my brief notes are……

Tasting Notes

Guadeloupe Bellevue – SFGB – 1998 – 18yr – 59.9% abv

Glass: Dark burnished gold. Immediate and powerful, redolent with banana chips and a light medicinal quality. Hints of Caroni! Tar and creosote. Lightly spiced nutmeg, but more apparently herbal with hints of rosemary, Norfolk lavender and an earthy quality. Oak is not dominant but is present.

Mouth: Intense and medicinal entry. Charred wood, lemon oils, pickle vinegar like acidity. Quite sour. Liquorice. Caroni like petrol. Dried banana and coconut pieces. Sticking plasters. Very very long finish which is oak led initially with a growing liquorice. More vinegar acidity and a sweet / bitter vermouth quality. Great stuff.

Guyana Diamond – MPM – 2005 – 11yr – 60.1% abv

Glass: Pale straw. Initial alcohol astringency. Raisin notes with liquorice and anise as I’d expect from a PM. Powering through this reveals lightly floral notes and the sweetness of grilled bananas along with freshly cut mango.

Mouth: Sweetness on entry and initially very floral led. This then clears and drops into the baseline notes of aniseed and liquorice that I’d expect….albeit with a touch of wildflower honey. It has a sweet / savoury interplay which is pinning in all together. A long finish that is all salty liquorice (there is a Dutch liquorice that escapes me that I know only as a ‘drop’) led with the remains of honeyed fruitcake. Solid but not outstanding.

Jamaica Hampden – LROK – 2000 – 16yr – 54.6% abv

Glass: Light straw gold. It could only be Hampden. Funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter. All pot still attack. Not quite in the HLCF territory. It’s not as down and dirty as that. Overripe bananas, mango, papaya. Intense fruit, florals, stinging astringency. Both sweet and spicy in equal measure. Hazelnuts, warm bbq’d banana smeared in fudge.

Mouth: Sweet, pot still bathed in baked banana. Drying oak and burnt wood. Dime (Daim) bar like caramel nuttiness and very well-balanced. A hint of savoury. The finish is long and full of liquorice, banana, black jack sweets, pineapple and biscoff spread. If you’ve ever seen the YouTube video about the ‘Crazy/Hot Matrix’….this Rum has strayed close to the unicorn zone.

Barbados Foursquare – MBFS – 2006 – 11yr – 62.8% abv

Glass: A shade darker than straw gold. Light oak, vanilla, florals and grapes. Banana, cocoa powder, dried fruit peels and royal icing. A light nuttiness. Intense…..but not Velier Foursquare 2006 levels.

Mouth: Sweet entry full of milk chocolate and dried fruit peels. This is slowly enveloped by a biting dryness bringing a strong bite of black pepper and fennel seeds. Further sips bring dessicated coconut, apricot and a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg. A long mildy oaken vanilla led finish develops into apricot, celery and a growing dryness. Again….right at the back-end there is a light apricot. High proof mixed climate aged Foursquare at close to its best.

As collections go, this is a really strong showing. The only one that I’m not really ‘feeling’ is the Guyana…..but thats not to say that it isn’t good….I just prefer entirely tropically aged Demeraras. I have pre-ordered two of these bottles…..the Hampden and the Foursquare. I hovered over the Guadeloupe but I have the Cadenheads Bellevue. If I could afford it, the Guadeloupe would  absolutely be on my list though as it is such a well-rounded, well-developed prospect. So much flavour from a column still, it really is a triumph. Thanks to Alexandre firstly for sourcing really good Rums, and secondly for allowing me to try them. I hope that you manage to pick one or two up for yourselves.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. 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