Kill Devil Hampden 10 Year Old 2007 Cask Strength – The Whisky Barrel Exclusive

This review marks another Cask Strength Hampden Release from the Hunter Laing Kill Devil range exclusive to The Whisky Barrel…..my second review of a Whisky Barrel Exclusive Hampden this week! There was a previous Hampden 10 year TWB exclusive released earlier this year….in March…and another 16 year released to coincide with this 10 year. Hampden of course specialise in heavy 100% pot still rums harking back to Rum production of days gone by with the Plantation tracing its roots back to 1753. I have previously written about Hampden Estates own releases here, a 17 year Kill Devil Hampden release here and the recent 16 year Hampden Whisky Barrel Exclusive release here.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Kill Devil Hampden 2007 Cask Strength – TWB Exclusive – 62.5% abv – Pure single Rum

This 10-year-old Rum is from a 2007 distillation and it has only Continental maturation. Presented at a cask strength of 62.5% it has no caramel colour and has not been chill filtered. With so many marques available with varying ester levels, it’d be interesting to find out what marque this is….without that information to hand, we’ll just have to try it.

Tasting Notes

Nose: With glass sitting on a table next to me this rum is so powerful that it feels like it’s beneath my nose. Very creamy. Lots of ethyl acetate. Sweet overripe banana, chargrilled pineapple and sharp cranberries. Again, very ripe juicy strawberries. Something acidic lurks like cider vinegar. Brine. Preserved lemons. Pickled cornichons with mustard seeds. Pink grapefruit rind. Molasses. Warm tires. Melting plastic. Light barrel notes. Sappy wood and eucalyptus. Beautifully vibrant.

Mouth: Neat it is very intense. Initially very sweet with bright fruit. This becomes quite acidic and then very dry very very quickly. Almost disappearing. I’ve only felt that to this length before with unaged DOK. Well stewed breakfast tea develops. The overriding taste is burnt toast with lots of butter…..making this rum an instant favourite as I use the smoke alarm to tell me when my toast is ready! With water it’s slightly more approachable, but still hellishly intense. The opening is slightly sweet and creamy and is all about beautiful Bajan Banana Jam….the best jam that I’ve ever tasted. Candied pineapple. Quite a bit of spice in the form of ginger, cinnamon bark and an earthy turmeric. The oak maturation displays itself more here…and it drags the fruit and spice onto the dry, oak led mid palate. Quite oily and tarry with a real dry spice note. Molasses. The finish, which is frankly sublime is initially fruity with that banana jam and pineapple before the cider vinegar and cornichon appears. Burnt, buttery toast is a real theme here and it marks an earthy return of the turmeric. Bonfire embers, molasses and burnt rubber round things out. The finish is a little short in the end. Perhaps due to the marque. It’s akin to trying pot still rum straight off the still…..initially intense and it then disperses far too quickly. Though the molasses is still with me.

4.5 / 5

It’s again a very very good rum, and all told, I prefer it’s youthful abandon to the slightly more refined 16 year. Both warrant your money though. To buy one however, I’d buy this.

© 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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Kill Devil Hampden 16 Year Old 2001 Cask Strength – The Whisky Barrel Exclusive

Specialist online retailer The Whisky Barrel always seem to be commissioning something interesting, whether whisky or rum….fortunately for us, but not our wallets, they seem to be upping the ante when it comes to their rum releases with a few solid Berry Bros. and Hunter Laing offerings.

There have been a few Cask Strength Hampden Kill Devil releases by Hunter Laing of late, this 2001 marks another to be released as an exclusive for The Whisky Barrel. This 16 year hails from a sister cask to the previous 2001 TWB exclusive released in July of this year. There is also 10 year 2007 to accompany this release which is again the second 10 year TWB exclusive to be released this year. Hampden of course specialise in heavy 100% pot still rums harking back to days gone by with the Plantation tracing its roots back to 1753. I have previously written about Hampden Estates own releases here, a 17 year Kill Devil Hampden release here and a previous Whisky Barrel Exclusive release here.

Kill Devil Hampden 16 Year Old 2001 Cask Strength – TWB Exclusive – 61.2% abv – Pure single Rum

This 156 bottle run of a 16-year-old Rum is from a 2001 distillation and it has only Continental maturation. Presented at a cask strength of 61.2% it has no caramel colour and has not been chill filtered. The 2001 distillation date hints that it may be the <>H marque as mentioned in the Hampden section of the Single Cask Rum website. The official Velier 70th Anniversary release of the Hampden <>H, a 2010 distillation of that marque with a full 7 years tropical maturation is a bottle that evaded me upon launch and still evades me to this day. I have however tried it as a result of the generosity of a sample from a friend…..it left me wanting more though.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Astringent varnish. Furniture polish. A freshly opened tin of gloss paint. Intense pear drop acetone but with a really fruity and sharp nose. Overripe banana. Caramelised pineapple. Haribo strawberry sweets. There’s real depth to the fruit and a stewed plum and prune quality…Still quite sharp though. A little time in the glass brings freshly sliced ginger, an almost fragrant floral coriander seed. Toasted coconut. Pencil shavings. Freshly sawn wood. Peppery. Growing oak presence. It starts to become quite smoke driven, well, more burnt splints from Chemistry lessons, and for a while that dominates. Coming back to it, quite salty. Olives. Brine. Light menthol character. Pine air freshener. Intense stuff

Mouth: With no water…..Warming, hot, spicy entry. Salty, zestly lemon and olives. Black Forest ham. Heavy molasses. Dry dry dry oak. With water….Still spicy, still hot…but fruitier too. Caramelised pineapple that’s just caught…it gives rise to a bittersweet treacle. Burnt banana loaf. A nice backbone of oak carries things along. Strawberries, very similar to the Rum Fire Velvet….Citrus peel. The mid palate is dominated by spicy, grippy oak. Cinnamon (bark not powdered), ginger. Strong building site cabin tea. Soft liquorice and sugar-coated liquorice torpedoes develop. The finish, which is measured in tens of minutes starts off with salty liquorice and a touch of black olive before the cooked burnt fruit kicks it’s way in…Pineapple, banana and then a bitter lemon zest. Quite tangy. Very well-integrated musty oak coated in molasses rounds things out.

Well balanced, poised and multi-faceted. Depth of flavour and aroma that others would kill for. Hampden fares better than most when it comes to continental maturation, which is a bonus as it’s all that we’ve had from them for a while as far as aged stock goes…..at least up until the Habitation Velier releases were unleashed….and now their own Estate bottlings which will be on these pages soon. This is a very good example of a very good distilleries output at a bit of a bargain price…..though the previous release was a few quid cheaper!

4.5 / 5

© 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.

Veritas White Blended Pot & Coffey Still Rum

The only way that you won’t have heard about Veritas (Probitas when released in the States) would be if you had absolutely no interest in the Rum world.

A teaming up of two amazing and honest distilleries to produce a pot and column blended ‘White’ Rum. These two powerhouses are of course Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados and Hampden Estate in Jamaica.

The front label, resplendent with a “Guardians of Rum” crest, states that it is a blend of Coffey Still and Pot Still Rums…..it also states the Master Blender (Richard Seale) and the inspiration (Luca Gargano). As you would expect, the rear label confirms that the Coffey Still component is from Foursquare and the Pot Still component is from Hampden…..the rear label also confirms that the Rum is aimed at the cocktail market…..but its so much more than that simple. There is also a ‘tongue in cheek’ mention of dosage on the label….I’ll say no more about that….but the jibe would fall flat if the Rum did not stand up to closer inspection. I have written extensively about Foursquare Distillery products and you can read more here, with a bit of information on Hampden Distillery here.

Veritas White Blended Rum – 47%

I mention above that this Rum is more than it appears on the surface….and here is why. The make up of Veritas is more interesting than stated as it is actually a blend of three Rums. The first component is a 2 year Tropically aged Foursquare Pot still Rum (the Rum has colour for a reason). The second component is an unaged Coffey Column still Rum from Foursquare. The third component is an unaged Pot still Rum from Hampden Estate. There is no charcoal filtration of the Rum. The biggest component of the blend is the unaged Coffey Column Rum which when tasted really does show that a little pot still can go a long way. Digging deeper, the Hampden marque used is OWH (Owen W Hussey). Numbers wise, this is the lowest count marque that Hampden produce….but as has been pointed out to me, purely elevating ethyl acetate isn’t improving the Rum. The OWH marque, whilst ‘low ester’ in relation to Rum, is actually high by spirit standards. The marque itself was put forward by Vivian Wisdom, Master Distiller at Hampden (and all round lovely chap) for use in the blend and its inclusion was agreed by Richard Seale.

 

Tasting Notes

Nose: Beautifully creamy. The abv excerpts itself robustly on the nose with a little sting. Portuguese custard tarts. Vanilla pods. Present but light and very well-integrated pot still element. It possesses the creaminess and fresh vegetal cane like quality of the Habitation Velier Foursquare 2013 and 2015 releases. Light acetone bite dragging citrus oils and a basket of fresh tropical fruit on the table at breakfast in summer.

Mouth: There it is. The pot still is way more present in the mouth feel which is a lot more oily than I expected. Real proper weight in this rum on the palate. It is the pot still that leads the early exchanges. Chewy Molasses. A touch of Kola Nut. Give it time and the lighter, fruitier elements come to the fore. Sugarcane. Light and so so typical marshmallow from the Coffey column. Banana. Guava jam on a buttery crumpet. Croissant like buttery pastry sweetness. Molasses in the finish. So much body to it.

Really really impressive. Prepare to have your preconceptions of young, cocktail oriented rum changed for good. It’s not just good for a young Rum, it’s good full stop. Yes…..I’d be perfectly happy drinking this neat….but it mixes so well. Daiquiris…good….provided you keep them on the sour side this Rum sings a wonderful tune. Banana daiquiris…..good. It even mixes well with coke.

4.5 / 5

A previous favourite of mine at home for daiquiris was Plantation 3 Stars…I enjoyed the fact that it had a bit of pot still in there and that it was reasonably cheap …..I have no need for it now. Tried side by side, the 3 Stars lacks palate weight, lacks character. Night and Day difference

Veritas is around £25 a bottle….you’ll have to buy from a France or Italy at the moment which is annoying…but it’s worth the effort.

© 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.

Plantation Xaymaca ‘Special Dry’

Plantation as a brand will be familiar to pretty much everyone reading this. No real explanation is required. Xaymaca however will need a little explanation. It is the name given to the island of Jamaica by its first inhabitants, the Arawaks. With their purchase of the West Indies Rum Distillery (W.I.R.D) in Barbados, Maison Ferrand also gained a third share in National Rums of Jamaica (NRJ). This gives them a share of Long Pond and Clarendon Distilleries. There are pot stills available at those distilleries. Long Pond has a John Dore Pot Still and Clarendon has a Vendome Pot Still. With access to the distilleries came improved access to stock. Hence, the Plantation Xaymaca ‘Special Dry’ was born.

The release of the new Plantation Xaymaca has been accompanied by much fanfare in Rum circles. It speaks of a revival! Their own website marketing information states that the Xaymaca ‘Special Dry’ will:

“revive the quintessential Jamaican-style, 100% pot still rums of the 19th century with an expression of intense flavors that reveal the traditional, legendary « Rum Funk » : aromas and flavours of black banana and flambéed pineapple, locally called “Hogo,” an Anglicization of the French term “Haut Goût” (high taste).”

Quite the claim.

Information provided by Plantation is as follows:

  • Alc./Vol. : 43%
  • Origin : Jamaica
  • Distilleries : Clarendon and Long Pond
  • Raw material : Molasses
  • Fermentation : 1 and 3 weeks
  • Distillation : Pot Still (Vendome) from Clarendon Distillery / Pot Still (John Dore) from Long Pond Distillery
  • Tropical ageing : 1 to 3 y.o. in ex-Bourbon casks
  • Continental ageing, elevage : 1 year in ex-Cognac casks
  • Volatile Substances : 312 g/hL AA
  • Esters : 156g/hL AA
  • Marques : Clarendon EMB & MLC marks / Long Pond VRW & STC^E marks
  • Classification : Plummer
  • Dosage : 0 g/L

Digging deeper, as Matt over at Cocktail Wonk has, more information can be gained from those marques. I urge you to view his article but I will also break it down further below utilising the detailed information that Matt obtained on his trip to Maison Ferrand.

Plantation Xaymaca ‘Special Dry’ – 43% abv – Pot Still Rum

As mentioned above, the marques used in the Xaymaca are as follows:

  • Long Pond – VRW (Vale Royal Wedderburn) from the John Dore Pot Still with an ester range between 150-250 g/hL AA. Less than 1 year Tropical maturation & between 1 and 2 years Continental maturation in ex-cognac casks
  • Long Pond – STC^E (Simon Thompson Cambridge Estate) from the John Dore Pot Still with an ester range between 550-650 g/hL AA. 8 years Tropical maturation & 1 year Continental maturation in ex-cognac casks
  • Clarendon – EMB from the Vendome Pot Still with an ester range between 125-175 g/hL AA. Less than 1 year Tropical maturation & between 1 and 2 years Continental maturation in ex-cognac casks
  • Clarendon – MLC (Monymusk Light Continental) from the Vendome Pot Still with an ester range between 500-600 g/hL AA. Less than 1 year Tropical maturation & between 1 and 2 years Continental maturation in ex-cognac casks

Now there is way more information including specific distillate fermentation periods and abv prior to blending in the linked article.

The article linked to will also tell you that this initial release has another marque in the blend that could be permanent, may not be permanent, may be replaced or may be replaced repeatedly. It’s currently an unknown, but given the age of the marque,its doubtful that it will be available in enough quantities to be permanent.

Missing Marque:

  • Long Pond – ITP from the John Dore Pot Still with an ester level of 280 g/hL AA. 17 years predominantly Tropical maturation

The final Xaymaca noted ester level of 156 g/hL AA, putting it at the bottom end of the Plummer range of 150-200 g/hL AA lets you know that the VRW and the EMB marques are the predominant components of the blend. But, as with Hampdens DOK marque, a little higher ester goes a long way. So let’s have a look at how it tastes.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Candied fruit sweetness. Bright acidic fruit as I would expect with a Long Pond component. Orange peel. Warm Pineapple chunks. Overripe banana. The nip of young alcohol. Light oak. Quite subdued.

Mouth: Sweet warming entry. Thinner mouthfeel than I was expecting but it’s not overly watery. Quite a bit of spice and a more apparent wood influence that wasn’t present on the nose. Fresh ginger. Mild raisin. Faint milk chocolate. The mildest note of pear drop sweets is present if you really concentrate. Mid palate is warming and has hints of toffee. It’s very much Jamaica-lite….but too lite for me. More multi island blend. The finish is surprisingly short with watery wood and weak butterscotch. Pretty dull on the palate, especially when considering how promising the nose was. I would also note that it feels as if it may have an element of column Rum in the blend, even though not noted as such.

For a product that makes a big deal about “hogo”, “Rum Funk”, and “reviving the quintessential Jamaican style 100% pot still rums of the 19th Century”……even getting so geeky as to give a list of the marques used in the blend and giving Ester and Volatile Compound levels, I find that the message being pushed runs at odds with the liquid in the bottle. I’m also not sure who it is aimed at. It can’t be current Plantation fans as they have no issue with the additions anyway. It’s not aimed at geeks as although it has the info, it’s just not interesting enough. It seems to be tagged as a good “beginners” Jamaican Rum in a lot of reviews that I have seen post note writing. If I was new to Jamaican Rum and this was my first bottle, it wouldn’t excite me enough to make me want to know more. Beginners want approachable, not uninteresting. Much has also been made of the lack of ’dosage’. In fact, the lack of ‘dosage’ is stated on the label. Great move, but it only has meaning if you also state on the bottle label when you HAVE added something. Please correct me if this happens with the bottles that have high levels of “dosage” as I’ve not seen it. Website data, Bacardi and Diplomatico do it too, but it means nothing if you’re choosing when to disclose on the label and when not to. Small step, and one to be noted….but we’re not in the promised land yet.

I wanted to enjoy this Rum. It should be a winner on paper. 100% pot. Proper marques being used. Loads of label clarity. But it’s like a jigsaw, with all of the right pieces arranged to make the wrong picture. With those marques, it should be impossible to make a boring blend….but thats what I believe the Xaymaca is. Maybe the secondary age dulled it’s vibrancy. It would’ve maybe been better presented as the distillates blended without the “elevage”, as it has definitely not added value. Could’ve and should’ve been so much more.

2 / 5

© 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.

JAH45 Silver Jamaican Rum

A new range from a familiar stable. JAH45 is the brainchild of the newly formed Hellshire Club….or more specifically its CEO Carl Stephenson. Carl, a former executive of J Wray & Nephew is also the guy behind the excellent Elements 8 Range and their Republica Rum was reviewed here. But this article is all about JAH45 Jamaican Rum. Origin wise the whole marketing side of things links nicely to the Rum in the bottle. JAH being Rastafarian for God, though in this instance it is being used as a reference to Jamaica. 45 as you will have worked out relates to 45 RPM speed on a turntable. JAH45 draws its origins from the revolutionary sound systems in Kingston during the 1950’s that provided affordable entertainment that was subsequently used by liquor stores to entice customers in to buy Rum. Huge speakers would be set up and DJs would set up turntables and bang out local music. For me it calls to mind artists like U-Roy and Toots & the Maytals. 

Anyhow, onto the Rum. The range itself will comprise 5 bottlings. The Silver being reviewed today, Gold, Dark, Spiced and Overproof. Again, not too enamored with the use of colour as a classification but given the target market for the bottlings and their insane pricing levels it’s probably the right approach. Insane pricing because the bottles range from £20 to £27 which is priced to sell and be affordable to those wanting to take a trip into the unknown. Initially the company approach is the get the Rums into the on-trade and they have already been picked up by the Las Iguanas restaurant group.

JAH45 Silver Jamaican Rum – 40% abv 

The liquid in the bottle is a blend of unaged Pot and Column distilled Rums from Hampden, New Yarmouth and Clarendon. New Yarmouth is the distillery that produces W&N Overproof and Clarendon is the distillery that produces Monymusk. Hampden is the distillery that produces pure magic and the stuff of dreams.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Fresh, vibrant, grassy sugarcane. Powdered sugar. The heady intoxicating molasses aroma that permeates a distillery. Light astringency. There is a definite light punch of pot still that is tempered by the column component to merely a gentle slap. Funk….but really accessible funk. Pineapple syrup. Foam bananas. A little menthol nose. Pear drops. Wet cardboard. Really pleasant and whilst it has that magical Jamaican edge that we crave, it’s not at all scary for those new to Jamaican Rum.

Mouth: A near perfect translation from nose to mouth. Sweet entry. Oilier than expected. Light tropical fruit. Pineapple, guava, mango. Fresh banana. A touch of liquorice. Something vaguely herbal. It has way more going for it than a £20 bottle should do, and it packs way more authentic and true flavour than a lot of Rums twice its price.

Now obviously you won’t be drinking this neat, though that’s how I managed to clear close to a quarter of the bottle….getting to know it. I know for a fact that when thrown into a Daiquiri with a drop of Banane du Brésil, greatness ensues. But I’ve been enjoying it as a long drink with Ting. No measures, just feel it. Makes a banging drink.

I want to taste more pot still…but its a double-edged sword. More pot still would equal greater expense and that is not the intention here. There is enough interest here to hold my gaze for a while and really with all of the super premium fancy bottled stuff being hawked to consumers for extortionate prices, what the Rum world needs is accessible true, interesting Jamaican rums that have not been messed with. Yes you have the Appleton range but whilst relatively inexpensive are a little light on the vibrant pot components. This isn’t. This has just enough pot still to lift it above the close competition. I’d love to see these Rums with supermarket availability.

4 / 5

I see its direct competitor as Appleton White, and in my opinion the JAH45 Silver kills it. For £20, this much flavour, honest origins, and no funny business…..its a must buy.

© 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.

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.

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

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