The Hampden Estate Pure Single Jamaican Rums: the inaugural release of an aged rum duo from the current Hampden Estate. I say current, because Hampden already sold aged rum before, but this was quite a while ago.
To be more precise, the 46% and the 60% are the first aged rums that Hampden has sold themselves since… wait for it… 1753! At the time of their release 265 years ago! Some other interesting facts that happened since Hampden stopped selling aged rum before: the first official St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated and The British Museum was established. A very long time ago…
Hampden has a dedicated cult-like following for a while now. The only way these people got introduced to and drink the juice produced by the beasts of pot stills found in the distillery, is through independent bottlings or because the rum was part of a blend. But this has changed, in 2018 Hampden released their first pair of aged rums in 265 years. Together with La Maison and Velier (who does the importing to Europe).
I remember being a fan of the distillery before I even drank any of their rums. When I started getting into rum I began reading extensively about this stunning spirit and before long I ended up reading the part about Jamaica and in particular Hampden rum. I was intrigued, since one of the first things I read was that they use wild yeasts for fermentation. For me as a belgian, this kind of made sense. Most breweries use cultivated yeast strains for their beers (claiming this is what makes their beer the best in the world). They are very proud and protective about their yeast, since it’s a very important factor that sets them apart from the competition. This is the same for most (if not all) whisky distilleries. Though some breweries here in Belgium make beer using wild spontaneous fermentation, and these beers have balls. I mean, these are some of the most characterful beers I’ve drunk. so, I could only imagine the “cojones” on these rums.
Aside from the wild yeast something even weirder popped up: Dunder & muck. A combination of the residue remaining in the still after distillation (dunder) and a fusion of acids, lime(stone), mud, fermentation skimmings, cane trash, and so on (muck). These 2 liquids (with muck I imagine it’s more of a thick chicken soup-with-lumps-consistency) are added to the molasses and spring water to kickstart fermentation. At this point in reading I’m starting to think the Ganja really got the better of those Jamaicans, but I found it quite funny and interesting so we continue on…
The fermentation in most Jamaican distilleries is long to extremely long, 7 to 10 days and sometimes even more. Instead of the conventional 30-60 hours. This (again as Belgian) I can understand some of the best Belgian beers are fermented for a long time (perhaps not as long as jamaican rum) and this contributes to some amazing tasting beers.
Then it’s on to distillation. Jamaican rum is widely known for it’s 100% pot still distillation, some distilleries do have and use column stills, but most of the distilling that’s going on is with pot stills. This is a batch-type distillation, which means that distilling isn’t continuous and the process is halted when a batch has run through the still to fill up the still again with the next batch. This is much less efficient than with continuous column stills, but it gives much more flavour. Also the ABV is considerably lower with pot still distillation due to its inefficiency, column stills on the other hand can produce neutral alcohol at around 95% alcohol.
So after reading all of this my attention was tickled. I started looking for Jamaican distilleries and bottles. Very soon I came to the Hampden distillery which had (among others) a couple of bottlings with Habitation velier. As a rum rookie I didn’t really feel like dropping around € 100 for a bottle. But after a while I started getting obsessed by the medicinal looking bottles and I just took my tiny college student budget and got spending.
And boy… I was hooked, like a drug-addict on his first hit of heroin. I never really got the ‘funkiness’ tasting note before, but when I drank it I got it, and got it big-time. But more on tasting notes later.
After this extensive (yet still way too short) intro to Jamaican rum, let’s get on with the rums at hand.
These rums are a product of all that’s been mentioned before: wild & long fermentation, dunder and muck and pot still distillation. These darlings have also been aged tropically for 8 years which according to the label is about the same as 25 years of continental aging. There are no additives.
The standard 46% should cost you about € 60 and the overproof should cost about € 80, but you can find bottles over and under these prices.
Alright, onto the tasting:
Light gold-ish brown, almost like the perfect French fry. Lovely light natural colour, obvious that there are no additives to alter the colour.
The first thing that I notice is the esters of course, overripe banana and some pineapple. The classics in Hampden. It isn’t the immense funkbomb however. This is probably the purpose of this rum, to be a stepping stone into the proper world of high-funk rums. Some oak is also detectable. Along with other deeper and darker notes: the tiniest caramel-y and butterscotch-y hints. But for these last I had admittedly completely stuck my nose in the glass. Mostly the light fruity and ester-fueled smell remains very dominant
This rum is very thin in the mouth and it’s just perfect for its purpose. Thanks to the fluency of the rum it swirls through the mouth very easily and gives a complete taste experience. The fruity notes of the nose make a return in the mouth, they present a very light and fresh balance to a certain smoky spiciness which is very present. Other flavours that I get are; a nice undertone of oak with a spec of bitterness. A bit of vanilla and some faint ester-varnish
The finish is pleasant, but nothing extraordinary. Not too long, nor too short. Just a pleasant finish where the fruit lingers somewhat.
Again perfect-french fry-golden-brown. But somewhat deeper brown. This difference is of course due to the dilution of the 46%. A marvelous natural colour yet again (no surprise there…).
The nose is deeper rather than more alcoholic. From only smelling both, I couldn’t tell which one was 14% higher in ABV. I still get the fruit of the 46%, but it’s way more toned down. Instead deeper oak, chocolate and vanilla notes take over the wheel. It feels less of a typical Hampden rum than the 46%. Dare I say it smells primarily sweet with some ester popping up from time to time.
There are those 14 alcoholic points. Going from the 46% to the 60% the increase in alcohol is notable. The fruitiness and esters are also perceptible, but are not as “in your face” as I’m used to with Hampden. Oak, vanilla and spice are the frontrunners here. Some ginger also takes my mouth for a ride of spiciness. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a good Hampden rum, but it doesn’t exactly live up to my expectations funk-wise. Pure flavourwise it is indeed a great rum. Maybe it’s even a bit more multi-facetted(?) than what we’ve grown used to with Hampden
The finish is quite long as opposed to the 46%. This does give this expression a bonus point. The long finish does give some of the pineapple and other fruits I’ve mostly missed in the tasting itself. This lingers for a while so I’m glad about that
My expectations were that the 60% would be a funkier version of the 46%. I was proved wrong, these are very different rums. Even though they are basically one and the same but diluted, their flavour palette are very divers. I like the 46% more since it has more “Hampden” in it, more light fruity ester notes. The 60% is deeper and less funky. I do really like both, but I’d rather go for the lighter version than the heavier. It’s simply more familiar and enjoyable to drink