Review #12: Hampden ‘Great House’ Distillery Edition

Part 3 of the Hampden saga. Probably the most exciting one! Good god I’ve been looking forward to this one.

First of all, this rum was meant to be solely a distillery edition and event rum to showcase what Hampden has in store at rum congresses. So, back in January (when I bought the bottle) the only way for anyone who couldn’t go to Jamaica to buy one or didn’t have connections to get one was through rumauctioneer. I was one of those people who bought a bottle that way, at the wonderful price of £110 lot total and £ 150 included shipping, commission and VAT. In non-Brexit language this is about € 180. Quite a hefty price, but I was willing to pay for it. Later that week I found out the Great House dropped in Europe and I bought another bottle for about €100, yeah… that hurt, could’ve saved € 80 there. After painfully overpaying in auction (something some of us undoubtedly know the pain of) this rum really had to be pretty dang good. It also goes without saying that I bought a second bottle immediately

This just goes to show how volatile secondary markets can be. It’s both an exciting and frustrating place to shop.

Here’s why it should live up to a bitter-and-empty-wallet need to be awesome. Primarily because it’s Hampden, and when does Hampden ever disappoint? Secondly, this rum has been blended by Vivian Wisdom, Hampden’s master distiller. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first release that’ll be solely his. Before, the blends in the previous rums were blended by Mr. Gargano. Third and last, it’s the distillery edition and in my experience these bottlings are mostly astonishing.

The presentation of the bottle is wonderful too, the stately bottle and beautiful label presupposes an astonishing rum.

Let’s go over the specs real quick and then it’s tasting time.

Though there is no age statement on the bottle, it’s said that the rum inside was aged for around 7 to 8 years. It was then bottled at 59%. The Blend inside consists of 80% OWH (Owen W Hussey) and 20% DOK (Dermot Owen Kelly-Lawson) the former is the lowest marque of esters made by Hampden, ranging from 40 to 80 gr/hl AA. The latter is the highest marque of esters, ranging from 1500 to 1600 gr/hl AA. Which should make for an interesting blend with very light and heavy notes.

And now we’ll see if this rum is as good as it should be.


Golden orange-y


Everything I hoped for and more.

The nose is so gentle. The first thing that welcomes me, even from pouring, is the familiar overripe pineapple and banana fruitiness that defines Hampden. The fruitiness is supported by another familiar scent, the one of glue and varnish. This appears to be a make it or break it scent; some people adore it, others detest it. Luckily I’m one of the former. Some spiciness is also present and compliments the fruit and varnish rather well. Nothing is overly dominant and every proverbial kid on the block is playing along nicely.

The 59% ABV and the 20% DOK aren’t disturbing or overpowering the experience in any way. The heavier parts of the rum offer an alluring seduction towards further nosing and enjoyment of the complexity of it all. I could just sniff this rum all day long, I think I’d almost forget tasting it… Though I know the taste will be at least as good.


Holy Mother of Ester! This. Is. Delicious.

On the palate the DOK does seem to be more present than on the nose. It takes a couple of sips to get used to the overpowering might of the this high-ester-nerd pornography. But once I got used to it, boy oh boy, I don’t think there’s even an expression for the experience.

The initial intensity of spiced and barbecued fruit evolves towards the mellowed down (as far as “mellowed down” works in Hampden) bananas, pineapples. The rum really opens up after a while and reveals the last varnished piece of the puzzle and glues it all together (see what I did there?).

This is just an astonishing and immensely complex rum. I fall far short of even noticing some of the flavours present in this beautiful beast, whatever precise notes they may be… I enjoy them with every single fiber of my being.


As the rest of the experience, the finish is incomprehensibly complex and developed. A little spiciness remains constantly on the tip of my tongue and the fruit seems to be roasted over a campfire in the back of my throat.

For the finish alone I’d consider becoming one of the most selective alcoholics in the world and drink only Great House all day every day.

Yeah, this is it. This is my alpha and omega. This is my “eudaimonia” and 100% my favourite rum (maybe even thing) ever.

Of course this is just my personal flavour (biased towards Jamaican rum), but I will fight every single one of those who say this is a bad dram.

On a slightly more serious note, this truly is an amazing rum, and because it is so limited I can only encourage everyone to buy a bottle as soon as possible and try it.

While writing this I saw the announcement on Ministry of Rum that Hampden will be releasing the Great House on a yearly base with differing blends from year to year, so I’m already looking forward to the next one.



Review #11: Clairin Sajous

As you may already know thanks to my previous reviews (hampden, habitation velier, royal navy), I adore funky, in-your-face, “hogo” rums. There’s just something about smelling and tasting these types of rum that make me feel awake and tingly.

So, today I’ll be reviewing one of the better discoveries of the 21st century so far (really hoping the whole space exploration will rekindle, but this’ll do): Clairin, specifically the Sajous.

Clairin is the native spirit of Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world and one that’s been hit with its fair share of misfortunes since its incredibly brave fight for independence, which gave the country its sovereignty on January 1st of 1804. Despite being poor and politically not the most stable country in the world, Haitians are apparently rather happy and Clairin might be a big influence on this happiness.

Despite being produced from fresh sugar cane juice or syrup, Clairin is not classified “Rhum Agricole” per se, it’s more comparable to the cachaca-to-rum relation. Technically it’s an Agricole, but then again it’s not. (if someone has a clear idea on the exact classification, please do contact me). The spirit is made from sugarcane juice, in its most natural form, the sugarcane is non-hybridized and mostly grown polycultural. This means that the canes aren’t grown to human specifications and the fields where the cane grows is also used for other naturally growing plants such as bananas, mangos,… (click here and here for more on the subject). Basically, the cane juice is grown in a pre-efficiency focused way. Without careful cross-breeding, segregated crops or chemicals; this puts the focus on the cane as a purely natural product and it adds another level of “terroir” in rum. Add to this natural, long fermentation and very rudimentary moonshine-like distillation rigs and you have a wonderfully artisanal spirit.

There are a couple of variations in the Clairins that are being bottled. The main bottles are: Sajous, Vaval, Casimir, Le Rocher and communal (which is a blend of some of the distilleries); all of these also have some aged variants. These 4 single rums are only a small sample of what Haiti has to offer. There are numerous tiny distilleries throughout the country.

But for today, I’ll just focus on the Sajous version. The ‘Sajous’ part in the name refers to the founder, owner and distiller of his distillery, named Chelo. the distillery is located in the middle of a sugar plantation, of which all the sugar is used for distilling this wonderful liquid. No, there’s no actual sugar being produced here, because who needs sugar production if you have rum, isn’t that right Worthy Park? The sugar cane juice is concentrated into a syrup which can be stored for over a year, making year-round distillation possible.


Clear as can be


The initial nose has a thick and buttery note, which quickly fades away form more grassy and vegetal notes. This fresh nose showcases the pure terroir way of production. Though it must be said that this freshness also comes with a rather sharp alcohol tone. With this sharpness comes some potent varnish, oily and brine-y hints.


The first couple of seconds of the first sip don’t reveal a lot of flavour due to an overwhelming alcoholic punch in the face, but after getting used to the sharpness of the alcoholic numbness some fresh herbal tones come popping up. Accompanying the herbal, grassy and hay-like notes is a more dirty character; one of oil, varnish and a bit of tar. The taste is all over the place, dragging me from open fields full of cane to a dirty building with a dismal safety and health protocol. The rum truly mimics its production from natural fields to fermentation and distillation in conditions that would make any whisky distiller cry and run away.


This powerful dram sticks around for a while, but not quite as long as one might expect. After the initial power of the actual sip, the might dwindles somewhat and leaves an impression of a meeker Agricole.

Clairin might be one of the last frontiers of rum in this world. Since its discovery a couple of years ago it’s gained more popularity, and rightly so. A natural and artisanal product like no other. Though I do believe that you have to be a true tough person to drink it neat on a regular basis, and Haitians definitely are, more so than I am (however hard I try).

For me this rum will serve better in a good ti punch or a feisty daiquiri. The aggressiveness of it can be overwhelming unless tempered by some lime, sugar and a bit of ice.