Review #21: Rum Fire Overproof Jamaican Rum

Ah, Rum Fire. Originally released by Hampden Estate for the domestic Jamaican market with a cheap looking bottle, amazingly tacky 80’s vibe and MS paint-looking label and a name that doesn’t exactly scream drink me to the general public outside of the Jamaican scene. It has since then grown to (as almost everything form the Hampden Estate) cult status. And rightly so

Rum Fire is the last of the Big Three of Jamaican unaged overproof rums (Here’s a great overview of all three), and it seems to be fitting that this is the one to round of the trio. First we had the J. Wray and Nephews with its pot and column blended overproof, this began as a fringe rum only to be used if you want to set something on fire in a tiki bar. Luckily it became recognized as the quality rum it really is and it is now unmissable in any bar which takes its rum selection somewhat seriously.

Later on came the Rum Bar overproof from Worthy Park. Purely Pot still and funkier than Uncle Wray, this rum is still approachable to most people but it gets the Ester-geeks going a bit more. With its buttery and fruity taste it is a great rum for daiquiris, snaquiris and straight drinking alike.

Now we FINALLY have the ultimate evolution of Jamaican Unaged Overproof rum, the Charizard of the three. Evolved from the relatively low-heat Charmander of Wray and Nephews, to the medium-heat Charmeleon of Rum Bar and finally to the intense Rum Fire Charizard (this one’s for all you Pokémon lovers)

Rum Fire is produced at Hampden Estate Distillery and is a continuation of the tradition of siphoning unaged rum of questionable strength for own use. Since in the past most of the rum produced by Hampden and most Jamaican distilleries was used for export and blending, this illegal white rum was used on the island to fuel parties, make rum cake, fight illness and many more purposes.

It’s made in much the same way as the other Hampden releases, with a 10-14 day open air, wild yeast fermentation, dunder and muck added for extra bacterial and acidic supercharging. Pot still distillation and reduced to the standardized 63% before bottling.

Okay, enough build-up, let’s get into this bad boy


Colour:

So see-through, it may look so uninteresting and gentle to the untrained eye. But we rum-nerds know better, proper unaged rums are beasts.

Nose:

Well, my room will be smelling like Rum Fire for the next couple of hours… and I love it! Honestly if someone were to be able to make a candle or fragrance that smells like this, hit me up!

The smell is truly room-filling. Even as I’m writing, the glass is a bit away from me and the smell still tickles my nose. Apart from making my spidey-senses tingle, let’s get some actual tasting notes. The first hit is fat and buttery, very much like the Rum Bar on steroids. It’s very pungent, the alcoholic sensation you normally get from nosing a spirit from closeby is now almost constantly present, but it’s more ‘freshly baked cartoon pie on the windowsill dragging me in through my nose’ vibes. The alcohol isn’t sharp or disruptive, it’s full and drawing me in.

After leaving the dram breath for a while, the fruit starts coming through. It’s such a smooth transition. First bananas, then pineapple, coconut and other tropical fruits. After a considerable amount of time I’ve forgotten all about the butter and I’m now in Jamaica surrounded by heaps of fruit, the bananas are starting to rot a bit, nice. Also there are a bit of briny olives on the side

Noticeable absences are the notes of varnish and paint-stripper. This makes the rum fuller and fruitier.

Taste:

The first sip as expected is a bomb of atomic proportions. First of all the 63% ABV hits at first, but gives way to a tidal wave of fruit which is then quickly replaced by a buttery blast to then again subside to a lasting fruity flavour. I haven’t taken another sip yet, so it’s safe to say this rum is something else.

Sip 2, here we go. Yep, still good. The alcohol is still present and it’s still warming and filling instead of off-putting and sharp, it translates into a warming pepper-y spice. It’s also dry as hell and even a bit acidic (if I can believe those diagrams which show the flavour receptors on the tongue).

On the palate I do get a bit of varnish, but it’s very fruity and not what I’m used to in Hampden’s it seems like this is the only toned down aspect in this belter of a rum. Other notes are of course the typical fruit bouquet (pineapple, banana, other tropical fruits), and again that fatter butter pops up, but it’s lessening with each sip. The briny olives are almost meaty and my mouth is nearly numbing in a delicious punch.

Finish:

The finish is everlasting and I really don’t want it to end. I kind of don’t want to clean my teeth ever again, like you don’t really want to wash your hand after shaking it with a celebrity.

Tastewise, the finish is spicy, slightly hot, fruity and dry.

I’m taking another sip, let’s do this again.


Rum Fire. Jamaicans know what’s up. Not only with this but also the Rum Bar and Wray and Nephew’s (reviews of these will be coming). The rum fire is an experience, that’s the least you can say about it. It’s a more well-balanced rum than, say a River Antoine. The room-filling aromas and explosive flavours are enough to make you dream about it for weeks.

On the one hand this rum is so special and good, I can’t believe this rum isn’t drunk everywhere. On the other hand, I can believe that only a very select group of people (including Jamaicans, ester-geeks, and experienced rum drinkers) will enjoy this, there is no way a newcomer in rum will like this, even be able to keep it in. 90% of people will think this’ll kill them instantly, and that’s okay for me (that means there’s more for us)

Unsurprisingly this also works amazing in cocktails: Rum Fire & Ting, nuclear daiquiri, or even a supercharged zombie just to name a few.

Rum fire simply is the best unaged(not even solely Jamaican) rum *Jeremy Clarkson voice* in the world.

9.5/10

Hampden Estate Distillery

The House of Jamaican Funk

cherrypicking some history

The Mekka of ester-nerds and people who love good rum in general. The Hampden Estate distillery is a must visit for anyone who likes jamaican rum.

Like many, the distillery started as a sugar plantation. The plantation started its operation around 1753 in the Trelawny Parish under scottish rule. In 1779 the iconic Great House was built, it was used as a rum store until the early 1900’s. then the Great House became the residence of the estate’s owners and eventually reaching its final stage as subject for the label art of the Distillery bottlings in 2019.

In 1827, ownership of the estate changed to Dermot Owen Kelly-Lawson (better known by his initials DOK). And through a marriage into the Kelly-Lawson family Mr Farquarson came to posses the estate.

With the 21st century coming around, it was once again time for a change in management. This time the new owner was the Sugar Company of Jamaica. As the name might suggest, the main focus of the company was sugar. All of the rum produced in the distillery were exported to Europe for blending.

The last and current owners are the Hussey family. They took over in 2009 under the name of Everglades Farm Ltd. through a public bid for the estate. Since then they’ve focused on the heritage of the place and more importantly (for us) on rum. This focus paid of in 2018 when they finally released the first fully Jamaican aged home bottled Hampden rums.

The inner workings

Fermentation

When the molasses enters the distillery it’s mixed with water, dunder (the “leftovers” of previous distilling runs), sugar cane vinegar and muck (a mixture of bagasse (crushed cane), bacteria, acid and who knows what else, which often has been laid to rest underground). This mixture will then be put in the fermenting vats and laid open for the wild yeasts in the air to react with it.

Hampden does not use cultivated yeast strains as they let the environmental yeasts do their work. Fermentation lasts for about 8-15 days, here is when it becomes a mash. After 10 days the process of creating alcohol through fermentation stops, this is when the mixture starts to oxidize more and mainly esterfication happens.

As esters are the result of acids colliding and combining with alcohols, so the longer the mash is fermented, the more esters are created over time.

Distillation

Hampden Estate Distillery only distills only with double retort pot stills. A batch distillation process which creates a heavier and fuller palate than its alternative, the column still.

There are 4 stills at the moment. The oldest of which is a John Dore, which was installed in the 1960’s. The three other stills are: Vendome (1994), Forsyths (2010) and TNT (2016). More stills are under construction or have been built by now.

If you see any wrong information or find that there’s information lacking, don’t hesitate to contact me:

Review #18: Hampden Great House 2020

Hampden Great House part 2: return of the funk.

The second iteration of the Hampden distillery edition has come to grace us with its presence. Normally distillery editions are only available at the distillery, not with Hampden. For why should they limit themselves to only selling this rum on the property; with their momentum being as huge as it is currently and with the severely limited travelling capabilities due to Covid-19.

This year’s edition is somewhat similar to the 2019 edition, with some differences which should make it interesting to try both side by side. This years blend consists of 80% OWH and 20% <>H, compared to the 80-20 split of last years OWH and DOK respectively. This should result in a slightly less funky rum, since the ester count drops from the DOK to the <>H by about 500-600gr/HLPA (DOK: 1500-1600, <>H: 900-1000). This drop of course does in no way shape or form mean a worse rum from the start. In the wise words of Luca Gargano “the biggest boobs aren’t always the best boobs.”

The label remains pretty much the same as last years, only the colouring has changed from red to green. I wonder what next year’s colour will be (I have 1 year of inner debate to go on this essential factor of the rum).

The rum dropped at about the same price as the 2019 edition, but by the time you read this review it will have sold out on the primary market and it’ll probably be gathering absurd prices on the secondary market.

Well, let’s go to tasting… One thing’s for sure! The expectations are stellar.


Colour:

Light, goldenbrown. a tad darker than the 2019 edition

Nose:

The nose carries some spiciness and tobacco and a bit of tar. these are the first things that jump out besides the classical Hampden bouquet. The smells are heavier and less fruity than the previous iteration. Somehow I also get a mineral smell, a bit like rocks being hit by a waterfall.

All this of course is in symbiosis with the classical banana, pineapple Hampden notes. along with some zesty citrus (mainly orange).

After the first sip I start to get some smokiness and peat on the nose (see Taste for why)

Taste:

Let’s start at the beginning. the first tastes that come to my puny brain are meaty mangos and papayas and then, all of a sudden smoke. It almost feels like I’m drinking a peated whisky for just a second. Not bland for a first sip, innit?

This blend has one extra year of barrel aging, and it’s noticeable. This and the different composition of the blend create a wholy different experience than its predecessor. This year the rum is heavier and darker than its counterpart. more towards say… Caroni than other Hampdens, those rubber and tarry notes aren’t very far of.

These heavier elements do start to fade and mix into some lighter tastes after a bit. with some slight vanilla popping up, accompanied by cinnamon and nutmeg.

Finish:

The finish is semi-long and mainly cinnamon/nutmeg-spicy and a bit meaty, with a residual smokiness.


Rsiking sounding like a broken record: this tastes like a completely different rum than the previous version. I’ve now had a couple of these “wow, this is a different Hampden”- type moments in the last months and I don’t know whether it’s because my taste has somehow changed or whether it is actually the diversity that Hampden can put out there.

Between the 2 current Great Houses, the former is greater for me. The 2019 is just so funky and fruity and quintessentially Hampden (or at least what I assume everyone likes about hampden). The 2020 edition has a darker scent and taste than its counterpart. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very very good rum, because no matter what Hampden does create wonderful rum regardless. This edition is just doesn’t do it for me as much as the 2019 does it. (edit:) This is the back-up meal you choose if the restaurant doesn’t have their world-famous steak.

9/10

Review #16: Hampden 2020 single casks, selected by The Nectar.

something kind and something wild

By now, Hampden doesn’t really need an extended introduction anymore. So let’s dive right in.

Since last year (2019), Hampden has been releasing single casks. Last year there was one for some of the major rum/whisky festivals and one for LMDW and a one off (the HLCF/DOK). Tastings can be found here.

This year, La Maison & Velier decided for a broader approach. They’re releasing a couple of single casks exclusively for some European countries: 4 in France, 2 in Belgium, and many more in other countries.

Some of the biggest and best importers/liquor stores get to select their barrels. These are then given a nice presentation showcasing birds endemic to the Trelawny Parish, where Hampden is located.

These country exclusive bottlings (much like the previous one, and probably the following ones) will no doubt make the prices of these bottles skyrocket on the secondary market or make people trade some of theirs for bottlings from different countries, because who doesn’t want to know all of the endemic birds in Trelawny?

The 2 bottles for Belgium are selected by The Nectar; the very well respected importer and bottler. The casks they selected are: #487, an 8 year old OWH bottled 250 times at 60% ABV and #498, a 10 year old LROK bottled 260 times at 62.5% ABV. Each with its respective bird (The Yellow Shouldered Grossquit and The Rufous Tailed Flycatcher respectively)

I’m not going to dick around much this time and get straight to the tasting


Cask #487: OWH 8y

Colour:

Light golden, basically identical as the standard release Hampden 8.

Nose:

The familiar Hampden notes, but tempered down. Pretty much what one would expect of their lowest ester marque. A deep fruitiness with your familiar banana-pineapple combo but all very mellow. A bit of orange and mango. All of this is combined with hints of cake. On the nose this is a pleasant summer fruitcake.

Compared to the LROK, this feels cleaner and more well behaved. Something newcomers will probably enjoy more than the heavier and somewhat “dirtier” notes that can be found in the LROK

Taste:

Pretty darn good. As the glass touches my lips and this golden fluid slowly drips in, I immediately become happy and melancholic again. The initial shot of chocolate followed by a steady flow of fruit is a welcome start to actually tasting it. There a small tingly spice, nothing overpowering though. The timidity of the nose is continued throughout the palate. All good things, in gentle amounts. Quite a bit of vanilla as well, more than what I’m used to in other Hampdens. It is a vanilla with a certain fraîcheur, kindly assimilated with the trademark Hampden flavours.

Again, a lovely little thing, mellow and kind. A bit of an underrated wallflower.

Finish:

The finish is not very long. Which was to be expected of a lower-ester rum. There is a woody quality that remains. Most of the fruit disappears after a couple of seconds. And you’re left wanting for more, ready for the next sip.


Cask #498 LROK 10y

Colour:

No real difference here either.

Nose:

The nose is immediately more pungent than the OWH. It’s definitely not up to par with your HLCF C<>H or god forbid the paint stripping goodness of DOK. Instead there’s a present fruity scent that gently fills the room, like being hugged just a bit tightly by a fruit basket. It’s very nice to smell the evolution from OWH to LROK. The particular scents are very much the same, only more pronounced and rougher around the edges. The extra 2 years does add a touch more vanilla.

Taste:

Wow, I didn’t expect this. A very different experience than what I’m used to. The first thing I notice is pepper, there’s some pepper and bread in there. The heavier notes really are more present here. The vanilla pops up again. After a while the fruitiness does start to break through. And how… spiced mango, banana and papaya. The Varnish that we all know and love also makes a fleeting appearance. These 2 sides alternate, with each one stealing the limelight from one another a couple of times.

A very interesting if at times somewhat un-Hampden like. I tasted this at the Spirits In The Skies zoom call and was blown away, and from what I remember it tasted a bit differently (then again, I did have a regular 8y, Rum fire, and the OWH before this at the time… so yeah). Its not my favourite Hampden (that spot still is reserved for the 2019 Hampden Great House), but it is an interesting showcase of the diversity that Hampden can bring.

Finish:

The finish is slightly longer than the OWH, bringing more spice and depending on the time either the fruity or the woody notes. Hardly both.


First of all, the fine folks at The Nectar did a good job at picking 2 solid casks from the Hampden warehouse. Though it might actually be harder to pick a bad one than a good one when it concerns Hampden-type casks.

I think the OWH is a great beginner’s guide to Hampden. All the necessary notes are present, but you get a nice introduction. Nothing is overpowering and all is pleasant. There’s no extremities that take getting used to, overall a good rum. It is a shame that this is a single cask, since most Hamdpen collectors or drinkers will probably enjoy the heavier stuff more. Also most beginner’s won’t have access or motivation to buy a single cask bottling.

The LROK is weird one, at my first tasting it was mind boggingly good. Today it is has shown an other side, a more experimental side. With notes I haven’t quite linked to Hamdpen at first. I do recommend trying this, even if it is mainly to broaden your perspective of what Hampden has to offer. This, for example would be more what collectors and drinkers alike should enjoy. Something unique and new.

For me the kind nose of the OWH wins me over more, the palate of the LROK intrigues me and the LROK’s finish delivers over the OWH. The LROK does walk away with the win, mainly because of its unexpected turns alongside with the familiar notes appeal me more than the easy-going OWH.

OWH

7/10

LROK

8.5/10

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.


Colour:

Golden orange-y

Nose:

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.

Taste:

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.

Finish:

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.

10/10

Review #9: Veritas/Probitas Rum

Veritas: latin noun: Truth

Probitas: latin noun: Honesty or Goodness

Veritas or Probitas rum (depending on where you live) was made with the intention of truth and honesty. Something that has lacked in the rum world for years and something that many people in the world of rum have been advocating. Think of Luca Gargano and his pure single rums, Richard Seale and his expansive facebook-teachings about pure rum making in accordance with rum heritage. There are also some bloggers and general enthusiasts that are deeply passionate about this honesty in the product (one of the most outspoken has to be Ivar).

Truly, these people are fighting the good fight for this wonderful spirit. (Pure Single) Rum is a beautiful spirit that in no way has to bow down to the well-established Single Malt Whisky. I’d even say that some rums far outdo some whiskies… Then again, I’m quite biased.

Veritas rum is a blend of an unaged double retort pot still from the Hampden distillery, an unaged Coffey column still from the Foursquare distillery and a 2-year aged pot still from that same Foursquare distillery. The 2 years of aging explains the slight yellow colour of the liquid. as opposed to other “white” rums, which are completely clear.

As the back label clearly and with an unabashed jab at a certain company states: “unsullied by sophistic dosage”. This shows once more that Mr. Seale is an absolute purist regarding rum and a man who’s not afraid to take the piss out of, well… a certain someone (on a back label nonetheless). What a legend.

Apart from Richard Seale, this is a three-way collaboration with Luca Gargano and Vivian Wisdom, about as holy a trinity you can have in rum. These three gents have put forward a rum that should represent what “unaged” or “white” rum looked like in the distant past, before the massive industrialization of immense column still installations which basically produce glorified vodka.

For most people, the first contact with rum is the white Bacardi or Havana club or something likewise. The clear liquid that comes out of those bottles and fuels the nights of many a wild college party is widely recognized as (to say it politely) not really that great in quality. People start to think that white rum, and rum in general doesn’t really have a particularly pleasant flavour and therefore tell people who like and promote the spirit “oh I’m not really a rum person, I just don’t like the way it smells or tastes”.

This is a shame because, once again, rum is an amazing spirit. Even “White” rum is astonishingly delicious (if not distilled up to the point that it would be more at home in a hospital than on a backbar). One only has to know where to look. To give people an easier time looking, the trifecta of aforementioned people have brought us Veritas. The truth about what rum really was all along. Just a great f*cking tipple, be it neat or in a cocktail.

The rum should cost about €30, so I urge everyone to do two things; buy a bottle yourself and stalk your local bar to get a bottle. You and your bartender will thank me.

Enough promotion, tasting time


Colour:

Nearly colourless, apart from a golden wheat-y glow. It looks like a watered down white wine (boy would I be disappointed if it actually tastes like that)

Nose:

Nope, no watered down white wine here. A familiar scent of Jamaican pot still welcomes me, although it is mellowed down a bit, due to the “lighter” Foursquare in this blend. It’s like meeting an old friend whom you went drinking with back in the day (let’s call him Tony) and finding out he’s married with children; he’s a better and more complete man, but the beast seems to have died a bit.

That’s my completely out of context nose about this one. But in actual scents the comparison rings true, all the familiar Hampden notes are present, but tamed a bit. Like marriage with Tony, this makes for a more well-rounded result, though not as fun.

Noteworthy is that the scent gives a creamy and citrus-y impression

Flavour:

And again just like with good old Tony, the first sip of alcohol releases the beast… somewhat. Yes, the pot still part is more present. The rum feels quite thick, oily and full. Heavier notes are more prevalent here, some baked banana and pineapple. Also a bit of coconut. This all blends nicely with the Bajan parts, which give the rum a certain natural sweetness of caramel and molasses. Overall a pleasant and balanced blend of these 2 rum powerhouses.

Tasting the rum neat is not really what it’s meant for, it’s actually more positioned towards cocktails and mixing in general. So, let’s make a frickin’ daiquiri!

The recipe I’ve used is this: 60ml Veritas, juice of 1 lime (30ml), 2 barspoons of granulated sugar. I decided not to add too much sugar since the rum has some sweetness to it already. The verdict of the daiquiri test is marvelous, this daiquiri is amazing (if I do say so myself). The rum carries enough power without being overly dominant and the citrus to sugar ratio is just right (for me), which gives a nice fresh cocktail.

Finish:

The finish is medium. The balance continues to the end and a nice mix of fruit, caramel and coconut finish the experience in a satisfying, though not extremely exciting way.


As a neat sipper this is a solid “white” rum and it will present the drinker with a nice blend of two of the great rum distilleries in rum. Not too much or too little of either one. As a “white” sipper I’d give the rum a 8/10

As a cocktail though, this rating is insufficient. A well-made daiquiri on a sunny day can brighten ones week and give the daiquiri cocktail as a concept a ray of hope in a world of massive frozen strawberry daiquiris. As a cocktail rum, this gets a well-deserved 10/10

As an overall rating, this is a 9/10 rum, since it’s more focused on being a mixing rum and well… Tony is more of a cocktail guy anyway.

9/10

Review #8: Habitation Velier Hampden LROK 2010

Today I’m grabbing another Hampden, yeah! Because times are tough and I just like a good old glass of pot still goodness. Fight me. The drink-away-your-loneliness rum of today is the Habitation Velier Hampden 2010 LROK, and boy does it get rid of my loneliness.

So this is probably one of my first Jamaican rums I ever bought and it still amazes me to this day. Everything about this bottle just gives me a warm fuzzy feeling on the inside. The old time-y pharmacy style of the bottle that must be an absolute b*tch to put on your production line, the beautiful illustration of the double retort pot still, the simplistic yet informative label on the front and back of the bottle, and of course the 67% ABV. After drinking a couple of drams of this high ABV beast you will get a warm and fuzzy feeling regardless. That’s the Hampden guarantee for you.

This is a independent bottling of a Hampden rum, well, kind of independent. Mr. Gargano’s Habitation Velier collaborates very closely with the distilleries who’s rum they sell. In fact, the Habitation Velier brand is basically a distillery bottling, but under a different name. A specific marque of a specific vintage is chosen, the bottles and labels are shipped to the distillery, where bottling also happens. Then the full bottles are shipped back to Europe, ready for distribution. What a wonderful way of doing business. Distilleries get put in the spotlight and they enjoy the company of other highly prestigious and bottlings in the Habitation line. Consumers get the some of the purest rums available from that distillery, and Velier gains even more fans and admirers.

I’d also just like to remind everyone again. Before Hampden started releasing their own in-house brand of rum, you could only get Hampden from independent bottlers and the Habitation Velier bottlings were and still are as good as it gets.

As per usual I’ll run over the specs before we get started on tasting. The rum in this bottle has been distilled back in 2010 and has aged for 6 years, with a total angel share of over 40%. It’s 100% discontinued double retort pot still rum. The rum contains 375gr/laa of esters, which makes it fall in the LROK (Light Rum Owen Kelly) marque, and it’s bottled at an absolutely amazing 67% ABV.


Colour:

Orange, slightly golden-brown. At only 6 years of aging, this looks like a very mature rum. This just shows how intense tropical aging can be.

Nose:

On the nose this rum is quite deep and compares more towards the in-house (also high in ABV) hampden overproof. Firstly I get raisins that spent a couple of days soaking in rum. Some Vanilla and  a banana pie also come to mind. My nose does get tickly thanks to the high ABV, and the tiniest bit of alcoholic smells peep through. After a while the lighter Jamaican staples come back up. The pineapple and funky banana come through a bit, but overall I get a deeper darker note from this one.

Taste:

Oh yeah, the alcohol is noticeable, though not disruptive. The alcohol gives a more fiery feeling that reminds me of BBQ chicken with some incredible spicy hot sauce. That warm fuzzy feeling overtakes me and I break a little joyous sweat.

After a couple of sips the dark and deep notes that were previously prevalent in the nose and the first sips open up towards lighter and fruitier notes. The classic fruits of Jamaican rum are present, but they were also but on the same BBQ as that delicious chicken. Yeah, the fruits are here, but the high alcohol gives them another dimension that’s weirdly pleasing. Especially if you’re used to those high and light flavours, this gives a nice deep alternative.

Finish:

The finish is long! No surprises there. After some time the roasted fruity notes give way to more oak-y notes and a bit of chocolate sprinkled banana.

The finish is definitely pleasant, so pleasant in fact that I would consider not eating or drinking anything for the rest of the day, just so the flavour stays in my mouth for the remainder of it.


Overall, this is a great rum. Pure, unadulterated, honest and deep. For Hampden it’s a low ester rum and it’s noticeable, the high fruity notes and the kick-in-your-face high ester count aren’t present. Instead, habitation Velier chose a lower ester count with more warmth and dark notes. They switched the face kicking from ester count to ABV and they did a very good job doing so, giving a hot sauce-like feeling to this purely Jamaican rum

9/10

Review #4: Hampden Pure Single Jamaican Rum 46% & 60%

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:


46%

Colour:

Light gold-ish brown, almost like the perfect French fry. Lovely light natural colour, obvious that there are no additives to alter the colour.

Nose:

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

Taste:

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

Finish:

The finish is pleasant, but nothing extraordinary. Not too long, nor too short. Just a pleasant finish where the fruit lingers somewhat.


60%

Colour:

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…).

Nose:

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.

Taste:

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

Finish:

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

46%:

8/10

60%:

7.5/10