Rum Review : Renegade Pre-cask series

Yet another long interval splits two of my reviews. I’m sensing a theme here.

This time, to make up lost time and reviews, I’ll be tasting the range of THE hottest new thing in rum. Renegade rum’s pre-casks. Well… when I say, the hottest new thing I basically mean; a new brand, new distillery but one with massive respect for older practices.

Renegade is the new venture of Mark Reynier, the man who brought Bruichladdich back to what it is today and who created the Irish Whisky distillery of Waterford. A whisky mirroring the world of wine in many senses. From its single farm expressions to the Organically and Biodynamically grown barley for their respective whiskies and eventually the Cuvées and Micro-Cuvées. Selecting the best fields, barley, and maturation that give -supposedly- the best whisky.

But this is not about whisky. we’re talking rum here. Renegade has the same general idea as Waterford. Creating a spirit that differs noticeably from terroir to terroir. Terroir is a principle mainly connected with wine and its grapes. The idea is that the environment is very important for the characteristics in the grapes that are grown in certain regions, this entails: soil, temperature, sunlight, water, moisture,… It’s a very significant part of wine-making as the end result (wine) lies very close to its raw material (grapes). In distillates, the idea of terroir has always been seen as mumbo-jumbo, something for the marketeers.

This is what Mr. Reynier is trying to disprove. He’s made it his mission to prove terroir makes an actual difference. I won’t judge on his endeavors in whisky here. But let’s see what these principles bring to rum. And he’s doing it in Grenada, the home of River Antoine. A location chosen by the wide variety of landscapes that should let the Terroir shine through.

I’ll be trying 5 rums, all of which are completely unaged and at 50% ABV:

Old Bacolet: Here we have a terroir which lies on the Southern cost of the Island. It’s a flat flood plain between two rivers. The high availability of water and clay combine for a luscious growth of cane. Here they use a cane variety they call CAIN. Distillation was done by pot still.

New Bacolet: A south-facing, steep-sided, sunbaked bowl. A location with more slopes and a rougher growing location than Old Bacolet. Here they use the Lacalome Red cane variety and distil using pot stills.

Dunfermline: Dunfermline also lies on a slope, on the north-eastern coast of the Island. Here we have two expressions, both from the same field, same cane, but different distillation. One pot still, the other column still.

Pearls: On a coastal plain, with an Iron-rich Volcanic underground, the cane used here is called Yellow Lady and the distillation is also through pot still.

 Old Bacolet (comparative tasting with New Bacolet)

Colour:

White

Nose:

Fat and sweet grass. It almost has fruity qualities, I’m getting apples, pears and even a beginning of raspberries and other red fruits. Nail polish and cleaning supplies too.

Taste:

Vey different than the nose. Here the I have some nettles, mint, and hay. The cleaning supplies turned to metal. A mix of sweet and salt. Very punchy.

Finish:

Long finish with little development. The freshness lasts for quite a while without revealing a lot of new flavours

New Bacolet (comparative tasting with Old Bacolet)

Colour:

See-through

Nose:

Much more “classic” Agricole nose. Fresher and minty with a considerable amount of minerals. Scallops, dill, and seaweed.

Taste:

Still has a very dry taste. Very fresh with lots of citrus. Grass in a glass. This reminds me of a good Marie-Galante rum. Also some olive brine after a bit.

Finish:

Also quite long with much of the same characteristics hanging on. These Bacolets are similar in flavour development, yet they do have very different “base flavours”

Dunfermline: Colum still (comparative tasting with Pot Still)

Colour:

Never saw a cask in its life

Nose:

Smells like the fruits & vegetable department of my local supermarket. Fresh salads mixed with a hint of summer-y fruits and some low-fat Greek yogurt.

Taste:

Fresh , pointy. White peppers combined disinfected grass. A bit harsh and extremely aggressive on the palate. It tastes as though it’ll be extremely proficient against Covid.

Finish:

Due to the intensity and sharpness of the rum, this lingers for a while. Perhaps a bit too long. Let’s quickly get to the Pot Still.

Dunfermline: Pot Still (comparative tasting with Collumn Still)

Colour:

Water-like

Nose:

Much fuller than its columned companion. This reminds me of the Providence First drops. Meat, olives, grass that’s been lying in the sun for a couple of days.

Taste:

Much better and well-balanced as well. It’s rather fat and really sticks to the palate. The meat takes a step back to expose the fresher elements more, but it still provides a nice coating for a gentle experience. Though it still has some peppers, it’s a benefit here as it complements the complexity instead of adding aggressiveness like with the column distilled sibling.

Finish:

The finish here is medium-long and adds some subtle smoky notes. I’m very curious what a cask will do with this.

Pearls

Colour:

Glass, but liquid (I’ve run out of ways to say it looks clear)

Nose:

Very funky, overripe everything. Some Jamaican funk. Marinated meat and olives overwhelm me with the first sniff. After a while, the nose opens up nicely to reveal some red fruits; raspberry’s, blueberry’s and even some strawberry’s

Taste:

Same funky qualities, this could easily compete with the Jamaican heavy-hitters. Lots of minerality as well. At first, there’s a lot of full flavours, the meat and mineral rocks are very prevalent at the start. only towards the end do the vegetal qualities start coming through.

Finish:

Here I’m getting that transition from full and fat to grassy and fresh. It never fully changes but this gives it a nicely complex and lasting finish. I guess this tasting was really building up to a climax.

Conclusion :

Overall, the tasting notes here are almost identical with every rum. This is of course normal as they’re so closely related and all unaged. It was mainly the balance and depth of those similar flavours that sets them apart and makes some great and others not so much. Let’s give out some points. Old and New Bacolet were decent enough but will have to develop with ageing to stand out. Dunfermline column was sharp and aggressive, not my thing. Things really got good at the Dunfermline Pot still and the Pearls. Both rums with something special going on. Full-bodied and with a varying degree of funkiness.

Old Bacolet: 7/10

New Bacolet: 7/10

Dunfermline Column: 5/10

Dunfermline Pot: 7.5/10

Pearls: 8/10

Rum Review : Habitation Velier Mhoba 2017

Mhoba, a name that doesn’t ring a bell to most casual drinkers, but one that sounds like Big Ben to rumlovers all over the world. What is Mhoba you may ask, and where does the name come from?

Mhoba means ‘sugarcane’ in SiSwati, the language of the Native Swazi people from the rum’s country of origin, South Africa. Mhoba is the creation of Robert Greaves, a former mechanical engineering student from the Stellenbosch University (They have some great wines in Stellenbosch as well) turned distiller.

So here we have a rum made from sugarcane juice in distilled in pot stills. This is starting to yell clairin or providence… and wait what? The stills are self-built, okay it’s screaming now.

These self-built stills are said to be high reflux, which means more contact with the still -> more condensation -> “lighter” and “fruitier” rum. We’ll see. With everything I’ve already listed up here, this should be a blaster of a rum. I mean, vegetal and fresh grass from the juice, character from the pot still and a subtler palate from the high amount of reflux. Good god man! For a country with basically no significant rum-history this sure looks pretty good.

Let’s round of with a quick spec runover: This rum has been distilled in 2017 from the Nkomazi sugarcane juice in 100% Pot Stills. It was then aged for four years in ex-bourbon casks and then bottled at a full proof of 64.6% ABV and 571.3Gr/HLAA congeners of which 246.1gr/HLAA are those beloved esters.

Colour:

Straw with a light green hue around the edge

Nose:

A dirty, oily and fat vegetable patch. That’s the first thing that pops into my mind. Some maltiness when nosed from afar. After some nosing the fruity qualities come through. Plums, burnt banana and a very Hampden-like ester (including varnish).

The nose is also quite pepper-y and oak-y which adds a nice extra layer.

Taste:

This hits with the full 64.6%; spice, warmth and alcohol galore on the first sip. On the palate you’d hardly say this is sugarcane juice based, as it’s really warm and full. After the first couple of tear-inducing seconds the palate opens up to reveal the grass in contrast to the Agricole style this grass is summer-y warm, hot grass summer is a thing (sorry I had to do it). The grass mixes with a very dry type of vanilla, caramel and oak. I’m finding an abundance of spice as well.

I’m also getting raisins and nougat here alongside a whole bunch of spice. There’s a real nice bite to this full rum without being overly viscous.  Awesome glass of rum

Finish:

The spice lingers on for quite a while. The more subtler flavours leave soon and leave spice, wood some of that dry caramel.

This is a pretty stunning rum, especially for such a young distillery in a country that has very little to do with rum and is focused more on wine. A very good balance between esters, fruit and wood. There was a bit much of mouth-numbing spice at times but the moment this faded away, an array of complexity stood waiting for me. I’ll definitely be looking out for more releases of these. (perhaps at a bit lower ABV).

9.5/10

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

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 #17: Rivers Antoine

Looking forward by looking back

The obscure cult-legend of Grenada: River Antoine Royal Grenadian rum. What is there to say to fans and where to begin for a layman?

The distillery was established in 1785. A bit later than big names like Mount Gay (the longest still operating distillery in the world, 1703), Appleton estate (1749) and Worthy Park (1740’s). But contrary to all these distilleries, Antoine stayed in the 18th century in all its pre-industrial glory or backwardness, however you see it.

Everything about the distillery is old. The cane is pressed by a water powered cane mill, the stills are heated by locally scavenged wood. There’s no controlling equipment whatsoever, so the rum is never quite the same, in flavour profile or ABV. Therefore, the percentage mentioned on the bottle is just a general guideline. There are 2 -let’s call them- expressions; one for local consumption, which is bottled with at an ABV of at least 75% and one for export (of which there’s very little) which is bottled at around 69% (nice).

The distillery has earned it cult status with rum fanatics (more specifically with the hogo-niche) through its wild fermentation, wildly inefficient yet very flavourful distillation and the whole mystique surrounding this rum.

This is only a short summary based on The CocktailWonk’s article of what the distillery actually is. It’s a great read, a deep dive that’s at once educational and easy-reading. Read it! Now!

The bottle in my possession, I got from Spirit Academy. They recently dropped a small amount of bottles, again thanks to Gargano, who is understandably a fan of the distillery. So getting it to Europe in a small quantity was his latest pet project.

The bottle’s aesthetic (if you can call it that) is very artisanal and authentic or cheap and Lidl/Aldi-ish, however you see it.

Colour:

I’m running out of ways to say something is clear. So you know… it’s … it’s clear, and pretty see through… yeah…

Nose:

A very deep and heavy nose presents itself straight out of the glass. Almost nothing like the funky Jamaican rums. Comparable to Clairin, but heavier and with less grassy notes.

This smells more like briny sardines that’ve been laid in the grass and dirt for a little while. And then put into their tin can, the salt still quite present. At times the alcohol really comes out with a whiff of eyewatering pungency; If your nose is dear to you, don’t put it to far in the glass as I just did, twice (what’s that saying about a donkey and a rock?).

After some breathing the rum reveals some lighter notes; grass, some varnish and tropical fruits come up. Quite the varying nose.

Taste:

Yes, sweet Mary mother of Jesus and all that’s holy !!! This is something to careful with. It’s like drinking gasoline that’s on fire, then eating a cigarette. Yet I want to go straight back for another sip. The second and third sip are still challenging, hot and spicy. To be honest, the sheer power of it all never really subsides.

The full 69% is just hardly drinkable and enjoyable for any mere mortal.

Here’s my attempt at some actual tasting notes: the palate is very dry, leaning on sour. The briny and oily nose extends through the taste as well, though the fish doesn’t accompany it. More varnish and spice are along for the ride.

Finish:

The finish is more of the same. A warm hearth filled with peat remains for minutes. Other than that there are trace amounts of the varnish and spice are also present.

This really is the rum equivalent of the exorcist. All the while you’re drinking it, you’re thinking “What the hell am I doing?” and you’re thinking over all of your lives decisions. Yet it still manages to intrigue, it still challenges you to tame it. Even though you know you’ll never truly be able to handle and understand it completely, you’re still chasing that ultimate Nirvana of conquering the beast. Actually; I’ll change my comparison, it’s probably like a bad heroin habit.

Personally (and by now, unsurprisingly) I like it. It’s challenging, interesting and nothing like I’ve ever drunk. This being said, it really is a manic assault on the senses and the mouth as a whole and I believe the novice of it all can wear of pretty fast and it can get boringly brutish. That’s why I’ll give it two scores. One for all you crazy psychopaths (of which I’m partly one), and one for regular people. I can only recommend giving it a try, if you find one out there in the wild. You might love it, you might hate it. But it’ll blow you out of the water regardless

Self-destructive-sadomasochistic-wax-play-fetish-score

10/10

Everyone else

5/5

Overall

7.5/10

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 #15: Bar Ran’s funky juice

The first of many?

Here we are with a very special bottle (to me anyways). Today’s review will be the funkiest juice bottled by the funkiest man I know. Bar Ran’s funky juice.

Okay, so for anyone who’s not really into the cocktail scene or Belgian bar scene; let me explain.

Ran Van Ongevalle is one of the best (if not the best bartenders) in Belgium, Europe and the world. In 2017 he won Bacardi Legacy with his cocktail Clarita. He was co-owner of The Pharmacy Knokke and worked in The Artesian in London; after which he opened his own summer pop-up ‘Palo Cortado’ in 2019, which was so successful it was extended into the winter. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic he opened his permanent Bar: Bar Ran. I do wonder how he got the inspiration for the name.

Full disclosure, I worked with or for him for a couple of years, but since I’m not on his payroll anymore, I can say whatever the hell I want.

The summer of 2020 was a hot one, which means it was perfect to make buttloads of daiquiris. With rums ranging from Rum Fire and Savannah HERR (of which we sold out one whole bottle in 2 hours) to foursquare Sagacity and even Velier Royal Navy Tiger Shark and so much more, it’s safe to say we made a LOT of daiquiris.

After a summer full of daiquiris, during the second Covid-wave and the lockdown, Ran decided to bottle his own rum. So people could take a bit of Bar Ran’s identity home with them.

The rum chosen for this special bottling hails from the Lluidas Vale and it possesses the WPE marque… now that we all know what distillery the rum is from, we can all set our expectations astronomically high. The juice is unaged and bottled at 63% and it clocks in at an ester count of 393.11g/HLPA . The bottling is a collaboration between 1423.dk (Denmark), The Nectar (Belgium) and Bar Ran (Belgium). And only 132 bottles have been produced.

All bottles have already sold out, so you won’t be able to grab one. Though visiting the bar might enable you to try it, the way you should. With a crazy show by the man himself.

Enough talking, let’s see if the rum is any good. I’m going to try it neat and in a daiquiri (because wintertime and 2°c is a great time to drink daiquiri’s, shut up Karen)


Colour:

As transparent as the Black Tot 50th anniversary back label.

Nose:

Nail polisher and paint remover, the first nosing will burn those pesky nosehairs straight off. Forget a nose trimmer, this’ll do the trick. It’s so outrageously in your face and revolting. I think I’m in love.

But all kidding aside. The first nosing is pretty hefty. The chemical top notes are overly present at first. they do settle down and make way for a more buttery nose which is much more pleasant

Taste:

The aggressive fucker comes in swinging with its full 63% 393.11g/HLPA bodyweight.  But he subsides pretty fast to make place for a somewhat more complex (yet still not docile) palate. I get a bit of dark chocolate with some chili. This chili transforms into hot wings (I guess this’ll be great with Jamaican Jerk chicken). The meatiness extends in a fairly thick and chewy texture.

Another flavour I get is one of distilling malt whisky or Poitín, the malty qualities add another interesting and unexpected layer.

Finish:

The finish is medium-long . And it does a proper good job at warming my insides. Boy oh boy, I know what I’m going to add a smidge of in my egg nog this Christmas.

A warm pure chocolate taste stays a bit. Accompanied by a longer lasting peppery note.


As a sipping rum, I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. don’t get me wrong, its a cool experience to get to know the more extreme sides of our totally unknown Lluidas Vale distillery. But it’s not something to be drunk on a weekday after a long day at work, think more of a pre-drink before a techno rave to get those freak-juices flowing.

As a daiquiri (60ml Funky Juice, 30ml lime, 2 barspoons crystallized sugar) it does not disappoint. The aggressiveness is toned down by the lime and sugar to a nice balance of punch and freshness. This transports you to a summery beach in Jamaica. As a whole it still packs a punch, but it’s less disruptive and more fun as a cocktail. I do have to admit, the Veritas is still better

As a drinking rum

6/10

As a Daiquiri

7/10

Overall

6.5/10

Review #13: Providence First Drops

We’re back baby!!!

After months of laziness, procrastination and lack of motivation or time I’m back once again. I know your lives have been empty as a clam without pearl or you know… you guys with an empty rum cabinet (oh the horror) . But hey, at least I’m back now (who knows for how long).

Okay enough narcissism, let’s talk rum. And boy have I got a good one today. Because today I have the first drops of the latest and greatest new rum in the Caribbean: Providence.

The Providence rum is distilled in the recently opened ‘Distillerie de Port-Au-Prince’ in Haiti. The distillery was opened thanks to a collaboration between La Maison & Velier and the Barbancourt-Linge family. Yes, that Barbancourt and yes, that Maison&velier. So, a distillery opened by Europe’s most important rum importer, one of Europe’s most important liquor stores and a Haitian rum dynasty. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as it appears, absolutely nothing. The distillery opened in 2018 with a Muller still and its first product is spot on. It’s a distillate of both fresh cane juice and syrup of crystalline sugar. The sugar is sourced by Michel Sajous. Yes, that Sajous (boy, a lot of big names here innit?). The juice and syrup are fermented separately and are then also distilled separately in the Muller still which will always distill in Bain-Marie. After the first distillation both parts are mixed and distilled a second time. This whole process produces an unaged discontinued rum like it was made by Barbancourt up until 1992.

The presentation is quite picturesque as well. A nice old-timey label with old-school, calligraphy-type lettering and cute drawing make it look like a bottle of yore.

Some last information: the rum is bottled at 57%, it has a volatile substance count of 538.9mg/HLPA and an ester count (for all you ester geeks out there) of 212.2gr/HLPA. (as per this post)

this version (First Drops) will be limited (no idea how many bottles are available) but Providence will drop a standard rum which should lessen the thirst of many a rum lover for the foreseeable future.

Let’s taste this piece of Haitian history.

Colour:

Have you ever seen bottled or tap water (not the Flint, Michigan type though)? Yeah that colour

Nose:

Have you ever smelled water? Yeah, nothing like that. Absolutely nothing like that. It’s more as though Clairin Sajous and a light, lovely Mezcal did the horizontal naked cha-cha and 9 months later this came out.

It’s got that grassy tone of clairin with a whiff of smoke surrounding it. It’s like one of those grilled burger commercials with all the over the top smoke in the background but with cane instead of burgers.

After a while the smoke fades away and we are left with a tropical (albeitethanol-fueled) fruit bouquet.  Some apricots, a bite of pear and a leaf of orange blossom. It also has a slight creamy nose to it, a bit yoghurt-y-ish-kinda.

Taste:

On the palate the first sip is really refreshing. Almost none of the smoke is transferred to the taste, instead I’m treated to fresh pineapples red fruits. Of course there’s plenty of grass to go around. Everything is coated with a very familiar Clairin-like vibe.

The rum also has something rather meaty and tarry to me. Here the smoke makes the occasional return; it’s almost like I can chew it a bit, it’s a lovely weird umami mouthfeel and something I don’t get often from a rum. This chewy (no not that chewy) side can also sporadically be found in the yoghurt-y flavour.

Finish:

It also has to be noted that there is a very spicy side to it as well. As soon as I swallow it’s spice island all the way: pepper, ginger and a substantial yet not unpleasant alcohol burn. This is complimented by some notes of coffee and dark chocolate.

To conclude, this is a blasting sugarcane juice/syrup rum. More complex than clairin or any Agricole I’ve tried so far, definitely much bolder than the Agricoles. It is quite in your face however so it’s more positioned for the more experienced drinker. To me this is a more daring and more complete Clairin.

It could also be tamed a bit in a ‘Ti Punch or world class Daiquiri made by Ran (shameless plug to Bar Ran in Bruges here and here).

As a first release from a fresh distillery I’m very curious about what’s to come from this collaborative effort. Great job so far.

9.5/10

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