You know things are bad for transparency in Scotch whisky when a rum distillery out-transparencies you.
And when we talk about transparency here on Malt, we’re not talking about cheap marketing versions, where brands want to be able to sell more Scotch by fiddling with regulations. We’re talking about full-on, warts n’all production values. Adam skewered the whisky industry’s notion of transparency in his recent review of the Longrow Red, comparing the amount of info you get with a bottle of wine compared to what Scotch producers are willing to share.
Now, rum happens to be, on the whole, a good deal less transparent than Scotch. You don’t even know where things are distilled half the time on an indie bottle, let alone how the stuff was made. So I was rather delighted when I looked at the Hampden Estate website.
Admittedly, it isn’t much. But they’re talking about “High Rum Esters” and yeast strains and fermentation and the kind of things that actually we’re rather interested in at Malt. Dating back to the 1750s, Hampden, then, is one of Jamaica’s famous distilleries, but the only one that focuses on heavy pot still rums. In fact, that’s what makes it a unique character – that and its obsession with fermentation and esters.
Going back to that fermentation thing, the process by which we get flavours in booze, the period can last from a fortnight to a month at Hampden. A good Scotch distillery proud of its production process will probably go over 60-odd hours. A less proud one, as little as 48 hours. (Bladnoch, I’m looking at you.) Springbank goes up to 110 hours. In Ireland, Waterford Distillery (which I’m personally connected to) allows up to a hefty 120 hours for a secondary fermentation to take place.
But a month? That’s insane.
Anyway, let’s get on with tasting this rum – both myself and Jason had samples kindly sent to us this time, so we’re doubling up.
The Whisky Barrel has released a 17 Year Old Hampden rum from Berry Bros & Rudd. It was distilled in September 2000, and matured in cask number #31 – and it is very possible this was matured in Europe, as is the way with many rums. (Again, in this day and age we’d like to know more.) Bottled at 55.4% ABV, only 220 rums were released at £75.60 a go. This goes to show that these days rum is no longer a cheap alternative to single malt whisky – it’s simply an alternative.
The Whisky Barrel 17 Year Old Hampden 2000 Berry Bros & Rudd – Review
Colour: old gold.
On the nose: resin, pine needles, very herbal to me. It’s sweet indeed, with tons of top notes. Candied fruits. Barley sugar. A touch of fennel and mint, with green apples eventually. Mangos, pineapple. Green tomatoes.
In the mouth: stem ginger warmth, a little woody, with stacks of citrus and sugar. Lemon curd. That metallic hint returns, with green apples again, pineapple, kiwi fruit. Fresh stuff indeed, with a little woody and acidic sourness from grapefruit. A little solventy perhaps.
It’s a nice rum. There’s enough complexity for a single cask, and it’s certainly one that whisky drinkers will like. Close enough for those who like a lighter, high-end flavoured cask strength dram (sort of Aultmore or Linkwoods), and there’s some grit and character here. Rough enough around the edges to make me think there’s some character and swagger, which one finds less and less these days.
Colour: gold leaf
On the nose: a real evocative mix of sugary sweetness, floral notes and metallic thrust. Molten caramel merges with bashed copper, kumquat, raspberry jam, a touch paraffin wax and wood glue. Returning reveals more sugars, pineapple cubes, orange peel, a mahogany oak richness and resin freshly scrapped from a tree.
In the mouth: that pungent wood aspect continues onto the palate with more the wood glue from high school, varnish, pencil shavings, cooking apples, mango and golden syrup. A revitalising oiliness, green bananas and pineapple rings.
This Hampden rum offers character in aplomb, but retains a poise and elegance. I never added water to mine, as there was a rich seam of flavours and aromas at cask strength. There’s plenty to discover, a juiciness and vibrancy sadly lacking in many of today’s whiskies. So yeah, a thumbs up here and a good price for what’s on offer.