Now that rum has been getting more attention, there is more discussion comparing rum to whisky. Why should the superior whisky drinkers try this sugar-cane spirit infested with pirate marketing, myths of lawlessness, unpretentious low prices and sugarlandia? I’ll discuss those issues at another time. But for the purposes of this review, let me take advantage of the fact that the comparisons are being discussed. If there is peated whisky to represent a more extreme flavor spectrum in whisky, rum has estery and funky Jamaican rum.
Hampden Pure Single Jamaican Rum. For those who have been following the rum scene, reading “Pure Single Rum” on the label may be a dead giveaway that Luca Gargano of Velier is involved. (I’m a big fan of Luca and his work.) Despite Luca’s handprints being all over this one, the project isn’t his alone. This 46% ABV Hampden and its Overproof sibling (60%) are under La Maison & Velier.
LM&V bought all of the aging and aged Hampden stock in the distillery some time ago. From what I know, these two are the first OB-aged releases of Hampden Distillery in 250 years. The distillery changed hands and saw hard times until Christelle Harris and her family acquired Hampden. Before these original bottlers, AKA “OBs,” they’ve been distilling rum but bottling them as Rum Fire or selling them to rum brokers in Europe like E&A Scheer. I would also like to mention that high ester Jamaican rums are also sold to be used in make-up.
I would love to say that this a great rum to present to those who want an introduction to sipping Jamaican rum, but I would be wrong. Zan Kong’s Worthy Park Estate and Appleton’s 12 Year make good cases, too, but they are not made in the same style as Hampden. All three are distilled and aged in Jamaica. All three are not allowed to be dosed, as the Jamaican GI does not allow it. Here are some differences, though. While Jamaican rum is famous for its funky flavor, created by long fermentation and pot distillation, Appleton/Wray uses column stills. Worthy Park, like Hampden, uses only pot stills and wild yeast. Finally, Worthy Park does not use dunder (think of sour mash) in distilling, while Hampden does.
For the sake of not leaving out other Jamaican rum distilleries, I’ll point out that there are other rum distilleries in Jamaican like Long Pond and Clarendon/Monymusk. However, Long Pond was just re-opened and doesn’t have any OB releases yet. The only releases I know of are from Habitation Velier (aged and unaged), Plantation (aged) and some other whisky IBs like Duncan Taylor (aged). Clarendon/Monymusk has some OB releases in the market, but I have not tried them. Much of their rum out in the market are used for blending by brands like Plantation and bottled by IBs.
Peaty whisky uses PPM as an easier means to measure and present how peaty a certain whisky is; rum uses ester counts. Peat heads will know that a higher PPM does not mean a peatier whisky. The same applies to ester count.
What are esters? Basically, it’s an indication for how funky the rum will be. If you want more details, check this out. Unlike PPM, the range of ester counts in Jamaica has names. Distilleries refer to these as marks.
Distilled in a Double retort pot still, this style of rum is known as Pure single rum. Bottled at 46% and 7 years of age, it was fully matured in the Tropics. Mark: A blend of OWH (40-80 gr/hL AA ester), LROK (200-400 gr/hL AA ester) and DOK (1500-1600 gr/hL AA ester) of the vintages 2010 and 2011. (Counts taken from Barrel Aged Thoughts.)
Hampden Pure Single Jamaican Rum – review
On the nose: Aggressive and muddled scents of fermented pineapples, banana syrup, nutmeg, maraschino cherries and Fuji apples. Hints of dusty wooden furniture, burnt rubber and leather.
In the mouth: Peppers, nutmeg, vanilla, honey, dark cocoa nibs, burnt citrus oil, wooden furniture and hints of petrol, followed by rotten bananas and leather to end.
The mental image going through my mind is that of a fruit salad neglected for weeks by a consistently passed-out hippie. During that period, the juices of the fruit and essence of the room form an unknown slop that turns out to taste unbelievably good. The top part being the nose, which greets you with that fruitiness; then as you dig deeper, you find some surprises. Less fruit, but more delicious funk you did not know you wanted.
It’s a pretty flexible rum due to the price point. At about $50 USD retail, it’s good for sipping and will do a great job in cocktails. I don’t see any other rum like Hampden in this price range, despite there being other Jamaican rum on the market.
One more note: There is an inconsistency with the age statement. The front says 8 years, but the back says 7. The reputable online stores and bloggers I follow choose to say 7 years, so I will follow their lead.
Thanks again for a really informative article. I saw you called yourself a geek recently in a comment. Thanks for geeking so we don’t have too. I was particularly interested in the ester found and letters as I’d seen similar on independent bottles but had not understood them.
The review was interesting too as I’ve tried the Overproof and it was really too burnt plastic and plasticine for me, which I assume is some of that funk? But I could see why that flavour is sought after for mixing because as a mixer it really carries the flavour through into the final drink despite whatever mixers you throw at it.
Thanks for the comment. You’re welcome. Geeking out is fun!
I suggest you check this out for more details on what some of the other terms mean for Jamaican rum http://thelonecaner.com/r0566/.
I haven’t had the over proof version of this. But the burnt plastic makes is something I usually get over proof spirits. The funk, when talking about Jamaican rum, are the fermented fruit notes.
Are you used to drinking estery rum? I find that people not used to it can’t get past the harshness at 1st. But as the palate gets a chance to “calibrate” the rum tastes different a week later.
Excellent review John and I’m enjoying this journey into rum that Malt is encouraging. Rum is such an interesting drink when you shed all the garbage on the supermarket shelf. It has a wealth of history; dark history and, hell, let’s say it, terroir. My own history with Hampden was via the Habitation Velier offerings, the first ever to be completely aged at the the Hampden Distillery, and then the Kill Devil before bagging this one and the Overproof. I’m not sure what the relationship is with Velier but these official Hampdens come in identical bottles to previous Velier releases, particularly Caroni. Anyway, I was very keen to taste ‘official’ Hampden.
So, plenty of estery funk going on but quite approachable. Like Islay peat there’s a lot going on past the pong. The usual overripe tropical fruit, particularly banana, lime, green olives, some fresh spice (nutmeg and, especially, clove) and, I’m in total agreement, a dash of petrol. This is a damn fine drink and just as good as any whisky for the money. The Overproof is the same juice beefed up a bit. Both highly respectable distillery offerings but Velier and Kill Devil (Hunter Laing) are doing some fantastic stuff as well. Tragically, I had to explain to a British/Jamaican friend of mine that this sort of stuff exists. He had no idea. Appleton or white rum was it. When I drink rum like this I am transported to the place of origin (in this case Jamaica) and I’m tasting the island, its culture and history. Cheers John. WT
Thanks for the encouraging comment.
When I “applied” to contribute to Malt, I promised Mark and Jason that I’d be bringing a lot of rum reviews.
My 1st taste of Hampden was with an HV Hampden also. Luca met the family who runs Hampden some years ago. Ever since, he has been enamored with it. Hence, La Maison and Velier buying all of the aged and aging stocks in Hampden.
Yes, drinking Jamaican rum like Hampden and Worthy Park does some magic.
Thanks for the link that website is a rabbit hole of interesting things. I have further looked into the Cadenheads letter designations including looking up some reviews by Serge at Whiskyfun and he suggests that on some bottles the designation may refer to the particular stills that were used not the esters at all. But also draws a blank on some all together. I’m not sure if Cadenheads know themselves? Either way the Lone Caner designations and “questions you ask about a rum first” are really useful and I will certainly revisit those before a future purchase. Thanks again Graham
Ah you mean distillery marks. Yes, most are named after the stills.
I’m doing a series review on Demerara rum as their single still releases are gaining more attraction. And rum from single stills are identified via marks.
Lone Caner is a great website. Lance is awesome