Rum is a treat for the senses.
I’m sure I’m not the only one that has winced at the price of whisky these days. Bargains are hard to come by. Yet, we are also being told that whisky is under-priced, and to expect further price hikes in 2022.
This promoted me to look up John’s reviews of Cognac and Armagnac on Malt and track down a few choice bottles. In particular, John recommended a very rancio-driven Navarre Vieille Reserve which was beautifully sour, like a gose beer. I thoroughly encourage scotch drinkers to take a look at John’s reviews and give some of these well priced Malternatives a try.
One other Malternative I enjoy is rum, and I was fortunate to be sent a bottle of Outlaw Rum Islay Cask Finish and a number of samples from the Whisky Sleuth, who had supported me in my previous review of Outlaw rum. Whilst I am keen to get back to writing about Scotch and I have a few articles in development, these samples were too interesting not to write up. These gave my nose a good work out as I recovered from a mild bout of post-Christmas-COVID.
I have re-reviewed the Outlaw rum below; this is the same first batch, as it makes a good benchmark for the other scores and remains interesting. The Outlaw rum base is a blend of Angostura rum of three to six years of age, distilled in column stills from molasses. At Angostura there are two distillation rigs; the first is a large still giving a heavier style, and the second is a five-column still for the lighter rum production. Both types are typically blended together.
The Two Kill Devil Hampdens were bottled by Hunter Laing exclusively for the Whisky Barrel. One of them is still in stock at the time of writing. Hampden is a Jamaican distillery that is renowned for the high-ester Jamaican funk delivered through very long natural fermentation and the use of dunder. The wash is distilled in copper pot stills. Bryan reviewed the Great House edition and John reviewed a well-aged 18 year old Hampden.
The other two rums are bottled by the Botuique-y Rum Company, an offshoot of Atom Brands associated with Master of Malt. The first secret distillery is allegedly Worthy Park, another Jamaican distillery (more from John on Worthy Park. Worthy Park makes their own molasses for their fermentation and distils in a pot still. No dunder or muck is used, so it is less ester-driven and less funky than Hampden.
Finally the outsider is an Agricole rum fermented from sugar cane juice milled by steam engines and distilled through a column still in the Madeira region of Portugal.
Outlaw Rum Islay Cask Finish – Review
Batch #1, 2020. 43% ABV. £85.
Colour: Gold leaf.
On the nose: Zingy flamed citrus peel, fruity and sweet demerara sugar, pineapple, banana skin, liquorice and a generous sweet peat smoke, more ripe fruit and a little TCP.
In the mouth: Vanilla cream, salted caramel, smoked sugar, a dustiness, a little chilli, sweet vegetal peat, spiced sugar, a little banana, drying savoury peat smoke, and some candied orange peel to finish.
Similar experience to last time. The nose is rum forward with peat tagged on, a bit unbalanced but in the mouth it comes together in a good flavour experience. I’d prefer this presented at a higher strength – comparable to the Hampdens below – but know that’s not for everyone. At 43% ABV, the flavours build in layers, so it encourages a large pour to really appreciate. it.
Hunter Laing Kill Devil 2007 Hampden 11Years Old – Review
Bottled for The Whisky Barrel. 63.5% ABV. £80.
Colour: Pale gold.
On the nose: Thick, effervescent, new car tyres, black bananas, rotten pineapple, aloe vera, super glue, fermented haberno chillies, salted butter, plasticine.
In the mouth: Everything from the nose turned up to 11. Vegetal, more fermented chilli, sour pineapple boiled sweets, BBQ pineapple and pineapple crème Brûlée, creamy and juicy – so juicy – more pineapple, peanut brittle, slightly dusty and dry on the finish.
Hunter Laing Kill Devil 2007 Hampden 11 Years Old
Bottled for The Whisky Barrel. 63.2% ABV. £80.
Colour: Pale gold.
On the nose: Sour fruit, baked pineapple, banana foam sweets, dusty vanilla, dried mango, a little minced fresh chilli.
In the mouth: Sour, oily, and then sweet. Big fresh crushed pineapple, some mango and lime, a backbone of baked banana, citric acid, pineapple cordial, fresh ginger root, gunpowder, macadamia nuts, pineapple gelato.
These sister casks are very similar in their profiles and are both fantastic. Strangely, water did very little to the tasting experience, and I found myself enjoying these neat at full strength. The nose and palate on both are unbelievably complex and rewarding. I am sure that there is enough going on to come up with unique tasting notes from each visit to the bottle.
It’s almost impossible to describe a Scotch equivalent, but it would have to involve Springbank, Ben Nevis, and Clynelish all 20+ years old, blended together and offered at batch strength. When you consider the price, this is a great value Malternative. I have drawn a single conclusion as I could not pick a preference between these too and believe them to be equally excellent. I’ve almost continuously thought about them since drinking them last night.
Boutique-y Rum Company Secret Jamaica 6 Years Old – Review
Sauternes Cask. 51.5% ABV. £36.95.
Colour: Hammered copper.
On the nose: Burned plastic, burned baked fruit, Moffat Toffee, Vanilla, palm sugar, dried ginger.
In the mouth: Baked fruits, toffee, vanilla, pineapple fronds, the mid-palate is rounded, smooth and sweet from the sauternes which also gives a slight nuttiness. It fishes with more ripe fruit and a few estery notes, oak, and spices toward the finish.
There is a balanced Funk here which might appeal to those who find the Hampden too extreme, but there is not the big fruity juiciness here either which is disappointing. Fairly priced and accessible.
Boutique-y Rum Company Engenhos De Norte 7 Years Old – Review
48.8% ABV. £39.95.
On the nose: Vanilla and baking spices, Refreshers® sweets, baked spiced apples, fresh pineapple, papaya, dried tropical fruits.
In the mouth: Fruity and spicey, swimming pool foyer, more baked apple, sticky ginger loaf, mango, peppery finish with strawberries at the very end.
There is no doubt that “world rums” from outside the Caribbean can be very good. This is solid if unremarkable; perhaps the column distillation holds back the more complex flavours developed with a pot still, perhaps the more temperate climate has a significant impact on the development of flavour during the fermentation, too? A great price again from Atom brands and a solid score.
Photographs courtesy of Mater of Malt, The Whisky Barrel, and Outlaw Rum.
That’s a great write up Graham, and I love it when a Malt reviewer turns their attention to a malternative, because I value the comments so much, and you have described the tasting notes of the Hampden so well, that I have just jumped in and bought a bottle. Can’t wait to sip it, once dry January is out the way! Cheers, Scott
Scott, that’s great. Really what Malt is all about. I hope you enjoy it and please drop back into the comments with your thoughts.
Seconding Scott, great writeup and tasting notes. The Kill Devil Hampden 11 is indeed stunning, and there isn’t really a whisky with which it can be compared to in terms of intensity+saltiness+fruitiness. Can’t think of a whisky that comes close nowadays in terms of value for money either. After I finish my 11 YO I have a 17 YO from the same series lined up, which was also not expensive.
Alex, it’s always great to find others who have had similar experiences of a release. I’d be interested to find out how age affects these rums? I assume they mellow but does the funk fade like peat smoke?
That is a really good question and, unfortunately, I don’t know the answer as I’ve never done a Jamaican vertical. My understanding is that, as with all sufficiently good quality spirits, rum will also increase in complexity and mellowness with age, and I’d expect strong funk to break up into a larger palette of flavours. I think Serge V. once wrote that quaffing a 20+ old Hampden is like quaffing a 20+ YO Ardbeg.
Me again, I just had to update, I nearly dropped my cup of tea when I saw this. It must be the Malt effect!
Two weeks later, checking their website, the price for a bottle is now £128, I paid £80. A 60% increase!! What a shocker. Following your Bunna reviews today I’d be looking to see if the prices go up shortly Graham haha!!
The Whisky Barrel is notorious for releasing at a great price and then edging up the prices as stock diminishes. Rather than a Malt effect though it was probably the release of another 10yo Hamden single cask by another retailer at £140 that prompted the change!
Just goes to show how quickly prices are going up across the board.
Oof. It’d be scary if the Malt effect were real. I’d be more hesitant to talk about what I perceive as gems.