After a long time we are finally having a set of official bottlings again. What’s even better is that they come from Hampden, one of my very favorite distilleries. Today we compare the Hampden Estate Pure Single Jamaican Rum at 46% with its Overproof cousin.
While these are official bottlings, even the blind can see that the rums clearly carry Velier’s thumbprint. At the least when Luca Gargano anounced “the end of colonialism (as far as rum from Hampden Estate is concerned -SCR)”, we knew that these bottlings might be a game changer for the distillery. At least they might take a new line now. Of course there’s a lot of marketing to the statement and the adequacy of the metaphor can easily be challenged, leave alone the increased need to develop own bottlings due to Jamaica’s Geographical Indication (GI) for the Protection and Promotion of Authentic Products of Jamaica (click here for a general presentation or here for Matt Pietrek’s breakdown on Rum only) but this a huge step forward, not only for the distillery but also consumers and rum in general. The only thing that seems to get lost here and there is that Hampden already released two official bottlings in the past, the Hampden Estate Gold and the Rum Fire Velvet Overproof. These were intended for a very different segment of the market however and given that these products have never really been marketed very well (or not at all!?) I can definitely see why people tend to overlook them. But now we have tropically aged Hampdens in seemingly endless supply available to us so anyway, that should be a huge upgrade!
To celebrate the occasion, Luca hosted the so-called ‘rum tasting of the century’ with a few incredibly rare bottles from his private collection, to which quite a few persons that write and talk about rum have been invited. Fortunately, many of them shared their impressions so I shall just link you to their respective articles: The Cocktailwonk and Kevin from Rumdiaries have full write-ups while The Lone Caner and Whiskyfacile split their impressions into separate articles. Simply start with the links above and click yourself through them. Finally, there is Velier’s press release with lots of other pictures of the event. But let’s get to the actual content now, the rums!
My understanding is that these rums are a blend of the new, very light mark OWH (Owen W Hussey), LROK and DOK. The 46% bottling should just be a reduced version of the Overproof but I’d welcome it if someone can confirm this or put me right. I don’t know the exact composition of the blend but I guess that OWH and LROK make up the vast majority of the rum, perhaps even at somewhat similar shares, with just a small amount of DOK to spike it. The labels provide the customer with lots and lots of information and come with almost everything you need to know but are way too stacked in my opinion. I simply prefer the plain and classy ones. Sometimes less is just more but tastes differ, of course.
Dégustation “Hampden Estate Pure Single Jamaican Rum 46% versus Overproof (60%)”
Key Facts: These two seven year old rums have been distilled by Hampden’s double retort pot still. Coming out in 2018, they must thus have been distilled in 2010/11 and are a blend of the marks OWH, LROK and DOK.
Colour and viscosity: Amontillado Sherry (46%), Burnished (60%). Quite oily with thin and medium-sized streaks, respectively.
Nose: Of course we start with the 46% version. Immediately the rum welcomes me with notes of ripe banana, esters, plenty of herbs, sour apples/ pineapple and citrus fruits. I didn’t expect such an intense nose at 46% to be completely honest with you. Then branches and old greenery. It smells very balanced and makes you really want to take a sip. But first we sniff a bit at the 60% version.
The ‘Overproof’ is much more restrained and heavier. You can smell that there is more texture to it but it really seems as if the dilution has tickled out a few additional aromas. The esters don’t really come through and the influence of the cask in the form of wood or vanilla is more pronounced. After a while the herbs seem to be the most dominant note here. Advantage: 46%.
Palate: The dilution is noticeable as I am used to some higher abv Hampdens but after a second or two, I don’t mind it a lot. The most obvious favours are ripe apples, citrus, biodegradable waste, cut branches and clearly also vegetal notes, something I don’t think I’ve ever had with the distillery. Again, it’s well-balanced but somehow I am missing a thing or two of what we’ve had in the nose.
The extra 14 percentage points with the Overproof result in a fuller and heavier profile but once again it doesn’t really add any flavours. Usually we associate more alcohol with more aromas/ flavours but here this really isn’t the case. If you know me, I basically always prefer the full proof version of a rum but here we might just as well take the reduced version since it is more sippable and we aren’t missing out on anything. It is a bit thinner though. Advantage: None.
Finish: Medium long with bio waste and rotten vegetables for both of them. Some more wood and spices with the Overproof. Advantage: Overproof.
At first, let me say that I am very happy that Hampden is releasing permanently available rums now! It is refreshing to see more and more distilleries releasing unadulterated, natural, high quality rums. While these releases have some of the typical Hampden elements, other aspects to them inevitable made me think of Long Pond. That’s not a bad thing at all, just not what we expect when tasting a Hampden. These are solid rums and I will probably get the 46% bottling for the days when I am not in the mood for something more challenging. That said, I am a bit disappointed by the Overproof since it doesn’t provide quite the same tasting experience that many independent bottlings usually do. Also, it is way too similar to the 46% bottling and a rum with a slightly different flavour profile probably would have been more interesting here. But I am sure Hampden will expand their portfolio at some point in the future.
Other impressions: As mentioned above, tastes differ, so it always makes sense to compare different opinions. For a starter, take the links of the tasters above. On top of that, we have Flo from BAT and our Belgian companion Roger. Let me know if I forgot someone.