Hampden

There’s no way around mentioning Hampden when talking about Jamaican- or high-ester rum. Founded by the Scot Archibald Sterling in the Trelawny Parish in 1756, Hampden is well-known for its long ferments, muckholes and high-ester rums. In 1779, Sterling built the famous Hampden Great House, whose ground floor served as a rum store until the early 20th century. At some point in the 19th century, Hampden estate has been passed on to the Kelly-Lawson family and subsequently to the Farquharsons, who also built the Hampden Wharf in Falmouth during WW I to ship rum and sugar. Today it’s used by large passenger cruise ships such as the ‘Harmony of the Seas’. In 2003, Hampden estate has been bought by the Jamaica Sugar Company who did not operate the distillery. It was then that their rum reserves have been sold to spirit brokers in Europe. Six years later, Hampden has been bought at a public auction by the Hussey Family (owners of Everglades Farms Ltd), who are looking to revitalize rum production. With the increased hype around the distillery and the attention they attract it seems that the Estate is finally prospering again.

hampden dunder tanks
Dunder tanks at Hampden Distillery. Photo by Matt Pietrek.

Today, the distillery is home to 89(!) fermentation tanks, with capacities between 9,000 and 13,500 litres. And indeed, fermentation takes on a very important role at Hampden. Unlike (most) other distilleries, they add dunder, the throwback of the previous distillation process, to their fermentations. Adding these acid-rich remains increases the acidity of the mix. The acids, combined with the used wild yeast and other natural bacteria living in the fermentation vats work for a minimum of two weeks to create the wines. Depending on the desired style, this process called esterification is prolonged up to a month to create one of seven marks. The marks at Hampden are as follows, where the numbers denote esters in g/hlaa:

LFCH 85-120
LROK 200-400
HLCF 500-700
<>H 900-1000
HGML 1000-1100
C<>H 1300-1400
DOK 1500-1600

The highest of these are typically used as flavouring for confectionaries, baking extracts and sweets of all sorts. To get an idea on how to classify the different vintages released by independent bottlers so far (with the exception of 2010 there has never been more than one batch per year, hence batch and vintage can be used interchangeably), please refer to the following listing:

  • 1990: C<>H
  • 1992: HLCF
  • 1993: <>H
  • 1998: HLCF
  • 2000: LROK
  • 2001: <>H
  • 2002: LROK
  • 2010: LROK, HLCF

Distillation takes place in one of three 5,000 litre pot-stills with two retorts and a condenser. Yes, Hampden only uses pot-stills! Distillation is identical for all rums produced at Hampden, meaning that the only differences arise during fermentation.

I’ve had the chance to talk to Christelle Harris, the director of sales & marketing at Hampden Estate. Click here for the interview.


The following is the compulsory list of tasted rums from Hampden:

  • Alambic Classique Hampden 16YO (1998-2014), 45%
  • Compagnie des Indes Hampden 24YO (1992-2016), 59,8%
  • Duncan Taylor Hampden Distillery 22YO (1990-2012), 52,9%
  • Duncan Taylor Hampden Distillery 13YO (2000-2013), 53,3%
  • Duncan Taylor Hampden Distillery 13YO (2000-2014), 52,7%
  • Habitation Velier Hampden HLCF 6YO (2010-2016), 68,5%
  • Habitation Velier Hampden LROK 6YO (2010-2016), 67%
  • Habitation Velier Hampden LROK/ HLCF (2010-2016), 60%
  • Kill Devil Hampden 16YO (1998-2015), 46%
  • Kill Devil Hampden 24YO (1992-2016), 62%
  • Kintra Hampden 8YO (2009-2017), 56,5%
  • Pellegrini Mabaruma Hampden 13YO (2000-2014), 46%
  • Plantation Jamaica 2001, 42%
  • Renegade Hampden 15YO (Chateau Latour Cask) (1992-2007), 46%
  • Rumclub Hampden 26YO “C<>H” (1990-2017), 60,4%
  • Rum Nation Supreme Lord VII (Hampden) 23YO (1990-2013), 45%
  • Rum Nation SBRR Hampden 18YO (1998-2016), 66,3%
  • Rum Nation SBRR Hampden 24YO (1992-2016), 61,6%
  • Samaroli Hampden 15YO (1992-2007), 45%
  • Samaroli Hampden 18YO (1993-2011), 45%
  • Samaroli Jamaica (Hampden) 22YO (1993-2015), 45%
  • Samaroli Jamaica (Hampden) 24YO (1992-2016), 54%
  • Silver Seal Hampden 18YO (1993-2011), 50%
  • Silver Seal Hampden 20YO (1993-2013), 50%
  • Silver Seal Hampden 23YO (1992-2016), 50%
  • The Rum Cask Hampden Estate 12YO (2000-2013), 62%
  • The Rum Cask Hampden Estate 16YO (1998-2015), 64,3%
  • The Rum Cask Hampden Estate 17YO (1998-2015), 63,2%
  • The Rum Cask Hampden Estate 19YO (1998-2017), 69,1%
  • The Rum Cask Hampden Estate 16YO (2000-2016), 52,5%
  • The Rum Cask Hampden Estate 26YO (1990-2017), 61,9%
  • The Rum Cask Hampden Estate 17YO (2000-2017), 55,2%
  • Transcontinental Rum Line Hampden 16YO (2000-2017), 52,4%

Corresponding brands:

The featured image is by islandroutes.com.

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