Hampden 13yo 1992/2006 (66.2%, Cadenhead, “HLCF”, Pot Still, Jamaica)

The previous review was of a more recent official release and I wrote down some sparse and basic early history of Hampden Estate. Well, since all good things come in pairs, I’ve managed to unearth, from my stash of samples, a nice companion to the previous review. If you call the official one bottled at 60% “Overproof”, then surely this Cadenhead’s offering fits that bill as well, clocking in at 66.2% ABV. Since the previous review turned out to be quite a long one, I decided to leave it at that and keep the rest of the information I gathered for that review for future reviews of Hampden Rums. Well, the next one came along rather quickly, so I can now use this space to tell you some more about the recent history of Hampden as well as some basic info about the marks of Hampden.

By 2003 Hampden Estate was nearly bankrupt, and the government of Jamaica stepped in to save a lot of local jobs, since lots of people were employed by the estate as a whole, working for the sugar factory, the distillery, the great house and working the 750 acres of sugar cane fields. A lot of legalities were exercised between 2003 and 2009, when finally the Jamaican government sold Hampden Estate at auction. The new owners became Everglades Farms Ltd. owned by the Hussey Family. The Hussey’s are well known on the island owning several (different) businesses on the island.

When making Rum for different purposes, one can aim for a certain ester count. So for instance, when making Rum as used in baking, a high ester count is key, for it gives off a lot of aroma with a tiny amount of liquid. For our purpose, the more esters the heavier and more flavorsome the Rum becomes. Are you a Rum aficionado, then you likely prefer a high ester count, are you a novice, the lower marks are best places to start your Rum journey on (if you can find them on the label that is. Again I’m going to steer you towards Matt, since he has, yet again, a very informative page on his site about the marks of Jamaican Rum, as well as to the site of Marius where he comprised a list of which marks were produced in which years at Hampden Estate (especially useful for the independent bottlings of Hampden). We can put this to the test and look up 1992 and sure enough, 1992 is coupled with HLCF. HLCF stands for Hampden Light Continental Flavoured and has an ester count of 500 to 700 g/hlaa (grams per hectolitre of absolute alcohol), which in comparison to most other Rums on the market is very heavy, but for Hampden, this mark can be found on the bottom half of the list!

Before we dip into this Rum here is the list of Hampden Marks:

  • DOK – Dermot Owen Kelly – 1500-1600 g/hla
  • C<>H – Continenal Hampden – 1300-1400 g/hlaa
  • H/GML – Hampden George MacFarquhar Lawson – 1000-1100 g/hlaa
  • <>H – Hampden – 900-1000 g/hlaa
  • H/LCF – Hampden Light Continental Flavoured – 500- 700 g/hlaa
  • LROK – Light Rum Owen Kelly – 250- 350 g/hlaa
  • LFCH – Lawrence Francis Close Hussey – 85- 120 g/hlaa
  • OWH – Outram Warmold Hussey – 40- 80 g/hlaa

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Banana (only in the first nano-seconds or so) and some soft dull wood, cold gravy and tree sap. Even more banana and papaya come next, and like the previous Hampden a lot of fruit in the pre-rot phase, especially pineapple. Passion fruit ice cream mixed with vanilla ice cream and a wee sprinkle of wee (lukewarm urine, acidic). Wow all this just leaps at you. Vegetal, with dried pineapple and an undefined solvent. Dry and dusty notes with licorice (of the all sorts kind), announcing wood. Funk, dried cow dung (lying in the sun) and leather. Artificial fertilizer and a slight note of warm plastic, like the electrical cable mentioned in the previous review. Cold black tea. Very fruity with lots of spicy and woody notes for balance (I don’t get the wood all the time though…). 17th century spices. Sailing ship hold after a spice transport. Very well balanced. The freshly emptied glass reveals cinnamon, and dare I say that it smells even better than the glass still containing the Rum. Maybe the high ABV gets a bit in the way of things, although normally that isn’t a problem for me. Soft wood, and more different spices, still this associated with times lone gone. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t smell like anything from the past two centuries I guess. The note mentioned earlier turns into a more organic urine note, steamed up sauna full of people. Died out fire, cold burnt wood, charcoal. Very complex and laid back. Hints of grenadine lemonade and even the slightest whiff of cola and unripe green apples. Amazing stuff, very different from those dosed and utterly sweet and cloying Rums, some people believe to be true Rum. Remember the Rums of A.H. Riise and even worse, Don Papa? Freak out!

Taste: Starts with most of the fruits from the nose as well as the wood, and its bitterness, and the urine notes with some added ear wax notes. Might sound horrible, but isn’t, although it’s impossible to shed this association. I guess this makes this Rum not for everyone, but I don’t think “everybody” will seek out this Rum that was bottled a good fifteen years ago. Fruity with ashes. Oranges and lemons to some degree, but it seems to be those aroma’s without being all that citrussy. Hope this still makes sense… Warming and friendly. Some toffee and warm caramel, but to a lesser extent than your usual Rum. Very well balanced. I would never have guessed this was as high in ABV as it is. Quite tasty but with, in some areas, medium staying power. Some bitterness in the finish, as well as the urine and some varnish and/or resin.

This is a Rum (I mean Hampden in general) that in nose and taste, is closer to “extreme” than “middle of the road”. It is very big and unusual. Rivière du Mât is another good example of this. I guess both Rums are not for you, if you are new to the game of Rum, nor if have a mind unlike a parachute (works best when open). An acquired taste.

Comparing the Cadenhead’s offering to the Overproof shows us something interesting. First of all, the Cadenhead’s is five years older, yet the Overproof is darker in colour. That in itself isn’t saying much, however, the Overproof is made up of foremost lighter marks OWH and LROK (OK, and a wee bit DOK for good measure) and the Cadenheads offering with H/LCF, but smelling both side by side the Overproof seems fuller, less fresh and acidic, yet more syrupy and glue like, so more of this indistinct solvent mentioned above. The average consumer would associate the smell of Overproof more like a “classic” Rum. The Cadenhead’s offering smells quite different and more complex (as it should). Both are actually quite good, and quite different as well. Both have their good and bad sides to them. Cadenhead’s needs some work and experience from the taster, Overproof is more forgiving and surely would please more people. For me personally, the Overproof just might be the better Rum overall, although that obviously is a matter of taste, but the Cadenhead’s has the better, definitely less cloying and more complex finish. The Overproof seems to be also a more modern Rum, where the Cadenhead’s brings back times long forgotten. Both Rums have been a blast to review.

The empty glass (the next day) smells of wood and hints of chlorine, yet soft and waxy, hints of lemon (acidity) and wood and a wild mix of herbs. Old machine oil, like lying on the bottom of an old motor vessel that hasn’t run for many years. (Rivière du Mât has also this old machine and industrial feel to it, maybe even more so). Smelling an empty glass the next day, can reveal things you didn’t pick up on when tasting, and especially with Hampden Rums this seems true.

Points: 87

Advertisement

Hampden Estate Overproof (60%, OB, LM191, Jamaica)

What can we say about Hampden Estate. First of all, I don’t want to be a completist here and write down a full-blown history. On one hand there is much better information online than I can write down here by myself, and on the other hand, there actually is also not a lot to be found. There are a few great sources for information, but there is still way less information available on Rum than there is on Whisky. Much less. If you have some time then Matt’s visit of Hampden is an excellent read.

Hampden started out somewhere in the 18th century already, and the distillery today still operates more or less in the same way today. Old skool. The first mention of Hampden was in 1684. However, Hampden’s own website starts history in 1753 (as a sugar plantation), but no clear year is mentioned for the start of Hampden as a Rum distillery, only 1779 is coupled with Hampden Great House where the ground floor was a Rum store. What we do know is that somewhere Hampden started distilling Rum, as did many sugar plantations, when exports of sugar from sugarcane started dwindling, when in Europe sugar was made from sugar beets in stead of cane. What we also know is that Hampden, after all there years, still looks more or less unchanged, and looking at Matt’s pictures, steam-punk comes to mind as well as the pictures from fans of abandoned places. Time definitely stood still here big time.

Hampden is also known for its Jamaican funk, and of all the Jamaican funk that can be had, Hampden is probably the mother of Jamaican funk. The funk is partially there because of a very long fermentation, somewhere between 8 and 15 days, fermentation with wild yeasts that just come flying in with the wind. No yeast is added. Also, Hampden produces a sugar cane vinegar (muck) that is added during the fermentation, helping the funky aroma along. Hampden currently has four stills they call the heart of the distillery, and rightly so, but I guess that is true for most, of not all, distilleries: A 1960 John Dore (7.560 litres) from Forsyths, Scotland, a 1994 Vendome from Kentucky (18.900 litres), a 2010 Forsyth still (18.900 litres) and the most recent addition is a Pot still made by T&T from South Africa (18.900 litres). All stills are heated with coils on the inside.

Hampden’s core range consists of Hampden 46 (8 years of tropical ageing) and Hampden 60 (or Overproof, 7yo and older, a mix of different marks). I have yet to try the 46% ABV. I never got around to it because, up ’till now, I always believed it is the reduced version of the Overproof, but that might not be true. The Hampden I’m about to try must be one of the early bottles, where the front label mentions 8yo and the back label 7 yo, whereas newer versions have a more prominent 8 on the front label. To add to the confusion. The website mentions 7 years again. However I still believe the 46% is nothing more than the reduced version of the Overproof.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Highly aromatic. Big, fatty, sweet and nutty. Fruity with bath/shower cosmetics florality. No, you cannot even call this big, no, this has an humongous aroma, so high level of esters indeed. Fruity and fresh. Acidic and lively. Fatty nuts, almonds. High ester Rums like this are used for their aroma’s for baking and yes, that’s where you know this aroma from. After the initial wave of bigness passes, a little bit of wood starts to become noticeable, grows bigger over time and is here to stay. Some oak and some pencil shavings and an indistinct herbal quality, as well as a tiny hint of car exhaust. It is remarkable how the big, fatty and syrupy start does move back to leave some room for more astringent notes like the woody notes. It doesn’t even carry this promise for a sweet toffee’d Rum any more. I have to say excellent balance after some air. A sort of instant classic. Unique. A must-have.

Taste: Where the wood is somewhat laid back in the nose, it is most definitely present here on the palate. The wood opens the ball. Modern wood, but that probably won’t make any sense to you. hint of plastics, otherwise it smells of tropical ageing, you just sense the heat that surrounded the cask. Acidic. Big fruit and quite a lot of fresh acidity as well, with this underlying woody backbone. Acidity bordering on very, very (over)ripe fruit, the pre-rot phase almost. The wood becomes more dark chocolaty in style, and more spicy. Less herbal though, but more leathery in stead. Wood and ear wax. In fact the ear-wax was here right from the beginning, just in the plethora of things I didn’t recognize it immediately. The bitterness moves forward now, especially noticeable in the back of your mouth. The wood is upfront but luckily, in this case, its not over the top bitter. At this point, the pencil shaving note on the note grows stronger. On the palate it shows some similarities with Demerara Rum and a specific Port Mourant comes to mind. This is not something I get all the time. When trying this late at night, with a tired and fulfilled palate, the Demerara association isn’t there. So this has some bitterness and it certainly shows wood which now picks up a slight soapiness, reminding me of the bath/shower cosmetics from the nose. The aftertaste is long and warming with a key role for the woody bitterness, but again, it is kept in check sufficiently not to bother you.

For me this is a good Rum with a good ABV, sold at a very fair (good) price and with good availability as well. In hindsight it also has a remarkable simplicity uncommon for a high ester Rum. This is the overproof version and I hear some good stories about the reduced versions as well. I may have to look into those as well, since by now there are some more expressions to choose from than the 46% ABV version alone. Hampden LROK, and Hampden LROK the younger, both bottled at 47% ABV have become available just recently. LROK is a mark given by Hampden. LROK stands for Light Rum Owen Kelly and by this, it tells you that is has 250-350 g/hlaa of esters. By the way, this Overproof version is made with several marks: OWH (Outram Warmold Hussey, 40-80 g/hlaa), LROK and DOK (Dermot Owen Kelly, 1500-1600 g/hlaa). I don’t think a lot of DOK went into this blend to be honest. More about “Mark and Ester” in the next Hampden review.

Points: 88

The empty glass, the next day, smells of warm electrical cable and the dusty insides of an old transistor radio. How odd…