A Trio of Kill Devil Hampden Rums for TWB

Assaf is a long time whisky fan, and he is also into rum for almost as long. Over time he became quite knowledgeable in rums, and is a reference on the subject for our Facebook community. He also co-founded the Israeli Rum Club.

When Gal offered me to write a guest post on rum, a Hampden no less, I quickly said yes. Only later I found out it will in fact be a tasting mini-panel of 3 Hampdens, bottled by Hunter Laing in their Kill Devil range exclusively for The Whisky Barrel shop. These bottlings received top scores by bloggers, and it will be great fun to taste them side-by-side! We’ll start with a short introduction in favor of whisky-purists who don’t really know Hampden, and then move on to the tasting notes.

Hampden rums have made quite a buzz in the rum world during the past few years, spear-heading the “re-discovery” of the Jamaican funky style among the wider audience of rum fans. For the whisky drinkers who haven’t tried them yet, the Jamaican “funk” is a characteristic flavour of esters. Esters are a group of organic molecules that develop in rums (and whiskies) during fermentation and distillation, and have a distinct flavour range going from adhesive, through various tropical fruits, to their rotting version. Just as whiskies can be measured in ppm phenols to indicate the peat level, so are Jamaican rums measured by their ester content ppm – ranging from several dozens and up to 1600ppm esters.

The rums of Hampden are famous in their high ester content, resulting from their unique, long, fermentation process. The fermenting solution of molasses and yeasts is supercharged with ‘dunder’ and ‘muck’ – dunder being leftovers from previous distillations which are rich in acids, and muck being a hellish-smelling rotting mass which many bacteria have enriched with horrible carboxylic acids. These acids, when chemically react with alcohols, form the famous, fruity esters.

Most of the rums Hampden make are shipped in bulk as un-aged spirit to Europe. There they are matured in the continental climate at brokers’ warehouses until being bottled by independent bottlers. The unique flavour of high-ester rums has earned a cult of admirers, and Hampden became a sought-after name. The success was so convincing that Hampden recently bottled, for the first time, their own bottling – fully matured in the Caribbean climate.

Let’s move on the rums themselves:

Hampden 2007 10 years old – Kill Devil – Bottled for The Whisky Barrel

(62.5% abv, distilled in November 2007, 270 bottles ,£75 )

Nose: Strong and alcoholic, with a dominant adhesive-solvent note. Behind it I find fresh pineapple juice, green olives, brine, and sweet brown sugar. 

Taste: A refreshing rush of pure, fresh pineapple juice! This is sweeter and easier than the nose suggested, totally tropical. Perhaps a little mono-dimensional, but very enjoyable. A nice balance between sweet and sour, with almost no ‘rotting’ notes which can be found in some Hampdens.

Finish: It departs a little from the pineapple now, showing sweet and calming notes of brown sugar, even slightly burnt, with a vegetal presence at the back – green olives, munching on sugar cane, and also a hint of lemon.

Conclusion: It’s young and fierce, but it’s a great demonstration of the style. It might be a little too extreme for some, but Jamaican funk fans will love it. Will work amazingly in cocktails!

Available on the TWB site

Hampden 2001 16 years old – Kill Devil – Bottled for The Whisky Barrel

(60.7% abv, distilled in November 2001, 265 bottles)

Nose: A refined and complex scent, with ripe pineapples, rose water, weak solvent notes, pink guavas, and a hint of unripe mango.

Taste: soft despite the high abv, with a surprising taste of fresh strawberries, sweet and a little sour. Again pineapples and mangos, and some overripe bananas.

Finish: Drier, with some woody bitterness and spice. The fruits move to the back, and more vegetal notes appear with a puckering tartness.

Conclusion: Age has mellowed it, and made it more complex. The wood is more present though, and it loses some of the vibrancy the younger bottle had.

Sold out

Hampden 2001 16 years old – Kill Devil – Bottled for The Whisky Barrel

(61.2% abv, distilled in October 2001, 156 bottles, £93 )

Nose: Quite similar, not surprisingly. It feels ‘warmer’, the fruits a little more ripe. More wood spice, which complements the sweet and sour smell rather well.

Taste: sweeter and fuller, with notes of ripe and fried banana, burned with a little brandy. A touch of cinnamon, and then the pineapple is back with ripe mango. Just a touch of solvent at the back, which adds complexity and depth.

Finish: A little longer than before, more fruity and slightly less bitter. Not drying, more like tropical fruits cooked with sweet spices.

Conclusion: I like this one a lot! It might not be the fruitiest of the bunch, but it more than makes up for it with complexity and balance. Some part of the finish accompanies you for a long time, it is actually very soothing.

Available on the TWB shop

To sum up this tasting, I think TWB and Hunter Laing have clearly established that they know how to select these great casks, with pronounced notes of fresh fruits which are so enjoyable. These Hampdens can work for both beginners and experienced tasters, and are recommended. Out of the three casks I liked the cask with 61.2% from 2001 the best, because of its balance and lengthy finish. The 2007 would make a killer daiquiri though!

Thanks to The Whisky Barrel for the tasting kit, and Gal for the opportunity to write a guest post!


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