After having the rum that Silvano Samaroli considered the best spirit he has ever bottled and the most recent ester bomb from Hampden, we take the next logical step and taste a rum that is by many connoisseurs considered to be the best Hampden ever. It’s the Samaroli Hampden 1993 21YO, or Samaroli Hampden Full Proof as it is often called.
For quite some time, and maybe still, this has been one of the most chased after bottles in the rum scene. After all, this has been the only very high ester bottling at cask strength on the market for a few years. There was no High Ester Rum from La Réunion or a New Yarmouth, not even other Hampdens at cask strength going beyond the HLCF mark. To provide some context, let me refer you to this table with Hampden’s ester ranges. As you can see, this rum has the mark <>H, i.e. the same as the Velier Hampden 2010 7YO so for everyone who entered this freaky subsection of the rum scene only relatively recently you roughly know what I am talking about. Of course a lot has changed since the rum’s release but given that this was probably the first such rum the hype around it is very understandable. The only question for me is whether it is really said legend or, judged by recent releases, just a product of its time. From 1993 I have already reviewed the diluted Samaroli Hampden 1993 22YO which already indicated signs of greatness. After all, it was incredibly intense despite the low abv but also way too expensive unfortunately. Speaking of expensive, that’s typically the problem with Samaroli. Even though they tend(ed) to select high quality rums, they dilute most of them to a drinking strength of 45%. But as long as connoisseurs keep on spending that much money on diluted rums prices will only know one direction. With cask strength bottlings such as this one it is different of course so it is no surprise that it is some kind of unicorn these days.
Dégustation “Samaroli Hampden 1993 21YO”
Key Facts: This single cask rum has been distilled at Jamaica’s Hampden Distillery in 1993 and bottled by Samaroli after 21 years in 2014 at 65,6% vol.
Colour and viscosity: Deep gold. A thin crown. After a while, the rum slowly crawls down the glass in many thin streaks. After a second pivot also plenty of large pearls.
Nose: Right after pouring a lovely scent of fruity esters fills the entire room. We shall let this breathe under an aroma lid for about half an hour. Upon its removal, the esters quickly sprawl out to make sure that they cover every single spot in the room. There is no sign of the alcohol whatsoever. I get a potpourri of exotic fruits (mostly pineapple, mango and oranges), paired with notes of vanilla and mild chilies or hot paprika. In the background we find a nice influence from the barrel: Oaky notes meet slighty musty matches and slightly herbal notes. This is Hampden at its best!
Palate: Wow! Esters, esters and more esters, but in an elegant way. The mouthfeel is incredibly oily, filling and pleasing. I don’t recall having a texture quite like this in a spirit. This is something that you only get when cask strength gets smoothed out by the barrel to perfection. Tastewise, I get pineapple, oranges, papaya and banana on the fruit side. Then vanilla and the paprika as I also find it in the nose together with a wild mix of herbs. This combination is as good as it ever got in a Hampden for me. I doubt that this rum would have been any better a year earlier or a year later, Samaroli hit pretty much exactly the sweet spot to bottle it. Well done!
Finish: Quelle surprise, the finish is just as good as the rest of the rum. The fruity esters stay with us for a very long time, together with more notes from the barrel such as cardamom and cinnamon.
A unicorn wouldn’t be a unicorn if it weren’t special. At least not a unicorn we’d be chasing after and paying huge sums of money for. While I personally wouldn’t pay that much, I can definitely understand those who do. The Samaroli Hampden 1993 21YO is just that good! Definitely one of the truly great ones. Fortunately we have got excellent alternatives in the recent past, from both, the time before and after Hampden’s closure. I say for now this one has the edge on the Velier Hampden 2010 7YO but that might change once the rum from that batch gets to age for another few years. The future is bright for Hampden Estate!
My sample comes from a bottle split by Thibaut. Merci beaucoup!