We have a new tropically aged Hampden and what many seem to believe, a new Hampden mark. But that’s far from the truth. However, we have to go way back in time if we want to compare the mark. In fact, the only other HGML vintage I know is 1983 and for quite some time a Compagnie des Indes bottling was the only pre-1990 Hampden I knew. Fortunately, that changed, even though the asking prices for the most recent bottlings are shooting through the roof.
Now we don’t know for sure what HGML stands for but GML seems to refer to George MacFarquhar Lawson, who purchased Hampden from Sir William Stirling-Maxwell in 1852. William Stirling-Maxwell in turn is the nephew of Archibald Stirling, a Scottish planter who established the Hampden sugar estate in the 18th century. Now the H in HGML might very well stand for, you guessed it, Hampden but nothing has been confirmed on this so far. Anyway, I am quite excited for this tasting. Whoop whoop.
Habitation Velier “HGML” 2010 9YO (62%): The next Hampden mark released under the Habitation Velier line. These sure are exciting times to be a rumlover. Nose: This goes in the same direction as the <H> as it is strong on notes of pastry and marzipan, something that I came to like quite a lot with Hampden. Then plenty of acetone, rum soaked raisins, chorizo, olives, grilled pineapple, desert banana with honey and a pleasant amount of vanilla and oak. Then an extremely nice apple tart and cheesecake-like muffins. Wow! For some reason I didn’t think this would be so mellow but it really is. Palate: Yes, yes and yes again! This is exactly the kind of rum I love! Grilled pineapple, ripe mango, nail polish remover, sweet cherries and almonds, a bed of vanilla, spicy baklava (if such a thing exists), caramel custard, sour apples and oak are my associations. The texture is really thick and creamy by the way. The rum is not as complex as the Rum Artesanal (see below) but this pastry-side just adds elements which almost put this in a league of its own. I’ll certainly place it in about the same as the <H>. It is just that good, or even better. Finish: Long, dry, slightly bitter but with nice fruity nuances here and there. A very special one and spot on in terms of maturity and flavour profile. The only way up from here would be an additional layer or two of complexity and a slightly stronger emphasis on the Hampden-typical fruity notes but yeah, really, really good. (93/100)
Compagnie des Indes Hampden 1983 33YO (54,1%): So it isn’t mentioned but the 1983 batch is also HGML. Relative to the Habitation Velier it is a lot sharper and fruitier, and quite to my surprise not as balanced for some reason. That’s not always a bad thing though. I get (grilled) pineapple, mango, soursop, green apples, olives, sour cherries, unripe strawberry perhaps, nail polish remover or brush cleaner, old green tea and something more meaty, along the lines of pastrami or grilled turkey. A very fruity rum with many layers, but these aren’t incredibly complex nevertheless (sounds weird, I know). Later also some salty, ever so slightly smoky notes as I’ve never had them in Hampden. They are very marginal, but they are there. Quite good but a little thin perhaps. It lacks this certain support that the HV has but that’s complaining about first world problems. Palate: Once again it is a bit thinner and sharper than we are used to with Hampden and somehow you don’t really feel the 33 years. The texture reminds me a bit of bubble-gum, which tastes like a combination of unripe pineapple and mango, acetone and canned fruit mix. Something is off here… It’s a good rum with its further notes of vanilla, cinnamon, apples, raw cherries and soursop but while I can acknowledge its quality, I cannot really get to love it. The finish is long with soursop, vanilla and green apples and not too much wood. Well, there are (Hampden) tastings in which this one would be a clear winner, here it is by far the weakest rum. (87/100)
Rum Artesanal High Ester Rum Distillery (Hampden) 1983 35YO (58,9%): On paper this is just the nuts, isn’t it!? And in the nose it immediately smells like a better version of the Compagnie des Indes. The “support” that I was missing with the former is definitely there as I can find a nice amount of cask aromas next to the still very present distillery character. I get honey-dipped pineapple, a vanilla-banana milk shake, mango lassi, rich & salty tapenade, parsley, ripe cherries, papaya, milk chocolate, sweet almonds/ marzipan, an almost subtle amount of glue, nail polish remover and green apples. What a nose! Compared to the HV it is much fruitier but not as strong on the pastry. Palate: Everything the Compagnie des Indes wanted to be but failed at. The profile is slightly sour and bitter (very typical for many older Hampdens) but the rum manages to maintain a pleasant fruitiness. Next to the oak we find pineapple, mango lassi, green tea, a fresh bouquet, cherries, an odd mix of brine and acetone, extremely fruity gravy, hints of red wine (Amarone or Ripasso), sandal- and cedarwood, a spice mix prepared for fish and also some tannins. I love it! There really aren’t many weak spots to this, except for the above average sour- and bitterness but if you don’t mind that I don’t see why you won’t love it as well! Finish: Extremely long, bitter, oaky but with the occasional fruity note here and there. Now also some herbs (thyme, oregano). There aren’t many rums like this and I doubt we will see many more quite like it again. The increased size of the rum community (yes, you nerdy guy reading this) just put too much pressure on distilleries and bottlers to release more and more rum and old stuff like this just cannot be reproduced that easily. And probably never will. (93/100)
We’ve just had two rum legends, and I am willing to say this even though both of them were just released this year. While both have the same score and same mark, there are pronounced differences between the two rums, which doesn’t make one of them redundant. Isn’t that just great!?