Hampden 1998

After the 1992 vintage we’ve had some time ago, we shall continue with the 1998 batch, which has the same HLCF marque. For an overview on Hampden and its marks, click here.


kdh98 (2)Kill Devil Hampden 1998 18YO (46%): Let’s start with a pair at drinking strength. Hampden rarely ever works for me at reduced strength but there are exceptions. We shall see. Nose: Even at just 46% there’s no doubt that this is Hampden. Grilled pineapple, orange, glue, hints of acetone, sweet cherries, Turkish pastry and later also more herbal notes make this more than just familiar territory. A nice nose but I am somewhat afraid of the palate… Palate: Exactly what I thought/ feared. The rum is excellent, just like the rest of the batch, but it just doesn’t like the dilution. It really is not the case here that the added water squeezed out some aromas, much rather did it destroy them and reduced the heavyness of the body. The potpourri of fruits (pineapple, pear, orange, blueberry) is great but I wish there would be even more of that. Then blueberry muffin/ cheesecake, sweet raisins, vanilla, oak and later more herbal notes. I think this actually was a really, really good cask! Finish: Medium long with acetone, minimally bitter notes, hints of pastry and the fruits as well as quite some oak – very nice. I stick to my judgement. I believe this was one of the better barrels of the batch, but too much has been lost in the process of adding water. What a pity! (86/100)

ach98 (2)Alambic Classique Hampden 1998 20YO (45%): Nose: The rum doesn’t need any time in the glass and the aromas are immediately there. With Hampden this shouldn’t come as a surprise but I can also find the more sublte notes right away. Fruity esters (pineapple, mango, banana, mandarine), plenty of wood in the tradition of barbecue and charcoal, even a glimpse of ash and then more herbal notes as well as some nail polish remover. I even believe to find a cherry here and there, paired with buttery puff paste. Palate: Nice and fruity. The dilution has the advatange of almost making this an easy sipper, at the expense of the rum’s body and its intensity. It’s nowhere near as bad as I feared, however. A good rum stays a good rum, even if you dilute it. The twenty years make their presence felt as there’s plenty support from the cask to back up the flavours of grilled pineapple, ripe oranges and mandarine as well as earthy herbs. At this point I am pretty sure that we’ve lost a few flavours to the water though. What a pity! Finish: Its duration has two aspects. On the one hand, it is really short as the fruitier notes vanish too quickly for my liking. On the other hand, the bitter, woody notes from the cask stick with you for quite a while. Drinking strengths are always a double edged sword but in the end one argument always remains: Let me deal with it! We can always go down, but never go up in abv. The rum’s quality and maturity are rather high so that it is not a huge issue here but especially these high ester rums typically just lose too much. Crucially, it loses the direct comparison with the Kill Devil. (84/100)

trch981 (2)The Rum Cask Hampden 1998 16YO & 17YO (64,3% & 63,2%): Oh how I loved this rum when it came out. The rum, not the rums I hear you ask!? Both rums come from the same cask, it is just that The Rum Cask let half of it age for a few more months. The differences are so minor that I shall treat them as the same rum, which you may argue it really is (for the record, I do!). Nose: I am not quite sure why I am surprised but these cask strengths rums need some more time to open up. But then we get the full package of grilled pineapple, overripe mango, foul banana, green apples and many other lovely fruits. Also plenty of glue, very little of the acetone, rather sour cherries, wood, and increasingly herbal aromas. Now I remember why I like it so much, it’s just an incredibly intense and lovely nose. Palate: A really interesting mix of fruity esters (pineapple, orange, mango), slightly medical herbs and even somewhat sweet notes (pastry, sugar, caramel). Very few Hampdens manage to offer this balance and at least to me it is becoming exceedingly clear that marks such as HLCF and probably even more so <>H are the perfect compromise with Hampden. Now sweet, sugared cherries, oak, some more fruits and after a while also more and more herbal notes. I love it. Finish: Medium long and the weak spot here if you are looking for one. It actually has everything you want but it doesn’t offer anything new. That’s really not a problem, but what seperates excellent rums from the very best. Still, this is a rum I love to get back to time and again. (90/100)

rnh98 (2)Rum Nation SBRR Hampden 1998 18YO (66,3%): I think that was one of the first rums of Rum Nation‘s small batch rare rums series, which did give the bottler the relaunch it desperately needed back then. I am very happy that they got the edge again! Nose: More open and direct than the The Rum Cask and initially also more aromatic. Once the The Rum Cask fully openend up, I’d say the opposite is the case. All in all this one is a bit more on the woody side and the cask aromas are all over the place, slightly at the expanse of the esters and fruity notes. Relatively speaking, I get quite some vanilla, red pepper, oak and deeper in the glass also more nail polish remover than with the other rums of the session. Don’t get me wrong, the profile is very similar, but these nuances definitely stick out in direct comparison. Besides that and hints of salted caramel, the nose doesn’t reveal too much more actually. Palate: Slightly sharp and the integration of the alcohol could have been a bit better for my liking. Then grilled pineapple (of course), mango with chili flakes (as you get it in large parts of Eastern Asia), nail polish remover, Szechuan pepper, slightly bitter oak, hints of cocoa and eventually also the switch to more herbal notes, albeit rather mildly. Finish: Strong on the bitter notes and rather long. Here and there oak and cocoa, but mostly herbs and a glimpse of the fruits. It’s really cool to have these horizontal cross-tastings with different rums of the same batch as it shows how large the influence of the barrel can be. This was one of the weaker ones – but at least it is full proof. (86/100)

trch982 (2)The Rum Cask Hampden 1998 19YO “The Beast” (69,1%): Last but not least, another one by The Rum Cask. Nose: Wow, really great. It takes on where their 16YO and 17YO bottlings stopped. It really feels like this would be the next logical step, even though this is an entirely different barrel. Nevertheless, it is immediately obvious that it has the same sort of balance that we fell in love with with the above-mentioned rums. I get an aweomse mix of mellow sugar and caramel, the esters in the form of pineapple, mango, papaya and oranges, an almost perfect influece from the barrel with the sweet spot of additive and substractive maturation as well as notes of varnish, glue and almond pastry/ marzipan. This one has it all. Palate: Despite the high abv, the rum isn’t sharp at all, this is how alcohol-integration is supposed to look like, my friends! I get the esters (acetyl, pineapple, varnish, brush clearn), pear, quince, Mediterranean herbs, wood, caramlised onions, paprika powder and dried tomatoes. Later sweeter notes such as sugar and pastry as well as more cask aromas and herbs. Finish: Long and lasting, where all of the previous elements come and go. Basically what we’ve criticised with the 16/17YO. It’s another really great one, that’s objectively probably even a bit better than the younger version above. Personally, I ever so slightly prefer the other one though. (91/100)