One of, if not the most legendary Hampden batch. Sure, 1993 might have produced the very best Hampden ever, yet 1990 just seems to be a bit better overall. By the way, these Rums wear the marque C<>H, which stands for an ester range of 1300-1400 gr/hlaa.
Berry Bros & Rudd Hampden 1990 17YO (46%): We’ve said it before but together with Duncan Taylor, Berry’s probably had one of the very finest first release series in all of Rum and in my memory, this is a legendary one. But things have changed, especially in the territory of abv so let’s see how it compares to the more recent cask strength monsters. Nose: Super balanced, smooth, mellow, and despite the reduction, incredibly flavourful and intense. Relatively speaking, the profile is a lot less sour than that of the others with a strong emphasis on vanilla. Even at “just” 17 years, the maturity seems to be rather high. There are esters, citrus fruits (tangerine, oranges, lemon), acetone/ nail polish remover, very faintly some herbs perhaps and clearly also olives and pickles. A crazy good nose. Palate: Very mild, slightly sour (the esters) and just rich in flavours. My first impressions are vanilla, pineapple, acetone, chorizo, hot peppers, herbs such as basil or oregano and more wood than you’d think. As I stated when describing the nose, it is just incredibly balanced and simply gets things right. Yet, I know that it will be no competition for some of the heavyweights we are about to have. Finish: Long and rich with vanilla, wood, a mix of the fruits, tamarind and quite some wood. Simply superb and back in 2007 this was probably one of the best Jamaican Rums you could have known. (90/100)
Rum Nation Supreme Lord VII (Hampden) 1990 23YO (45%): Let’s start with saying that this one is slightly adulterated, but, and I kinda hate myself for saying that, it really isn’t a big deal here. Which leaves the question: Why mess with it all!? Nose: Now if this isn’t the kind of juice in Asterix’s magic potion, I don’t know what is. Its just a Rum like no other, even within this batch. Is that because of the added sugar? Probably. I get esters, mango, grilled pineapple, cola, citrus, the right amount of cask influence, Ahoi Brause (a mix of yellow and pink) and deeper in the glass even a whiff of herbs. This was one of my first real love affairs in “Rum”. Palate: Smooth and even in a cross-tasting like this I bet that most people wouldn’t pick up the added sweetness. I believe that it teased out a few notes here and there though, since this Cola-esque note is really unique to this particular Rum. Pineapple, banana, mango and wood are the most prominent other associations here and once again, this is magic potion territory. Where are those bloody Romans? Towards the end I also get a pronounced bitterness, which, quite to my surprise, fits in very well. Finish: Long with the bitter notes, wood, Cola and the mix of fruits. Unlike the Berry’s this one still didn’t lose anything of its magic. Adulteration or not. (90/100)
Duncan Taylor Hampden 1990 22YO (52,9%): Just like the Rum Nation, this was another of my early day favorites and for a long time I thought it would be difficult to top this one. Nose: In direct comparison to the previous two Rums, the higher abv kicks in right away. It all starts with grilled pineapple, oranges and cherries, continues with pastry, brine and a mix of nuts to move on to more and more fruits, some herbs and now also a few notes from the cask. So far, so amazing. Palate: Fruits and wifey’s nail stuff all the way. I get the famous grilled pineapple, nail polish remover, mango, ripe oranges, wood, an apple perhaps, sweet bell pepper (those tiny round and red ones), brine and strawberry? I am not sure. There’s a lot more to the Rum of course, but since these Rums are all so incredibly similar, let’s just leave it at that. Finish: Long (of course), only minimally bitter with quite some oak, the fruits (pineapple mostly) and olive oil. There’s nothing to complain about here at all. It is just that this batch gets even better… (92/100)
The Rum Cask Hampden 1990 26YO (61,9%): Another one we (should) know quite well but these semi-blind tastings are always tricky. Nose: Hampden at its best and the perfect mix of fruits, esters, acetone and the cask. We get a fruit salad containing banana, papaya, pineapple, mango, citrus and more, which is really the backbone of these Rums, especially those at a higher proof. Then something close to pastry and/ or marzipan, something that I often associate with the acetone aspect of these high ester Rums. Add to that an elegant mix of spices from the cask that comes with this maturity of continental ageing and you get what’s probably one of the very best Rums ever. Palate: Fruit galore! We get most but not all of the fruits from the nose again, at a texture that is just magnificently oily and creamy. Perhaps we should add some green apples and more citrus to that mix while deducting some of the tropical fruits. All in all, the profile is really sour, but still at a tolerable level if you ask me. Finish: Longer than long with the fruits and sour notes, as well as anise, pepper, wood and other notes from the cask. Rums like these are rare. We’ve encountered similar profiles numerous times, but seldom at this level. One of the best Hampdens ever in my book. (95/100)
Rumclub Hampden 1990 26YO (60,4%): Nose: Incredibly similar to the 26YO The Rum Cask and at least the nose is only separated by nuances, if anything. That’s why I am not going to copy any notes here but, relatively speaking, I’d say that this one has slightly more citrus, is slightly more sour and the alcohol is integrated a wee bit worse but we might have said the exact opposite on any given other day. They really are creepily similar. Palate: While it is definitely the same profile and basically as close as two barrels can get to one another, the relative differences start to get bigger at the palate. All in all, the Rum is a bit flatter, sharper and less complex than the The Rum Cask, while the barrel didn’t add as much and the maturity isn’t as spot on as with the former. But again, these are only nuances, both Rums are more or less just as good and play at an incredibly high level. It is just that if you know one, you’ll also know the other and there’s little to learn from trying the corresponding other cask. Finish: Long with the fruits, oak, anise, hints of menthol and acetone. Also one of the best Hampdens ever. (94/100)
The Rum Cask Hampden 1990 30YO (55,6%): Not too much alcohol is left, but given that it is cask strength, that’s often times a good sign as the flavours just get more concentrated and the Rum more easy to drink. Nose: Very smooth and elegant and even at 30 years, not woody at all. Crazy! It is a bit more easy going and on the pastry-side, not so much on the “aggressive” acetone one. I think it all depends on your mood and what you are looking for but this is probably the one I’d go back to on most days, while the 26YOs are the more nerdy Rums. But boy, it is just great and lovely. Needless to say, it comes with more cask aromas than any of the previous Rums and I feel that these are mostly additions to the profile. I am really curious what this tastes like. Palate: Slightly sweet and not too sour. It is like the summary of all other Rums of the batch: We have the fruity elements (pineapple, citrus, banana, mango…), the classical Pizza notes (chorizo, bell pepper, hot peppers…), acetone (at a level that’s pretty much to my liking) and the cask additions (wood, vanilla, anise, tonka). However, there’s more such as slightly maritime notes (seaweed, saltwater – perhaps soy sauce!?), rich olive oil or a few more vegetal aromas. The biggest difference to some of the other Rums might be that the Rum is a lot less sour and acidic, which is a big plus in my book. Finish: Long and elegant with pastry/ marzipan/ acetone, the spices from the cask and oak. Here and there some of the fruits pop up as well. Yes, that works! As I’ve said, this is probably the Rum I’d go back to most often, even though I feel that the 26YOs have more to offer on a more geeky level. But maybe that’s just us getting older… (94/100)