Hampden, LROK edition

Jamaica’s finest distillery, today without a vintage but a marque instead. LROK (Light Rum Owen Kelly, Esters: 200-400 g/hlaa) is the between-ager of Hampden for me. I believe that Hampden is at its best when it comes to the ultra high ester marques (HLCF and beyond), while Rums with the OWH or LFCH marque feel a bit misplaced. Other distilleries just seem to be much better suited for these lower high ester styles if you ask me. With LROK, it can be both. A good cask is just a very good Rum, a bad cask however always gives me this “why!?” feeling. Let’s see what we have today.

Stolen Overproof Rum (Hampden) 6YO (61,5%): I didn’t manage to figure out when this has been distilled but to the best of my knowledge, it has been bottled at the end of 2017, so it should be from 2011, I think. If you know more, please let me know. From what I’ve heard, this is supposed to be an LROK but let’s see for ourselves. Nose: Could very well be true. I get a vague amount of glue, pineapple, some acetone, citrus à la tangerine or oranges, now also lime perhaps, very little wood and later those slightly herbal notes that we get with many Jamaican Rums. A very straightforward and mellow Hampden! Palate: We now get more of the alcohol and can definitely feel the Rum’s juvenility. Besides the prominent pineapple and nail polish remover, I clearly get something between paprika and chili. Both, in terms of flavour and in terms of spicyness. Then pepper, ginger, some wood, carob, a whiff of tonka and the citrus fruits again. Definitely a different sort of Hampden, and probably one that is a bit less to my liking than the “standard” profile. Finish: Medium long with the fruits, wood, spices from the cask as well as the chiliesque notes. A solid Rum, but nothing spectacular. Its slight boozyness due to the young age is its major weakness here. (83/100)

Velier Hampden “The New York Edition” LROK 2010 9YO (59%): So far I am not sold on the LROK marque, at least not as far as the post-reopening Rums are concerned. The 2000 batch, which was also LROK, was fine, but these relatively young, tropically aged LROKs are mixed at best (in Hampden quality, of course). Nose: Pineapple, hints of acetone, tangerine/ oranges and a few more slightly sour but ripe fruits. Here and there I get some bubble gum and wood, but not too much more. It seems to be a fine one, but the nose is definitely lacking complexity. Palate: Here the problem becomes apparent: The ester level is just somewhere in the middle of nowhere: Neither low enough where Wedderburn Rums boast, nor high enough, where Hampden excels in my book. The texture is fine and while I thought that it’s slightly thin at first, we have to say that it absolutely isn’t. I get a mix of lychee, tangerine, oranges, raw pineapple, nail polish remover, a single maraschino cherry and later also herbs such as thyme or oregano. Actually it is a really good Rum, just not what we are looking for here. Finish: Long and intense with pineapple and oranges, mostly. Here and there thyme, wood and the seasoned meat juice of a nice steak pop up. All in all, the review probably sounds way more negative than it really should. It is a great Rum, that just doesn’t offer anything new if you are as familiar with the distillery as we are. (86/100)

Of course, LROK is all about those 2000s.

Adelphi Hampden 2000 15YO “Sherry Finish” (54,3%): Adelphi has done excellent Sherry finishes in the past and while I am not sure if such a things works too well with Hampden, this would probably be the batch that’s best suited for that exercise. Nose: Indeed, this seems to be an excellent balance between the distillate (grilled pineapple, esters, ripe banana) and the barrel (cherries, plums, leather). Both are enriched by more herbal notes (marojam, dill) and a continental fruit basket. I think this should be a really good one! Palate: We start with the esters, the pineapple and the fruit basket but then continue with the herbs, rum soaked raisins and a rather nice mouth wash. I’d say the experiment is a great success, especially after having so many other, somewhat interchangable rums from this batch already. With the second sip we get more from the finish, i.e. dark cherries, some leather and and a mix of dried fruits (plums, dates, etc.) and perhaps ginger peel. Finish: Long and rich, with the esters, herbal notes and a mix of red berries. A really cool one that gained plenty of additional nuances thanks to the finish, but that is not overly shaped by it. Nicely done! (86/100)

Silver Seal Hampden 2000 16YO (51%): Nose: Relatively speaking, we are dealing with a continental fruit basket here, rather than a tropical one. The more “exotic” fruits such as pineapple really accept a subordinate role to the notes of oranges, pear, plums, lemon or even strawberry. Then some wood, vanilla, stewed pear and cinnamon perhaps. At least the nose doesn’t mind the water here. Palate: Pineapple, stewed pineapple, oranges, cinnamon, wood and vanilla are the most obvious associations. All in all, it really seems to have this “stewed”-type of profile and texture. Like in the nose, I do not mind the added water since I don’t get the feeling that it took anything away from the general flavour profile. Finish: Long, longer Hampden, even when they are diluted. We get the stewed pineapple with wood and the spices from the cask, cinnamon firstand foremost. The Rum is absolutely not special in any regard (in Hampden terms, that is), but it is doing many things right and comes rather close to what the ideal, easy sipping Hampden should be like in my book. (86/100)

Scotch Malt Whisky Society R7.1 “Welcome to Jamrock” (Hampden) 2000 16YO (54%): We’ve said it a few times before but with Rum, SMWS does not have the same type of “exclusivity” as they do have within the field of Scotch Whisky. That is, I am expecting IB mishmash here, vicously speaking. Nose: Yup, exactly that. This is your average Hampden 2000 regarding both, profile and quality. It is slightly more reserved than the Silver Seal for instance, with a bit less distillate and a bit more cask, relatively speaking. It is lacking this dominant fruitness a bit, which I love so much about the better Rums of the batch. There’s even a slightly musty and mouldy note in there, which is really odd. Palate: A lot better than the nose. I am still missing the fruityness a bit but this seems a lot more balanced with fewer of the “off-notes”. Of course it comes with the familiar pineapple, but this one is hard to describe. It lacks the intensity of a ripe and the sourness of a young one. What is more, it isn’t even in the middle of the spectrum. Then wood, cinnamon and other barks, Nashi, matcha but besides that, nothing we didn’t get to know before. All in all, it is definitely not the most complex expression but much rather a very average cask, at best. Finish: Medium long and relatively dry without many fruity notes. Instead, wood, the green tea and some spices shape the finish. Like the Stolen one, it is a good Rum, but a subpar Hampden. I will probably not become a fan of this particular cask. (83/100)