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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

April 9, 2017


True malternatives, Hampden adlib

To tell you the truth, this situation reminds me a little of when we could still taste a series of ten new Ardbegs, all distilled in the early to mid 1970s, just like that. Epic times, really. And although our ending will most probably – and hopefully - be very different from his, let’s remember what Yukio Mishima did write, “True beauty is something that attacks, overpowers, robs, and finally destroys.” We might well uncover true (and raw) beauty today…


Hampden 17 yo 1993/2010 ‘Mabaruma’ (46%, Pugi, Jamaica, 248 bottles)

Hampden 17 yo 1993/2010 ‘Mabaruma’ (46%, Pugi, Jamaica, 248 bottles) Five stars An Italian bottling for the company Pellegrini SPA that also had a very good ‘Barangai’. Not sure they’re related to the Pellegrinis that used to work with Corti Bros in California, well, let’s not go too deep into details. At 46%, this should have remained ‘kind of gentle’. Colour: gold. Nose: and here you go. Fresh paint, new stereo set (circa 1975), unpacking a new iPhone (whatever), cellulosic varnish, black olives, perhaps even a little sauerkraut, caraway and cumin, a touch of coffee, raw cocoa powder… This is unstoppable. And yet, at just 46% vol., it doesn’t seem like it’ll kill you. Mouth: pure, sharp, ultra-liquoricy Hampden, with plenty of salty coal tar and a blend of olive brine with green lemon juice (not quite lime). Fantastic, even if we’ve had some more complex Hampdens. No, really, love this Port Ellen of rum. Finish: long, on just the same profile. Comments: probably approaching the 15g/LPA esters. Now a Port Ellen of rum or an Ardbeg of rum? Discuss (I’m joking). SGP:363 – 90 points.

Good, that was the easier part. Because, cough, cough…

Hampden 23 yo 1993/2016 (61%, Cave Guildive, Jamaica)

Hampden 23 yo 1993/2016 (61%, Cave Guildive, Jamaica) Five stars Ex-bourbon barrels from a new very skilled and passionate independent bottler in Zürich, Switzerland. Let’s see if they had thrown Swiss cow heads into the dunder pit back in 1993 (I AM joking). Colour: straw. Nose: more painty and varnishy than the Mabaruma, but that may be the much higher strength. Lots and lots of fermentation aromas, rotting bananas, heavy and heady Dutch liquorice, brake dust (after the Nürburgring, ha-ha), some ultra-green brisk cabernet sauvignon, perhaps, damp old floorcloth… Oh well, it talks and talks and talks. With water: chocolate and coffee dust, more brake dust, and hectolitres of brine. UHU glue. Mouth (neat): totally green and liquoricy. Really very extreme. Anchovies, olives, tar, liquorice, lemon juice, UHU glue again, engine oil… All that. Hits you and hits you again. With water: sour lemons and ultra-dry cider, with a salty background. Finish: endless, salty, very briny. You just ate three tins of gherkins and drank all the brine (and had nothing else to drink). A wonderful dirtiness in the aftertaste. Mud and diesel oil. Comments: insane. And probably illegal. And I know many friends who’ll say this is flawed spirit. Now if you don’t like ultra-sharp spirits, indeed, you may walk away. SGP:473 - 92 points.

Hampden 1998/2017 (62%, The Wild Parrot, Jamaica, cask #WP9862, 278 bottles)

Hampden 1998/2017 (62%, The Wild Parrot, Jamaica, cask #WP9862, 278 bottles) Five starsI told you, birds and booze is becoming a very common combination. I mean, on labels. So what’s this Wild Parrot? It seems that it’s a range by Italian bottlers Hidden Spirit. Colour: straw. Nose: this one’s more alcoholic, so more spirity, with some kind of pineapple eau-de-vie, and a style that’s closer to cask strength agricole at times. And yet, this is well molasses in pot still, and not cane juice in columns. Now the Jamaicanness never stops flying out, with the usual tarry olives and briny liquorice. With water: a wonderful earthiness, old style pipe tobacco, pinesap, ‘*-ols”… Brilliant. Mouth (neat): a very marginally lighter version after the massive Guildive, a touch rounder, but it’s still huge, big, and phat. And of course, totally excellent. With water: superb salty development! Olives, olives, olives… A sweeter liquoricy touch in the background. Finish: ultra-long, almost all on salted liquorice. Lovely touch of wood smoke in the aftertaste. What, Jamaican kippers? Comments: love, love, love. Who needs Islay? Of course I’m joking. SGP:463 - 91 points.

Hampden 1992/2016 (61.6%, Rum Nation, Jamaica, cask #1-12, 504 bottles)

Hampden 1992/2016 (61.6%, Rum Nation, Jamaica, cask #1-12, 504 bottles) Five stars 504 bottles from a single cask at full strength? This should be a butt, aged in Europe. Thank you Sherlock. Or there’s been some ullage/vatting taking place. Colour: gold. Nose: ultra-bright again, rather in the style of the Mabaruma, only at full speed. Petrol, tar, brine, anti-rust paint, black tapenade (crushed olives and anchovies), and then, in the back, a few fresh tropical fruits, around oranges and bananas. Oh and some camphor. I’ll tell you what I think a little later. With water: some flowers! Pot-pourri, dried roses… Dried mint leaves… Some pipe tobacco too, and perhaps a touch of cedar wood. Mouth (neat): a panzer division with fruits and flowers. Impeccably massive, salty, liquoricy, olive-y, kippery, and all that. Amazing rum for whisky lovers. With water: an amazing balance between some tropical jams (the names escape me), and the usual huge tarry/salty/high-estery side. Finish: very long and beastly, but it takes water well and you can tame it. Comments: I’ve heard they’re being poured this when they’re shooting Game of Thrones. I mean, the battles. SGP:363 - 92 points.

In any tasting session, you need a crux. Maybe this last one…

Hampden 1998/2016 (66.3%, Rum Nation, Jamaica, cask #1-15, 480 bottles)

Hampden 1998/2016 (66.3%, Rum Nation, Jamaica, cask #1-15, 480 bottles) Five stars Assassino! Colour: pale gold. Nose: yeah it’s a bit like the Wild Parrot, that is to say a notch more eau-de-vie-ish, and a tad less ‘grand-arôme’ than the 1992-1993s. As if they had done a little less ‘esterification’ back in 1998.  But no worries, this is still as funky as the best Jamaicans can be, with all the usual suspects (olives and friends). With water: wow wow wow! Small herbs, genepy, verbena, perhaps chives, ramson/wild leek, which is very Hampden now that I’m thinking about that… And all things muddy, brake-fluidy, tarry, and plasticine-y. Mouth (neat): takes your tongue and twists it. Some gingery/clove-y oak, somewhere, sometime. With water: impeccable, and even kind of civilised. That’s my Vittel, I’m sure (where’s the cheque, Nestlé?) Salty and rather a little rounded, with some softer spices. Almost gentle, in fact. Finish: very long, superb, salty, spicy. Mustard on some speculoos. Yeah I know. Comments: you could spend evenings pondering the respective merits of the 1992 and the 1998. But you’d need several bottles (and a good liver). I’m a tiny-wee bit more in favour of the 1992, perhaps. SGP:453 - 91 points.

Whew! That was all very very close (and high)… What a distillate! In my book, Hampden is an epitomical malternative.

(And grazzie mille, Francesco at Lo Spirito Dei Tempi)

More tasting notes Check the index of all rums I've tasted so far







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