Hampden 16 year old (1998) – Kill Devil

2017 finished with an absolute cracker of a rum, so it only seems fitting to start 2018 with another…..

What is it? Pure Single Rum (100% pot still, from molasses and a single distillery) from Jamaica. This rum was distilled at the Hampden distillery in Trelawney. Hampden rums are the most potent ones out there in terms of esters, they only use pot stills and the distillery boasts a record breaking 89 (!) fermenters. Dunder is used in the fermentation process, which ranges from a minimum of 2 weeks all the way up to a month – this allows Hampden to create 7 marques of rum based on ester levels, which start at LFCH and go all the way up to DOK at 1600 gr/laa; this is virtually undrinkable and only used in the food industry to create rum based flavours in things like ice-cream or chocolates.

This bottle of rum is from a single cask, which was distilled in December 1998, aged for 16 years and then bottled by independent bottler Hunter Laing for their Kill Devil rum range, producing 316 bottles. Going off the colour and taste I’d say most of the ageing on this was done in Europe.

There is no information on the marque of rum that was in this cask, but Hampden rum is bulk exported at one marque per year and 1998 was HLCF – which, if that is the case here would make this 500-700 g/hlaa of esters (not high by Hampden standards, but bloody high by anyone elses.)

No colouring, no chill-filtration and bottled at 46% abv.

Sugar? No.

Normally I don’t comment on colour as it’s pretty irrelevant given that producers can just add colouring, however anyone who buys this may find it a bit odd and judge based on that as it’s a very light gold, almost white wine in colour. Don’t let this put you off.

Nose: Ok, yes, forget the colour of this indeed – it no way indicates the coming storm or prepares you for the impending assault on your nose and palate! Massive and pungent, huge funky hogo. If you’ve never experienced dunder and long fermentation before just smell this and it explains everything. Full of rotting citrus and tropical fruit (mangoes, papayas, lemons), fermenting pineapples, really, really, over-ripe bananas. You’ve got gloss paint, turpentine, nail polish and then a big hit of oak with warm wood, cinnamon, cloves and a hint of ginger root. Tucked away in there is a smell of new tyres that have been sat in the sun for days and rubbed with olive oil. Crushed sea shells, rock pools, fish food flakes and warm sand.

Palate: Powerful, even at 46%. Full mouth feel and oily texture. Wow. The taste profile is basically the same as the nose, which is a lazy thing to say I know, but to be honest I want it to taste like the nose, so happy days! A mix of all the rotting, fermenting and gone-off fruit, very juicy and big on banana with fresh pineapples. Then things explode. The initial palate delivery was big but after about 5 seconds in your mouth the whole things goes off like Nicolas Cage loosing his shit. Huge funk, varnish, marine fuel, seaweed, gallons of virgin olive oil, cinnamon and smoked lemons. As it settles down there is a creamy, buttery taste and an almond, almost marzipan note.

Finish: Very long. A little spice (clove and ginger), maybe some white pepper, but it’s that buttery, nutty taste. The fruits are creamed, so banana yogurt, pineapple posset and lemon cream rather than fresh juice. Some rubber gloves, balloons and bicycle inner tube in there to keep you on your toes and again a lovely extra-virgin olive oil note to compliment the savoury side.

Thoughts? Incredible rum. Definitely not a rum for people just starting out in the rum world; it’s so powerful and the flavours are so intense but it’s full, round and complex too. Staggering to think this is from a single cask and not blended, what a selection by Hunter Laing! I’ve had many cask strength bottles, this is more powerful than most of them and it’s only at 46%. I dread to think what this would be like ramped up.

I could go on and on about this rum, there is so much happening in the glass. The intensity makes it very hard to pull the individual flavours out and it’s hard to describe. Just one of those things you taste and think “wow”.

Ok, the grit; this was priced at £60 when I bought it (March 2017). No discussion to be had, it’s a bargain for the amount of flavour that’s crammed into it.

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