Hampden 18 year old (1998) – Kill Devil

Don’t get too excited, this isn’t some hidden little rum, this is simply me doing a face palm. I get through a lot of rum and I don’t have time in my life to write a review and post on the blog every time I open a bottle, as such I’ve taken to writing notes over the years and posting reviews as and when I’m able to. Usually I’m quite good with it and my reviews are reasonably current to what I’m drinking but sometimes it’s from a bottle that I have finished many months prior. This one is quite embarrassing. I was looking through my historic notes for my next review and found a piece of paper tucked down the back of my bookcase – I did wonder where this one got to! So it’s old. You can’t buy it anymore. I bought it, I drank it and wrote notes, so I’m going to review it.

What is it? It’s a Hampden, so Jamaican Pure Single Rum (100% pot still, from molasses, distilled at a single distillery). This one was distilled in December 1998 and matured for 18 years after which it was bottled by Hunter Laing for their Kill Devil rum range. There isn’t any information on where this was matured but I’m certain it was aged in Europe, judging by the taste profile. Again, we have no marque detail on the rum, but Hampden bulk exported at one marque a year and in 1998 it was marque HLCF which stands at an ester count of 500-700 g/hlaa. Back in the day, when this was put out, Kill Devil only had a small portfolio of rums – there wasn’t much Hampden about (or much else from Kill Devil) at the time and certainly nothing at Cask Strength – so it’s quite interesting to re-read and remember the noting and drinking in the more recent rum climate.

One of 381 bottles.

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

Sugar? No.

Nose: Yep, Hampden has entered the building. Pineapple cube sweets, old black bananas, pineapple slices, banana bread, pineapple juice and so it goes on. Some lime zest, actually more Key Lime Pie, so creamier and some earthy biscuit. Paint thinner, diesel, creosote and the smell you get on your hands when oiling a door latch – that metallic oily smell. A little brine, sand, rock pools and the faintest distant oak.

Palate: Medium to full mouth feel, just starting to get oily. Big initial entry of banana and fermenting pineapple, it just explodes straight away. Some white pepper, limes, mangoes and more pineapple and banana. Pear Drops, nail varnish, furniture glue – or what it would taste of, I imagine. Olive oil and a little salted butter which is a nice touch. Very little cask influence indeed, the teeniest bit of vanilla and oaky cinnamon, and I mean tiny. Things settle mid-palate and it gets nice and calm.

Finish: Medium, which is surprising, I thought it’d be longer. Left over fruits, but fuller so more on the banana bread, pineapple cake and lime cream than actual banana, pineapple and lime. Big fat green olives (those massive Greek ones) and some rubber balloons, a touch of stamp glue and a prickly buzz of pepper and green chilies right at the end.

Thoughts? Solid. A very good solid Jamaican pot still rum. By anyone’s standard this is very good rum but I can’t help but compare it to another 1998 which was the 16 year old Kill Devil; that one just exploded with flavour – it was just such a massive rum – this certainly has aspects of that but where the 16 year old took off mid-palate this drops away. It just goes to show you how single casks can be.

I picked this up back in 2017 for £70 and it was retailing for a touch over £80 at the time. When I bought it I thought that was fine enough for an 18 year old Hampden, but looking at modern prices it seems like a bit of a steal. Personally though if I had the choice of this or the 16 year old for the same money I’d take the 16 year old every day of the week.

Still, very good rum, just lacking in a few areas.

 

Saint James XO

Dipping into an agricole today, I must admit that this is not my forte and my palate is still getting used to agricole rums, so make of this what you will. For what it’s worth I’ve gone for something with a touch more age and a more “classic” rum profile in the way of Saint James XO for this review.

What is it? Agricole rum (column still from cane juice) from the Saint James distillery in Martinique. Given where this is from they have a nice little AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) which governs exactly what the rum must be restricted to for production and aging. The AOC Martinique regulations are very (very) extensive and you can read about them directly online here if you fancy geeking out, so I wont go over this too much, but to cover some of the more interesting points it indicates a rum made from sugar cane cultivated in strictly authorised areas on the island, with limited yields and agricultural practices that protect the land and the quality of the crops. 100 per cent sugar cane juice must be used in production, distillation is made through columns or continuous stills, alcohol levels must not be lower than 40% ABV and colouring must be natural from ageing only in oak casks. There are only seven AOC accredited distilleries on Martinique. Just 3 per cent of the world’s rum holds the AOC Agricole Rum mark. It goes on and on to include the brix level (sugar content) of the juice, fermentation times allowed, level of organic volatiles for each grade, minimum maturation periods etc. This rum is also marked as an XO, which means that under the AOC regulations it has to be aged for a minimum of 6 years in oak barrels not exceeding 650 liters – obviously it can be made up of older rums too, but we don’t know the blend details in this other than it is at least 6 years old, aged tropically. I’ve seen reports that is contains rums up to 10 years old, but it may well change from time to time depending on yields and flavour profile consistency.

Not coloured (as detailed above), chill filtered and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Quite a full and rich nose with hazelnut, milk chocolate, fudge, pralines actually or whole nut chocolate bars, marmalade, chocolate covered gingers, raisins and vanilla. Under this are more typical agricole notes of hay, some sweeter white wine, fennel, tarragon and parsley. Some fresh root licorice and a touch of black olive as well as brine right at the end.

Palate: Medium mouth feel, sharp and dry. Ah, totally opposite to the nose; starts with cane juice, which wine, aniseed, tarragon sauce, sharp and tangy oranges and some sour woody notes – almost green sappy wood. Then come the nutty toasted oaks, white pepper, vanilla and cinnamon notes at the back of the palate. Still a slight sour note running through to the end.

Finish: Medium. Nutty still from the palate, hazelnuts, milk chocolate and nutmeg. As the Finish lingers you’re left with quite a bit of raw licourice, fennel, soil and brine. It’s more like the progression of the nose here.

Thoughts? Good but not great. I love the nose but the palate is just a bit too sharp and sour for my liking – it is an agricole, and as I say I’ve still got a way to go with my palate as it stands. This rum set me back only around £40 which is pretty cheap for an XO agricole, usually you’d be into to £60 plus range, as such I think it’s fair value for money and one worth seeking out to dip your toe into the matured agricole world. Personally though it’s not for me at the moment and not something I’d look at buying again.

Diamond 11 year old Port Ellen Cask (2008) – Kill Devil

What is it? Pure Single Rum (molasses based, 100% pot still, single distillery) from the Diamond Distillery in Guyana. This rum was distilled on the Port Mourant wooden pot still back in April 2008 and matured in the UK for around 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask, at which point it was transferred over to an ex-oloroso sherry butt for finishing for just under 2 years, after which it was bottled by Hunter Laing for their Kill Devil rum brand. Now this wasn’t any old ex-oloroso butt that Hunter Laing had knocking about, oh no, this was a sherry butt that had been holding Port Ellen single malt Scotch whisky. For those of you that don’t follow whisky, Port Ellen is a bit of a unicorn; it was an Islay distillery that produced a peated single malt (they had their own maltings, which are still used today for malting the barley on Islay for the distilleries there) and closed back in 1983 during an industry wide culling of distilleries. It’s very rare whisky and is now a collectors item, with bottles going for £1000’s. This cask was used to mature Port Ellen whisky for over 34 years, so there is plenty of the spirit soaked into the wood, and this rum is likely to be the closest I’ll ever come to Port Ellen!

One of 690 bottles produced.

Not chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at cask strength of 60.9% abv.

I’ve been waiting to review this Diamond 11 year old Port Ellen Cask Kill Devil for ages, but there’s some type of pandemic going on, my kids are off school, the wife is at home and knocking reviews out…..well…..it’s been on the back burner.

So Port Mourant, in a very old Port Ellen sherry cask, at full blast. Hold on to your hats.

Sugar? No

Nose: Quite rich and full actually, given the very light colour to this whisky. Typical Port Mourant notes of aniseed, fennel and salted liquorice, green olives and brine, crushed sea shells and marine fuel. Then we get the cask. What a cask! Sweet vanilla, a little cinnamon and soft billowing smoke, iodine, tarry ropes on a jetty, smoked lemons and a touch of icing sugar. We’ve also got meaty figs, flame raisins, sultanas and blanched walnuts in there too – that peat from the Port Ellen cask really shows up.

Palate: Full mouth, not as big and rich as the nose though. Holy shit, peat. Immediately the aniseed and liquorice of the rum are joined with thick, salty, medicinal peat smoke. Surgical bandages, sticking plasters, stamp glue, smoked ham, pine sap, menthol and smoke lemons again. The medicinal peat amplifies the fennel and liquorice of the Port Mourant and binds with it – it’s a savoury party in your mouth, hugely phenolic. The notes of new leather, fig and milk chocolate from the sherry butt show up part way just to keep it real, but that tell-tale peaty smoke sits there all the way.

Finish: Long. The smoke billows on and is joined by sweeter notes of milk chocolate, lemons covered with icing sugar, roasted walnuts, smoked fennel, pan-fried green banana and even a little butterscotch. There’s the odd tang of olive and bitter liquorice root that pops up during the course but it tends to stay sweeter and less phenolic here.

Thoughts? Rumsky! Give it to a whisky drinker and they’d tell you it was the latest Ardbeg release (whatever thing they were doing that year). That Port Ellen cask is magnificent, what I’d have given to actually have tried the whisky. There is so much character with peat, smoke and sherry that comes through to the rum even with such a short finishing period. The cask really compliments the savoury side of the Port Mourant, sure it’s dominant but it doesn’t over shadow the rum, it binds and amplifies it into one harmonious thing.

Ardbeg released a young whisky finished in rum casks some time back (Ardbeg Drum), it was the same price as this and it was shit. 1-nil to the rum world I’d say.

Right, £90. Yes, an expensive 11 year old European aged rum, but you’re paying for the cask it’s been sat in for that 2 years so that’s just how it goes I’m affraid. As I say, the closest I’ll ever get to Port Ellen. I think it’s wonderful, but it’s not going to be for everyone this, I happen to really like peated Scotch, and if you don’t then probably give it a miss. I feel lucky to have been able to get hold of a bottle and I’d buy it again.

Pusser’s 50th Anniversary Rum

What is it? Pusser’s is a brand of rum synonymous with the British Royal Navy and they play heavily on the navy theme and certainly produce what most people would call a “Navy” style rum – all very interesting given that the company was formed in the late 70’s and the Navy rum ration was stopped in 1970……but there you go. Pusser’s claim to follow the recipe for British Navy rum and historically this has contained a mixture of rums mainly from Guyana and Trinidad. Over the years the blend has changed somewhat with more recent versions of their Gunpowder Proof sourcing entirely from Guyana – I understand there used to be Caroni in the blend and for obvious reasons (they’re closed and the rum costs a shit ton of money) they don’t use it anymore. This rum, however, is a different story; what we have here is a rum released by Pusser’s to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Black Tot Day – ceasing of the rum ration – which was 31st July 1970. For this rum Pusser’s claim to have made a blend to the exact specifications of the Admiralty at the time the rum ration was stopped and does state that it is a blend of rums from Guyana AND Trinidad (is it going to have any Caroni in here? Probably not). The blend consists of 5 stills, 3 from Guyana (Port Mourant, Versailles and probably the Enmore still given it’s ability to produce a very heavy modified Navy component) and 2 from Trinidad. The rum is then aged for an unspecified time, which after some time researching looks to be around 7 or 8 years, which I would assume to be tropically.

This is a limited edition rum released in 2020 and consists of 5000 bottles with mine being bottle number 1776.

We don’t know if this is chill-filtered (I hope not), it is coloured and bottled at 54.5% abv.

Sugar? Yes, there is around 10g/l in here. Now the jury is out on whether this was done by Pusser’s or not as their website states they do not add sugar, but there is definitely some in here. As the blend relies heavily on rum from DDL (Demerara Distillers Limited) this could be the kicker; they are widely known to pre-colour and pre-sugar their rums in the cask before it’s sold on. They also coat some casks inside with molasses prior to cask fill, so it’s entirely possible that Pusser’s are being truthful and did not add anything – it may have been done at source by the distillers.

Nose: Yep, Pusser’s. At first glance it’s your usual Pusser’s nose, but quite quickly it becomes evident that it’s something more; it’s all grown up and very serious. Black boot polish, liquorice, aniseed balls, Bournville dark chocolate, nutmeg, flamed orange rind, wet leaves, mushrooms and a touch of brine. There’s walnut cake, banana bread, rich molasses and black coffee in here too and a lovely distant note of old diesel engines firing up. There’s a slight touch of spent matches at the end, but it doesn’t spoil anything.

Palate: Thick, rich and coating. Exactly what I was expecting, although it is a little sweet and a touch too much viscosity which is more than I’d hoped given the low sugar reading….hmmmm….treacle toffee, molasses, Java coffee but with milk this time, dark chocolate, prunes, tobacco smoke, caramalised banana on burnt toast with maple syrup. Those soft chew black liquorice sweets, salted plums, soaked porcini mushrooms, brine, rosemary and sage jelly. Things get a little bitter as it tails off, it’s touching on too much bitterness but just about manages to stay on the right side of ok.

Finish: Medium, not the best bit. Still molasses, but bitter, treacle, fig, dark chocolate, yeasty Marmite or Bovril, strong breakfast tea, aniseed, some salted banana and liquorice – less than the palate but it’s still there, more of a root here than a sweet.

Thoughts? Really good. The finish lets things down a little but on the whole it’s a very good rum. It’s almost a mix of the old 15 year old and the Gunpowder Proof, it feels like Pusser’s come of age. If this were a permanent bottle in the line-up I’d have one on my shelf at all times, it’s really what Pusser’s should be and a must for anyone who is into their Navy style rums – it is exactly what you’d expect a Navy rum to be like. The problem is that this will never be a permanent member of the range as it’d simply make both the 15 year old and the Gunpower Proof obsolete! I’d like to see this with zero added sugar and hopefully that’d sort out the lackadaisical finish.

This was £50, which I think is spot on for what you get.

Casa Santana 12 year old (batch 1) – That Boutique’y Rum Company

What is it? Rum (molasses based, multi-distillery, multi-column) bottled under the Casa Santana name by the independent bottles That Boutique’y Rum Company. So tells us nothing. Casa Santana aren’t a distillery, they are a company so they source their rums as New Make from various places and cask it for maturation themselves, so even though this is “Colombian” rum it’s really not; it’s rum that has been sourced from various distilleries around the Central American area (the likes of Panama, Venezuela and maybe even some stuff from actual Colombia) and matured in Colombia. The rum that have gone into this “blend” is all multi-column stuff, so nothing too exciting, and then aged for at least 12 years in Columbia (in what cask type, we don’t know) – I can’t say I’m too impressed with the story behind this, it’s not Colombian rum at all it’s a Central American Blend that any odd company could put out if they had some spare warehouse space. In case you’re interested, Casa Santana have various brands they produced, such as La Hechicera and Juan Santos to name a few.

This is from Casa Santana Batch 1 and my bottle it bottle 1721 of 3766.

Not coloured, not chill-filtered and bottled at 58.4% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Spicy. Clove, ginger, black peppercorns, red chillies and some tannic oak. Toffee chews, a little honey and a touch of leather after the spice dies down. A faint hint of some distant cigar smoke and heavy roasted coffee bean. There is a little chlorine and soapy smell near the end and another unusual smell I can’t pin down that I found in Dictador (another Colombian rum), and I didn’t like the smell in that either.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Hot entry and woody. Some strong breakfast tea, praline, salted butter fudge, caramel infused with chilli, horseradish and coffee bean again. There is some tar, engine oil and a little sea salt mid way, which is nice, and a rubber glove note at the end that is almost latex like, which isn’t so nice. The odd banana shows up here and there as well as a small slice of pineapple, but there really isn’t much fruit.

Finish: Quite long actually. Hot. Generally softer here though, the spices seem to have gone so you get gingerbread, toffee and pecan pie, fudge, caramelised banana and an almost mince pie note – those posh ones though with lots of nuts in them, with allspice, nutmeg, roasted nuts and pastry.

Thoughts? On the whole it’s enjoyable, but there is something in this blend that I don’t get on with. I suspect it’s the same stuff that is in Dictador; an almost fake, concocted note or slightly chemical like. Saying that there is a fair bit going on, but it is oak heavy and very hot – it’s not the most complex rum out there though.

Right, rant time. I paid £30 for a 50cl bottle (that’s all these Boutique’y Rum Company bottles come in). I hate these shitty little bottles, just put it in a proper 70cl bottle and have done with it. We all know what’s going on here, it looks cheaper and you don’t think you’re getting that much less rum but you bloody well are! A 70cl bottle has 40% more rum in it than a 50cl bottle! Factor that into the price you’re paying and these TBRC bottles aren’t very price competitive. Ok, I know some people like smaller bottles because it means they can try a rum without paying too much more, but when you work out how much the same thing would cost you for a full grown-up bottle it’s really not very good value for money.

Speaking of value, this was £30…..if I take the abv down to 40% and factor it up to a proper bottle size of 70cl that makes it £29, so it’s cheaper than the likes of La Hechicera from the same company. Given that, it’s not going to break the bank, so I think that’s OK. I wouldn’t really want to pay much more though.