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.

 

Monymusk 14 year old (2003) – Adelphi Single cask

I ended last year with an absolute cracker by way of an independent Jamaican from Worthy Park (Habitation Velier Forsyths WPM) so what better way to start this year with another one! For today’s review we’re going to Adelphi for their 14 year old Monymusk. Now, I’ve previously reviewed their Hampden which was incredible, so no pressure Adelphi! Eyes down, look in, as they say.

What is it? Pure Single Rum from Jamaica (100% pot still, single distillery, molasses based). This one has come from the Monymusk brand produced at the Clarendon distillery in Jamaica. This rum is from a single cask and was distilled in 2003, after which it was shipped to Scotland for ageing until 2018, making it 14 years old – so European aged rum. The rum was finished in an Oloroso sherry butt for a period of time and a total outrun of 346 bottles were produced. I have spoken to Adelphi about this rum but other than vague details of ageing and the sherry dipping at the end, they don’t have any more information, which is a shame as I’d really like to know how long it was finished off for, if it spent any time in the tropics maturing and definitely some details on the cask marque so we can get an idea of ester levels – unfortunately none of that data exists…..take note please Adelphi, we want to know this stuff, it matters.

The bottle is labelled as cask JM2, which follows on from the Hamden JM1, so I just assume this is some Adelphi code. It was bottled at 58.8% abv, not chill filtered nor coloured.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Mmmmmm, lovely. Deep and rich. Firstly some ester’y, bread’y, banana’y rum – more so than with other Monymusks I’ve had, but it’s not an ester bomb by any means. Then comes the cask with hot buttered cinnamon and raisin bagels, cloves, toffee, flamed orange zest, tree sap, damp leaves and some hessian sacks. Some banana bread and green olive come out again later on as the play between rum and cask moves back and forward dynamically.

Palate: Medium, not as fat as I was expecting – maybe the abv here. A touch of water does make send it oilier. Dry, a little sharp at first and herbal with some lavender or something. Then oranges, the bitter white pith, sour raisins and a touch of white wine. Then comes the banana bread and a touch of pineapple, nutmeg and a real taste of dry sherry, toasted nuts and bung cloth.

Finish: Long, quite astringent at first and hot, but quickly it moves on to the sweeter notes of banana in toffee sauce, banana bread, a little green olive, a touch of brine and cask flavours of raisin, cinnamon, vanilla, chestnuts and orange zest.

Thoughts? Very good – “less good” than the Hampden bottling by quite some way, but that one is very hard to beat, we’re still looking at a top tier rum here though. I had been drinking it neat but after this review I added a touch of water to take it down to about 50/52% abv and it got fatter and less astringent, it does loose some of the oomph though but the gains out-weight the losses here and that’s how I was drinking it towards the end. The sherry cask does over step the rum with this one but it’s such a good cask that it compliments the rum and you can still easily find the Monymusk in there.

A great example of how to sherry cask finish a spirit this is. I paid £85, which I’m happy with. Yes, I know it’s pricey, but Adelphi bottles are always pricey, just have to live with that. One I’d get again and very much enjoy.

 

 

Forsyths 2006/2017 WPM (Worthy Park) – Habitation Velier

Well, the kids are breaking up for school and Christmas is around the corner, so it’s likely this will be my last review of 2019 – I’ve decided to end the year with a bang. This is a little bottle I’ve had tucked away and been stretching out for as long as possible, mainly because it’s outstanding, limited and bloody expensive; a “Forsyths” 2006 WPM (so Worthy Park) from Habitation Velier and I’ve been waiting to review this!

What is it? Pure Single Rum (one distillery, pot still, molasses based) from the Worthy Park distillery in Jamaica. In case you don’t know, Worthy Park don’t really like Independent bottlers putting the Worthy Park name on their bottles, which is fair enough I guess, and it’s why you see their releases with names such as “WP”, “Forsyths”, “Lluidas Vale” etc – we all know it’s a Worthy Park, the distillery all know we know it’s a Worthy Park, the bottlers all know we know its a Worthy Park, it’s all a little game we seem to play.

So this rum was distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2017 by Velier under the Habitation Velier brand, making it 11 years old. All of the ageing was done tropically which has given an Angel’s Share of over 63% – that’s around the same as if it was matured in Europe for 25 years or so (European Angel’s Share sits at 2-3% a year loss). It’s from marque WPM (Worthy Park Medium Light) and has an ester level of 209.3 gr/hlpa.

Natural colour, not chill filtered and bottled at 57.5% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Bloody hell fire. Good job I’m sat down. This is something otherworldly. Banana bread, Jamaican ginger cake, smoked BBQ pineapples, candied mango, Fruit Salad chews and just enough oak with sandalwood, cinnamon, 2 cloves and some light pipe tobacco. Then we get that savoury undertone of hot car engines, those purple Kalamata olives, their oil, Pear Drops, brine and a tiny anchovy. There’s also some more banana, a touch of old leather bound books, old leather chairs, some banana, with some over ripe banana – yeah it’s a Worthy Park alright! Those bananas are not sweet or anything, just this banana’y savoury undercurrent throughout.

Palate: Full, oily and waxy. Incredible here. This isn’t a “big” ester rum but you certainly know where it’s from that’s for sure. Damn this is good. Big banana again, some piccalilli, olives, salty brine’y sand, engine oil, limes, pineapple, anchovies and some smokey mushroom even – not strong ones though, maybe those oyster mushrooms or girolle. Pear Drops again, banana, pineapple, ginger and some liquorice root that creeps in. A touch of rubber inner tubes and stamp glue. Finally a mix of cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg from the cask.

Finish: Long. Divine. Stays sweeter here for a while, with those caramelised almonds you can buy, brown sugar and a little very good Cornish fudge. After a minute or 2 liquorice and a little olive appears with some fragrant peppercorn. Things get fruity again with more banana and a sweet/sour yuzu type note. Candied pineapple and limes are there right at the end.

Thoughts? I don’t know where to start with this one. I’ve tried to write down how it smells and tastes to me, but it’s not at all doing this rum justice, there is something about it that is “extra”, it’s something you occasionally smell and taste in a spirit that you just can’t quantify; almost an X-Factor flavour, so I’ve done my best. This is easily one of the best rums I’ve ever drunk. Of course, preference is personal and all that but for me this rum is getting pretty damn close to perfection – if there are better rums out there I can’t wait to try them, they must be mind-blowing. This beaut has everything; the esters are just right, the cask interaction is just right, the strength is perfect and as with some rums, there is this Umami note that you can’t pin down, it just feels round and complete and it elevates the thing beyond normal rums.

Listen, Habitation Velier rums are not cheap, we know this. Even taking into account the tropical ageing and all that jazz, you’re still digging deep into your pocket to get one, and I paid £110 for this at the time. By God was it worth every penny. I have to forget about rationalising the cost against stuff it says on the label (we all do it, how old is it, how rare is it, what are the esters? – who cares) and think about what I’ve just drunk and if that is worth the money to me…..it is stunning.

 

Lluidas Vale (Worthy Park) 12 year old (2006) – The Duchess

What is it? Jamaican Pure Single Rum (molasses derived rum, 100% pot still, from 1 distillery in Jamaica) from the Worthy Park distillery. It’s called Lluidas Vale because Worthy Park don’t like independent bottlers using their name on bottlings, which is fair enough as they can control their brand. Worthy Park is located in Lluidas Vale, hence the name. This rum was from a single cask that was filled in 2006, matured for around 9 years in Jamaica before coming to Europe to finish off it’s ageing until 2018, so a total time of 12 years, at which point it was bottled by Nils Van Rijn from http://www.bestofwhiskies.com under the rum brand The Duchess. The ageing of 9 years in the tropics puts this on par with a European aged rum of around 20-25 years old.

The rum was from marque WPL (Worthy Park Light) which sits in an ester range of 60-119 g/hlaa. And this is 1 bottle from the cask that produced 268 bottles of rum.

Not coloured, not chill filtered and bottled at 57.9% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Quite savoury and a lot less banana than with some Worthy Parks, not to say it lacks it though with over baked and burnt banana bread and some banoffee fritters, but we’re generally savoury here; tar, WD40, olive oil, olives, camphor, Tiger Balm and a handful of crushed sea shells. Some salty seaweed, but almost smoked and dried and some sweetness of char-grilled pineapple at the end.

Palate: Full weighty mouth, oily. Savoury here again, although a little more fruit and spice; black bananas, over ripe pineapple, mango and some light toffee with a touch of ginger. Then on to the salt, liquorice, tar, shellfish, olive oil and anchovies. Oak appears here but it’s not tannic or gripping, just shows as black breakfast tea and the taste of a chewed pencil with graphite inside.

Finish: Long. Sweeter here than the nose and palate, some cane, toffee, a little marmalade maybe. Aniseed ball sweets and soft eating liquorice make it a touch herbal. There is some cinnamon, ginger and a bit of milk chocolate as it gets to the end. All through though there’s the salty, oily undertone that keeps it interesting.

Thoughts? Excellent. I like Worthy Park, a lot, but sometimes I find it a little on the sweet side. This takes me back to one of my first ever Worthy Park bottles from Bristol Classic (an 8 year old), which was proper savoury. This isn’t quite that level of savoury but it’s definitely over that side of the fence. Interesting, complex, perfect abv and I’d say the right mix of tropical and European ageing.

I picked this up for £55 and I think that’s a great buy given how independent single casks of rum are heading now. Well done Nils, good selection, and thanks for keeping the price reasonable for us! I’d easily pick up another of these.

Aldi Crossbones Premium Rum Mashup

I shop in Aldi. I shop there for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the general price to quality ratio of the stuff you get is excellent. Sure, there are a few duds on their shelves, but on the whole the stuff I buy is better in quality than other supermarkets at the same price point, if we’re comparing like for like. This extends right into their alcoholic drinks range with their wines blowing away stuff 3 times the price. Long have Aldi done a range of whiskies and about a billion gins, but rum has always lagged behind. They put out the Sea Dog spiced rum this year which really wasn’t very good, but I have been hoping for more offerings. So there I was, minding my own business in the Aisle of Wonder when I see some new rum. I’ll have some of that!

A while ago Aldi released 2 new “Premium” rums as part of their Special Buys (they come, they go, then they’re gone), one was a golden rum and one was a dark rum, both called “Crossbones”. As I have a lot of time for Aldi I thought I’d give them chance to make amends for the Sea Dog. I’m going to review both rums here to give you a fair account of them against each other as I imagine most people will see them on the shelf and be wondering which one to go for.

Update: It looks like these rums may have been incorporated into the wider range rather than Special Buy as they are now sitting with the rest of the booze on the main shelf. Hopefully the dark rum will be part of the core range.

First, lets start with the review of Aldi Crossbones Premium Golden Rum:

What is it? Dunno. Rum. It’s a blend of young and older rums from around the Caribbean, aged in oak casks. We don’t know the still type, or the countries, or how long they have been aged in oak for. So we’ve looking at a generic rum blend here. Without a doubt this will be entirely from molasses.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? My hydrometer says 4g/l, that is perfectly fine and generally considered to be “none” as anything under 5g/l can be attributed by cask sugars. So well done Aldi, they’ve not smoothed it over with sugar.

Nose: Pretty pleasant actually, smells like rum. Some spirity varnish notes and it’s on the lighter Cuban or Central American side, high in column still, but none the less it’s a fair nose; banana, coconut, caramels and baking spices with cinnamon and clove. A touch of runny honey, vanilla and a little menthol.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Light and grassy, slightly astringent but not too bad, easy to drink neat. It’s a rinse and repeat of the nose really, a little more savoury note here though with some brine and a touch of tar but nothing too much as to sway it from the oak caramels and spices.

Finish: Short. More astringent here and a little bitter, still some cinnamon, caramel and vanilla though. It gets some lime part way through which lifts it.

Thoughts? A standard “golden rum” I guess. Generally though it’s decent enough. I’ve had worse rums for more money and in respect to Aldi it probably wasn’t ever designed to be drunk neat from a Copita glass and judged by some dude on the internet. Based on that, its general flavour and price of a mere £15 I think it’s a solid buy.

 

Ok, let’s move on to the Aldi Crossbones Premium Dark Rum review:

What is it? A bit more detail here; this one is solely a blend of Jamaican column and pot still rums, so we know we’re likely to be getting a bit more in terms of quality, it’ll be solely from molasses. No mention of ageing here, but then I don’t know what defines “older” rum in the Golden one anyway, the lack of any age indication isn’t a deal breaker, it’s a dark rum blend.

Coloured (oh yes, heavily), chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? As with the Golden Rum, this has come in at 4g/l so totally fine. No issue here.

Nose: Yikes. Big, rich and decadent that’s for sure, definitely got some Jamaican pot still in here. It’s going for the “Navy” style of rum, if that’s your thing. Black bananas, boot polish, treacle toffee, molasses, roasted coffee beans and black olives. Notes of camphor, soil, wet leaves and brine. There is a slight meaty note too, mushroom’y, maybe ham and a little grilled pineapple.

Palate: Yeah, same here. Full mouth though, quite oily and rich but not cloying. Chocolate, fudge, cinnamon, treacle toffee again and a massive waft of banana bread, black bananas, ginger and coffee. It still has some savoury notes though with that boot polish, some leather, camphor and mushroom. A little black olive and brine too at the end.

Finish: Medium this time. Stays on the treacle, coffee, chocolate and wood spices here with ginger, clove and nutmeg. A little vanilla and coconut towards the end and a lighter banana note.

Thoughts? Heh. Really pretty good. Lots of rich flavours, not much heat or astringency and easy to drink neat. It’d mix very well but honestly it’s easy peasy to drink it neat. I imagine this is what most people expect when they order a “dark rum” and it delivers on that expectation.

Just reading the bottle tag I knew that this one would be better than the Golden rum, it was the one I originally went for before I decided to get both; knowing it’s fully Jamaican rum is the kicker here as even industrial Clarendon column still rum is better than the vast majority of shite from Central America, chuck in some heavy pot still and it’s game on.

£15, again. No thought needed, it’s an absolute bargain. I’d recommend going out and getting this one if you are a fan of dark rums, it blows away stuff twice it’s price. The only issue is that it’s on the Special Buy so you may find your local Aldi like mine; sold out of this. I guess that’s a fair indication of which one was better!