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.

Appleton Estate 21 year old

What is it? Molasses based rum from Jamaica, distilled in pot stills and then aged in ex-bourbon barrels for a minimum of 21 years (I assume tropically). This is produced in small batches, once a year, and sold on allocation only. For reference my bottle was bottled in 2015 and is bottle number 34876.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No. Appleton do not add any sugar to their rum, or any other flavourings.

Nose: Ah, very elegant. Straight away you can tell this is well crafted and blended from quality casks. Pungent and aromatic with over ripe bananas, a little dried papaya, caramel, candied orange peel and honey. There is a lovely floral note to this and then the big “old” smells of light tobacco, warm leather, roasted nuts, roasted coffee beans and damp leaves. Interplaying with the sweetness at the start are savoury smells too as you get deeper in with a little aniseed and hot tyres. There is a backbone of toasted and open oak which provides a warm woody  incense like smell, cloves and some cinnamon. Certainly very complex, with many layers to discover the longer you spend with it.

Palate: Medium to heavy mouth feel, quite coating. Dry, very dry, almost no fruit here except for one very black and gooey banana. It’s all the “old” tastes, with lots of oak, cloves, deep dark brown sugar that you bake cookies with, vanilla, walnuts, pecans – oh,  butterscotch and pecan yum yums (google them) – old leather, tree sap, mushrooms and a little olive oil.

Finish: Medium in length. Quite bourbon’esc on the finish, plenty of warm toasted oak, white pepper, clove and a little ginger, fairly spicy. Lingering tastes of very ripe banana and some of the orange peel that I picked up in the nose but that was missing in the palate. Things bitter as it tails off, with some sappy notes and walnut shells. The bitterness isn’t very welcome I must admit. Throughout the palate and finish there is something I can’t quite put my finger on; it seems like some sugar has been added, I know it’s not, and I doubt they’ve put glycerine in but it seems like it at points – there is just some slight artificial note that flattens things down, especially on the finish.

Thoughts? It’s a very, very nice rum. It’s been “crafted” and aimed at a market segment, priced also accordingly! Here is the issue I have with this rum; ok, it’s 21 years old, but it’s sitting at around £140/£150 at many online retailers. Now I do really like it, but I honestly don’t find it 4x better than the 12 year old, in fact some of the things that make the 12 year old so damn good are lost in this as it’s got older. Has this been “premiumized”? Have there been hands in the cookie jar (a little dabble with the old additives)? I hope not. Would I buy this again? Well, yes, because I only paid £80 for it and I can still pick it up for £85 right now. For that price it’s worth it – but it aint worth £150 in any world.

Point to add; When I first opened this I was very disappointed. I wasn’t getting much from the rum at all. You’ll hear people say that spirits don’t breath – bollocks. Spirits certainly do. They oxidise in the bottle as more is drunk, and if left long enough they’ll loose a lot of their finer notes and go “flat”. My experience with older spirits is that they benefit significantly more with some time and headroom in the bottle, so after about 2 months this has really changed, opened up and settled down – it’s become much better for it. So if you do find you’re not getting on with a bottle you’ve just opened it, put it away (with some missing in the top to let air in), don’t put any preserving spray in it, and let it breath for a month – chances are it’ll change over time.

Mezan Jamaica 2000 (Long Pond)

What is it? Single cask pot still rum from Jamaica, by ways of molasses, and distilled at the Long Pond distillery in 2000 in the Wedderburn style (high ester baby). There isn’t an age statement on this but from the bottling code on the neck of the bottle it looks like it was bottled in 2014, making it around 14 years old. From the colour of the rum (all natural by the way) it looks to be mainly European aged. As this rum is made in the Wedderburn style it’s produced using plenty of dunder and long formation times to give a very high ester rum.

Natural colour, not chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv (boo-hoo).

Sugar? Get out of town.

Nose: Oh….dear…..God. Stunning. Massive estery funk, and pretty much every tropical fruit you care to name; mushy and black bananas that have been sat in the sun, masses of fresh pineapple, fresh mangos, fresh papayas, fresh guavas. Some stuff from close to home too with green apple skin, conference pears and Seville oranges. There is some new leather creeping in, black pepper and a small handful of those lime Jelly Babies. Right at the back there is a little aniseed and the smell of new tyres. Bear with me here, it sounds strange to describe a texture you can smell, but there is an almost creamy, buttery feel to the nose…..if you smell it you’ll know what I mean.

Palate: Medium mouth feel, helped by the pot still and the lack of filtering rather than the abv, I must say (damn you Mezan!). Well, if the nose didn’t wake you up the palate will; it’s all about the rubber and aniseed at first, some smoky tobacco, new leather, black pepper again and a spiced toffee like note which is the only thing that gives you indication of cask. Sitting next to it the fruits play their hand but this time it’s really only the banana and pineapple that I notice – freshly cut and running with juices. That creaminess from the nose is there all the way through with a thick whipped cream/butter like feeling as it coats your mouth.

Finish: Medium. Salty, rubbery (bicycle inner tubes), spicy; a little cinnamon and ginger to play with the anise. A surprise showing of some sweetness when things calm down with runny honey and a little toffee sauce (only a little), and a sprinkle of brown sugar.

Thoughts? Thoughts indeed. Absolute cracker. Love it. If you like your high ester rums, or want to try some real hardcore Jamaicans and don’t want to break the bank, then get one of these, if you can still find it; I think it only cost be about £40!! The nose is to die for, the palate is outstanding but the finish does let it down a little, and I know it’s a lazy thing to say but abv would really help here. This is a massive rum at 40% but at 50% it’d be a monster and that extra abv would light the finish up.

………I always know I’m going to get a good rum experience when my wife walks into the room and the first thing out of her mouth is “It stinks in here, the whole downstairs stinks of whatever you’re drinking”. So judge it by that; “Mezan Jamaica 2000 – a nose that fills a house.”

 

Long Pond 15 year old (2000) – Kill Devil

What is it? Molasses based rum from Jamaica, distilled at the Long Pond distillery. This rum was distilled in June 2000 and was bottled by independent bottler Hunter Laing after 15 years of aging, going by the colour of this I’d say that almost all the aging was done in Europe. Long Pond have a combination of pot stills and column stills at the distillery and whilst there are no details on which still type this is from I’m pretty certain it’s pot still rum.

This is a single cask and my bottle is one of 292 bottles from that cask.

Natural colour, not chill filtered and bottled at 46% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Despite the very light appearance there is immediately a lot of sweet oak and vanilla on first nosing, then the Jamaican pot still notes start to come out; light tar, some brine, green olives, capers, and that interesting seaside mix of warm sand and crushed shells – quite coastal. After a while, once my nose has got used to the smell I can start picking up quite a lot of fruity notes – fresh and sharp fruit; peaches, limes (loads of limes!) passion fruit even, and some under-ripe green bananas. There is a grassy background at this point and a slight vegetal, almost agricole type note.

Palate: Medium full mouth feel, dry delivery and on the savoury side at first matching the nose progression; the tarry, briny start and the taste you are left with after blowing up a balloon. A little bit of smoke, char, vanilla, a touch of golden syrup and a mix of strawberry, banana and pineapple keep things interesting.

Finish: Medium length, just about – it’s not a massive finish in length but there are lovely flavours to be had; banana again as it moves from palate to finish, oaky buzz from the cask, a tingle of cooking spices (mild and quite subtle), some salted limes, tar and this rubbery taste similar to the palate that tastes like bicycle inner tubes – sounds weird but it’s actually quite nice.

Thoughts? Gorgeous nose, fair old flavour in the mouth but not massively complex and the finish is a little short. I think this was going for about £60, which is a bit steep for a 15 year old European aged rum, but it’s certainly very tasty and has plenty going on to keep you interested. If you’ve got £60 knocking about and want to try some naturally presented Jamaica pot still then it’s pretty good stuff and I’m sure you’d be happy with the purchase, I know I am.

Appleton Estate 12 year old Rare Blend

20160719_091529What is it? The newly re-packaged Appleton 12 (used to be “Extra”). The old version of this was a blend of rums between 12 and 18 years old and all the information I’ve found states that this newly packaged version is the same juice in the bottle as before, but stories and statements aren’t necessarily “facts” now are they….but let’s take their word for it.

Jamaican rum! Traditional rum distilled in pot stills from molasses, with a good helping of dunder, aged for a minimum of 12 years in American oak casks (ex-bourbon).

Coloured, chill-filtered and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No sugar, and nothing else either. No other flavourings or additives are allowed.

Nose: Immediately loads of over ripe bananas, deep brown sugar, light caramel (maybe honey) and plenty of baking spices (allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg). Dark chocolate, some white coffee, cashew nuts, candied orange rind and vanilla. Behind the sweet and rich smell comes the really interesting stuff; dundery/funky notes, oily fish, a distant sea breeze, wet leaves, some ranico and a lovely faint smoke. A shed load, no wait, a streets worth of sheds full of stuff in here. You think you’ve got it nailed with the typical rum notes and under it all, with some time and patience, comes some fascinating smells that really keep the glass alive and rolling along.

Palate: Let’s hope this tastes a good as it smells, I’m left salivating from the nose. Full mouth feel and quite oily from the pot stills, sweetish delivery which is fine by me. Doesn’t overly sweeten after the initial sip and gives lovely chocolate covered bananas, honey glazed nuts, spiced nuts and a good degree of oak – but not too much. Really well blended. There are notes of creamy butter, vanilla, clove and those tell tale “funky” notes that are impossible to explain to anyone. There’s an almost digestive biscuit taste, black coffee and slight orange note creeping in. Yum.

Finish: Long and spiced, the heat of the abv is carrying the flavours well. A burst of citrus as things move on to the finish with oranges, sweet lemon, maybe even something a little sour like grapefruit or lime. It’s much fresher than the palate and feels almost like the heavier tastes are evaporating off your tongue. There are some nutty notes as things fade off, slightly earthy (maybe walnuts) and some good long oak that ever so slightly bitters right at the end. As it stops you’re left wanting to go right back in for another sip, very moreish.

Thoughts? Well what can I say? Appleton Estate is one of the worlds leading rum brands for good reason, this stuff is bloody brilliant. There is good aging, but not too much, the abv is spot on, it’s been blended beautifully. This is a definite repeat purchase for me, and at £35 (or there abouts) there are zero complaints. It makes you realise; when you can pick up a standard bottling as good as this, for this price, how poor some of the “premium” or “over priced” rums that get slapped out there really are. The nose by the way is the star of the show, as I’ve been tasting this I’ve not been able to take my nose out of the glass.