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.

 

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.

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.

 

Top Beverages – Double Distilled, Mocha and Spiced rums

Long one here.

I get quite a lot of emails about Press Releases and samples and most of the time it’s not something I progress as that’s not really what this blog is about. I review what I buy (generally speaking) and it’s a hobby, not a job. Every now and then though something comes up that piques my interest, in this case it was a new batch of rums from a “craft” company; a white rum (double distilled), a Mocha rum and a Spiced rum – not rums I’d normally entertain. So why did I accept the samples and why am I reviewing them? Well, they are CBD spirits, that is, spirits that are combined with CBD (Cannabidiol) and it’s a trend that is taking the food and drink industry by storm, people are combining it with bloody everything, I’m sure at some point the government will start putting it in bread like they do with folic acid! CBD is being touted as somewhat of a wonderdrug. Now I’m not a doctor, or a pharmacist, or a scientist, so I can’t really go into it too much or with any form of authority, but in short it’s a non-psychotropic active ingredient in Canabis (you don’t get high from it) and it has a huge number of benefits in what it treats; anxiety, depression, cognitive issues, movement problems, chronic pain, just to name a few, and the side effects (in normal dose levels) are virtually nil – if you want to understand more about CBD then please read up on it and please don’t rely on me, it is a drug and should be looked into carefully.

So does CBD have a place in distilled beverages? Well Top Beverages are a craft company that think so, they combine it with gin, vodka and rum. You can read more about them at their website: https://top-beverages.com

Recently, they have launched the 3 rums already mentioned above, which are all combined with premium, full spectrum CBD and I’ve kindly been given some (rather large) samples to try out. I’ve tried them, so I’ll review them.

In terms of the rums, all 3 are based on the same distilled spirit and as you’d expect from a craft distillery they were very open and complete when I asked them about their method, so geek hats on:

The rum is distilled in Arbroath, Scotland, from molasses. Distillation takes place by combining 650 litres of molasses with water where it is fermented for 3 weeks, creating a Wash of around 10% abv. The Wash is then distilled in a 500 litre and 200 litre hybrid still which uses 3 copper plates to produce around 150 litres of rum at 50% abv, the first run off is then distilled a 2nd time (double distilled) in the 200 litre still, using 1 copper plate. Cuts are made which produces around 65 litres of rum at 78% abv. The rum is then left for 3-5 days to mellow out, at which point it’s reduced to 60% abv. Here is when the spices are added to the Mocha and Spiced rums, for 24 hours to infused, before filtering. It’s reduced again to a bottling strength of 54.4% abv.

Cool.

These rums are all natural colour, not chill filtered, bottled at 54.5% abv and do not contain any sugar or other nasties other than the natural spices where stated. They are in 500ml bottles with 50mg of CBD.

Top Beverages Double Distilled white rum:

Nose: Very grassy at first, some white stone fruit, green grape maybe and white pepper. Starts to get phenolic with brine, green olive and sea shell. Some floral notes appear part way through, a touch of brioche and a little vanilla.

Palate: Sharp and quite astringent. Some fruity mango, white pepper and brine. There’s a cardboard note part way that’s not too great but it does soon go. A little vanilla, pears and some nail polish.

Finish: Short. Clean, green apples, white pepper heat, the sweetness of thinned honey and sugar dusted lemons.

 

Top Beverages Mocha rum:

Double Distlled white rum infused with organic cacao husks and South American cold brewed coffee.

Nose: Woah, coffee. Chocolate. You need to like coffee and chocolate to like this, luckily I like both. Yeah, lots of chocolate, real stuff though, actual cocoa beans and fresh roasted coffee, There is a touch of salinity under it that gives it a fudge note, some fried banana, a little light toffee and hot buttered crumpets.

Palate: Hot and sharp again at first. Not like the nose……which is a shame. Fizzy cola bottle sweets, nail polish, white pepper and sharp mango again, or nectarine.

Finish: Short. Ah, back to the nose we go with fudge, chocolate, salted caramel and a really good milky coffee.

 

Top Beverages Spiced rum:

Double Distilled white rum infused with cassia bark, orange peel, ginger and Indian vanilla pods.

Nose: Well, this is pungent. Loads of ginger, cinnamon, almost a Chinese 5 spice note, a touch of vanilla, some dark chocolate and a brine/salty tang. Some light liquorice and spiced vanilla pop up as the ginger dies down.

Palate: Hot, but ginger hot. Cloves, ginger root, chillies, cinnamon powder and dry – yes, a dry spiced rum, thank god! No sugary sweet stuff here. A little anise, hint of chocolate, mango, apple and pear.

Finish: Medium. Lots of ginger again, cinnamon and anise. Vanilla shows up here, guess it could finally get out from behind the heat and spices from the palate, and some orange zest.

 

Thoughts in general? I find the white rum too rough. I buy my rum to sip and I don’t think it’s really a sipping rum, none of them really area. There is a nice sharp fruit that runs through it and a salty note that balances things out, and what I do like is that these notes filter through to all 3 of the rums, so you can see that they are all based on the same thing. I think the white would be very good in any fruity cocktail, it’s a strong enough flavour that you’d pick it out and it’d compliment the mixing ingredients well, but as a sipper…..no. Pass.

The Mocha rum smells amazing and finishes well, but the smells are not translated into the drinking really, I think it needs longer with it’s infusions. Again would go very well in a more robust cocktail, something where the rum needs to have more strength to it. As a sipper, I’d drink it, but I’d probably just end up with my nose in the glass most of the time.

The Spiced rum is very good. It’s too heavy on the ginger and too hot there, needs to be toned down, but I could happily drink it neat. To be fair I like ginger a lot…..outside of that it’d be a great winter warmer in a punch or hot toddy, or even in a hot chocolate.

Would I buy any of these rums with my own money? In honesty, no. They’re not what I’m after in my journey and they are bloody expensive (500ml bottle for £39.95), and whilst I understand that craft distilling is very small batch and has higher costs, and the ingredients are absolutely top quality, the target for these are going to be people with deep pockets who are looking for ultra-premium mixing rums.

What I’d be very interested in seeing, is if they age some of the rum. Bang it into some small quarter casks and give it time with oak. There are some good notes in the base rum that’d age well and transform with that ageing.