Review: Hampden Estate Rum 46% ABV

Hampden Estate, nestled in the Trelawny Parish, Jamaica, was established in 1753 by a Scotsman named Archibald Sterling. It changed ownership a few times over the years – was owned by the Jamaica Sugar Company in 2003 and in 2009 was bought by Everglades Farms Limited owned by the Hussey family.

Hampden is well known for its funky/hogo forward rums which have been used in various blends, flavouring agents and even perfumes. They use the same production methods since the 18th century, complete with long fermentation periods (between 8 and 15 days long), wild yeasts, dunder, muck pit and pot still distillation. If some of those terms confuse you check Cocktail Wonk’s in-depth article about Hampden and Jamaican Funk here.

Most rum enthusiasts knew the Hampden Distillery via various independent bottlers or their Rum Fire, so when they released their own-continuous-tropical-aged range, the rum community was in awe. I am slightly late at the party with this review, but that seems to be my signature move. It’s distributed by Velier and as you can see they don their familiar bottle design as well. The label is very informative, but the front one speaks of 8 years ageing, while the back one says 7 years which is slightly confusing.

From what I could see from various searches, this is a blend of OWH, LROK and DOK (yikes!) marques. It’s molasses based, fermented with wild yeasts, pot still distilled and aged for a minimum of 7 years in ex-Bourbon casks in Jamaica. There are two versions of this Hampden with the only difference being the ABV – one of them is 60% ABV, but I am reviewing the “milder” 46% ABV one. No sugar, colouring or additives added.

On the nose, well, I could nose it while taking the picture. Old pineapple juice, balsamic vinegar, ginger, cardboard and English breakfast tea. Nail varnish, cayenne pepper, lime zest, cloves and rotten red apples. I need to be careful, even at 46% ABV, it can become quite intense and I still want to be able to taste it. Has a fruity armagnac note to it. Pimento dram, pink pepper and orgeat. This smells like tropical strong juice.

On the palate is very well balanced, still intense, but I guess the -under 60% ABV- bit helps taming it. Rotten pineapple, glue, burnt rubber (yum!) and cinnamon. Quite hot, has a bit of red tabasco vibe going on. Surprisingly botanical with layers of cardamom and juniper. Tobacco, orange zest, green apples and pears, almonds and mango along with a pleasant smokiness. The finish is long with brown sugar, pineapple juice and charred oak.

I have tried the overproof at various tastings and I remember preferring this one due to its balance. It is indeed outstanding, unmistakably Jamaican with plenty of funk a la Hampden while it won’t terrify you if you had a few neat spirits in your life. Can be found for around £55, and it’s one to be kept in your drinks cabinet if you enjoy a dram of Jamaican juice here and there.

I’ve seen online there’s a newer Hampden Estate Rum 46% ABV floating around with a new formula – apparently it’s 2012 OWH marque distillates aged for 8 years. If someone has more info about this and how it compares with the “old” one please get in touch.

Hampden Estate Rum 46% ABV score:
Flavour/taste: 58/70
Value for money: 14/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 87/100


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