Rum Fire has a special place in my heart as I tasted this at the very beginning of my “serious” rum journey. Roger Barnes held a few years ago a session on Jamaican rum and history in Milk Bar, Reading, and I have to say not everyone enjoyed sampling neat overproof funky rum. I was one of the few people who actually expressed its joy after tasting such a potent distillate and my excitement was met with what-is-wrong-with-you looks from my fellow session attenders. I regret nothing!
Rum Fire Overproof hails from Hampden Distillery, Jamaica and it was launched for the local market as an alternative to Wray & Nephew Overproof which is by far the most popular rum on the island. As enthusiasts started enjoying more and more ester-filled bottlings, it was inevitable that Rum Fire would find its way on the list of many of them, including myself.
The branding looks completely different from any of the other Hampden releases, the label reminds me of the old Duel Masters cards I used to collect as a kid. It looks “sketchy” at best, but, like me, I believe it’s part of its charm. Just don’t judge a book by its cover before you read it – or a rum by its packaging until you wake up with a painful hangover from it.
Rum Fire Overproof is molasses based, fermented for a prolonged time, pot still distilled and bottled at a fuel level of 63% ABV free of additives. Marque-wise is HLCF (Hampden Light Continental Flavoured) with a not-so-light ester count of 500-600 g/hlAA – to put in perspective, it is believed that Wray & Nephew Overproof has around 200g/hlAA.
On the nose there’s that sharp Hampden profile. Rotting pineapple, blue cheese, nail varnish and brasso liquid. Cider vinegar, moth balls, printer ink and dusty cardboard. If someone were to ask how would I describe the quintessential Jamaican funk, I would just let them smell this. Salted corn on the cob, Pisco, candied banana and pink grapefruit zest. Sampling this on a sunny day at 23 degrees outside suddenly seems scary, but someone has to do it.
On the palate it feels warm and intense. Palinca (Romanian prune distillate), gasoline, freshly printed plane ticket to Jamaica, pink pepper, balsamic vinegar, strawberry and raspberry jam and rotten pineapples. Grapefruit and lemon zests, anise, ripe pears and nail varnish. Some warm baked bread and sweet cold hot chocolate. The finish is long with green chilli, liquorice and dusty cardboard.
Rum Fire Overproof definitely feels ultra-flammable. Intense and fruity with sweet notes, this is a staple Jamaican rum full of hogo, yet fairly balanced for its strength – would recommend with grapefruit soda. Unfortunately it isn’t readily available in the UK, I got it from Spirit Academy for under £30, so definitely amazing value for money.
Update: Since I’ve done this review Rum Fire became available in the UK for £45 (The Whisky Exchange) and I’d like to say that’s a bit pricey so I’ve updated the score accordingly.
Rum Fire Overproof score:
Value for money: 13/15