Review: Hampden Estate Pagos Sherry Cask

Finally here! After the announcement at the Luca Gargano’s rum session at RumFest about a sherry cask aged Hampden, it finally hit the UK market a few weeks ago and it obviously sold out in a blink. Despite that, after a few searches, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a bottle and given how unique this is, I’m very excited to have a close look at it.

Why is this unique I hear you ask? Long story short, due to the regulations surrounding sherry production/ageing and the demand surrounding the sherry casks for spirits such as whisky, true sherry casks are scarce. A lot of the sherry finished spirits actually use merely seasoned barrels – barrels that were usually filled with not-so-good sherry and then emptied after a short period of time.

This is not the case with Hampden Pagos. Luca Gargano, the mastermind behind Velier, worked with Bodega Lustau and asked them to have some casks filled with Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez for 3 years so he can work with them. As soon as the casks arrived, 20 were sent to Haiti and another 20 to Jamaica – Hampden. The name Pagos stands from the Spanish word for a cluster a distinctive vineyards, such as “cru”.

What makes Hampden Pagos unique is that, according to Luca, this is the first rum to be fully aged in true sherry casks. On top of that, the maturation happened entirely at Hampden Estate in the tropical climate of Jamaica. I don’t know for how long the rum resided in these barrels, but if I were to make a calculated guess based on the timeline of the announcements it’s probably somewhere between 3 or 4 years.

Hampden is well known for its long, sometimes supercharged fermentation which produce intense, funky flavours and if you’re curious, the label of Pagos says that it contains congeners measured at 1603.5 g/hlaa with 394 g/hlaa being esters.

Hampden Estate Pagos Sherry Cask is molasses based, pot still distilled and aged for an unspecified amount of time in former sherry barrels that previously contained Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez for 3 years. Bottled at 52% ABV with no adulteration and a limited number of 1200 bottles.

On the nose the Hampden signature funk is all over. Overripe pineapples, nail varnish, stone fruits and Earl Grey tea. Quite nutty with almonds and pistachios. Blackcurrant cordial, grapefruit zest, Luxardo liqueur and passion fruit. Furniture polish and allspice. There’s quite a lot going on, but the funky notes still seem a bit overpowering. Cola and dusty old books as well.

On the palate it suddenly becomes more woody and nutty than expected. Cherry brandy, pralines, nutmeg, black pepper and pencil shavings. Prunes, passion fruit honey, raisins and dried figs. Pale ale, baklava, guava juice and strawberry syrup. Some odd flavor notes I never tasted in a Hampden rum, but they surprisingly work. Overripe bananas and butterscotch. The finish is long with bananas, oak spices and prunes.

Here’s a Hampden release that is indeed different and unique. The sherry barrels imparted nice spiciness and additional fruity & nutty notes that blended in well. My only complaint would be that, as I said before, the funk is a bit too intense and covers some of the potential of the sherry influence – but then this is all about the Hampden in the end and it really works. Maybe some more time in the barrel to get more sherry layers would’ve been good.

Hampden Pagos was available online for about £80 and I find it fantastic value… too bad no more is available at the moment.

Hampden Estate Pagos Sherry Cask score:
Flavour/taste: 60/70
Value for money: 15/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 90/100


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