At some point in the last few years Hampden, the great, idiosyncratic Jamaican rum distillery, got into the business of special annual releases. I believe this one, which came out in 2020, was the second. I’m not sure if one has yet been released in 2021. I believe this is a somewhat unusual Hampden in that it is a blend that contains mostly low-ester spirit. So less wild than usual? Let’s see.
Hampden Great House, Distillery Edition, 2020 (59%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ah yes, this is a Hampden: assertive, leading with bright notes of over-ripe banana, pineapple and lemon; herbal notes bring up the rear. What’s missing here is the usual heap of garbage rotting in the sun; well, it’s not completely missing but it’s not very loud. As it sits it picks up some light caramel and some toffee and quite a bit of diesel. The caramel expands with time and the diesel retreats. Okay, let’s add water: richer now as the caramel and toffee expand and are joined by brown sugar and the bananas get baked into banana bread. More conventional rum notes now but it’s quite lovely.
Palate: As on the nose this is both recognizably Hampden and a mellower incarnation of the profile (at least based on the little I’ve tried of it). Lemon peel, pineapple and herbal notes are to the fore with pepper rising in the background. Remarkably approachable at full strength but it should open up further with water—but let’s wait a bit. As it sits the diesel note from the nose shows up along with some smouldering leaves and bananas and sage. Water melds everything very nicely and mellows it out.
Finish: Long. A slightly charred aftertaste lingers along with the pepper after the other stuff fades. More of the diesel here with water and it gets quite acrid at the end.
Comments: This is not as extreme as most Hampdens I’ve had; indeed, it’s relatively mellow. But to note the fact tha it has more crossovers with more conventional rums is not to knock it. This is very good indeed and I find myself again wishing I paid more attention to rum releases as I might have then purchased a bottle.
Rating: 88 points.