Hampden Great House, 2021 Release


Jamaican rum week began on Monday with a 15 yo Long Pond and continued on Wednesday with a 16 yo Worthy Park. Here now to close out the week is a Hampden, albeit one that does not bear an age statement. This is Hampden’s third annual release in their “Great House” series. I’ve previously reviewed the 2020 release, which I liked a lot. At the time of that review I’d made a mental note to try to find the 2021 release when it came out, but it’s not a mental note I remembered to read often. Then again, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Very few interesting rums come to Minnesota and with inter-state shipping of spirits now as difficult as international shipping I probably wouldn’t have been able to buy a bottle even if I’d looked for one. (This is where someone will tell me it was available at my local Total Wine.) Anyway, I did get to it via a bottle split and that’s better than nothing. If I like it will I actually remember to look for the 2022 release? I don’t think it’s out yet. Continue reading

Worthy Park 16, 2005, Rum (Thompson Bros.)


Jamaican rum week continues. On Monday I reviewed a 15 yo Long Pond that I liked a lot and which I said reminded me of rum from Worthy Park. And today I have a 16 yo Worthy Park. Well, I don’t think it was bottled with that name on the label but that is the distillery in question. This was a single cask bottled by the Thompson brothers of Dornoch Castle fame for K&L in California. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a Worthy Park I didn’t like—I don’t mean to give the impression that I’ve tried so very many of them. Let’s hope this won’t be the first.

Worthy Park 16, 2005, Rum (54%; Thompson Bros.; from a sample split)

Nose: Oh yes, quite a bit more funk in this one with motor oil, diesel and just a whiff of ripe garbage heap. Quite a bit of aniseed on the second sniff. As it sits there’s more fruit—dried tangerine peel—along with cinnamon and clove and quite a bit of caramel. With a lot of time and air the caramel lightens a bit and picks up some toffee and some plum sauce. A few drops of water and it seems to get sort of…flat: the funk and the fruit recede and are replaced by brown sugar. Continue reading

Long Pond 15, 2005 (ImpEx Collection)


Now, Long Pong is not generally a misnomer for a Jamaican rum but that’s a typo on the sample label. The name of the distillery is Long Pond. It was once one of hundreds of Jamaican rum distilleries, its history—like those of all distilleries in the Caribbean—going back uneasily a few hundred years through the horrors of sugar plantation slavery and the triangular trade. If there’s a history of Caribbean rum that looks closely at its fundamental connections with the history of colonialism and slavery and their post/neo-colonial reverberations, I haven’t come across it. My sense is that the rum world is as quiet about this complicated history as the American bourbon industry is, but I may be wrong about that: if a book about this exists, I would be very interested to read it (please write in below). Anyway, almost all of those Jamaican distilleries are now gone. Long Pond itself—one of the last survivors—was closed in 2012 before being reopened in 2017. I gather it may now be producing again. The rum I am reviewing today, however, was distilled before that closure, in 2005. This cask was bottled in 2021 by the California-based importer ImpEx. It’s my first Long Pond and I am curious to see where it will fall on the funk spectrum between Hampden and Worthy Park, the two Jamaican distilleries I do have some experience of. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

Hampden Great House, Distillery Edition, 2020 (Rum)


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. Continue reading

Worthy Park 10, 2005 (Habitation Velier)


After two 16 yo Caronis bottled by Duncan Taylor (here and here), let’s move over to Jamaica and a 10 yo Worthy Park bottled by Habitation Velier. Most of the excitement among whisky geeks for Jamaican rum seems concentrated in the wild and wacky rums of the Hampden distillery but Worthy Park has a strong reputation too. Indeed, I have a hundred percent record with Worthy Park. I’ve only had and reviewed two others—this 10 yo from 2007 and this 11 yo from 2005—and I had them both at 90 points. Will that streak continue with this 10 yo? I certainly hope so.

Worthy Park 10, 2005 (57.8%; Habitation Velier; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A bright nose with lemon peel mixed in with plantains. Some vegetal funk behind the brighter notes. The lemon picks up with time and there’s a bit of butterscotch as well. With a few drops of water the softer notes expand—more butterscotch—and there’s sweeter fruit now too—apricot. Gets stickier as it goes. Continue reading

Stolen Overproof Rum (Hampden)

Despite our greater proximity to the Caribbean, the US gets far less interesting rums from the region than does Europe. The rum revolution (well, sort of) that took portions of the single malt enthusiast market by storm in the last half decade was centered almost entirely on releases from European bottlers. Well, here finally is one that was released exclusively in the US. It’s got one of those silly names that makes you think Diageo might be involved but the word on the street is that this is a 6 yo Hampden. The bottles are 375 ml and still available and very reasonably priced (<$25/bottle in many markets). That means there’s a good chance this will be the best value of any booze I’ve reviewed this year: I’ve not had many Hampdens but all the ones I’ve had have been great. Hampden rum, with its dunder-fueled, high ester spirit, had also until recently been the funkiest spirit I’d willingly put in my mouth but that crown has since been passed to the two marcs I tried in the last month and a half (especially this Jacoulot). Will this seem tame now? Continue reading

Worthy Park 10, 2007 (Habitation Velier)


Here is your second rum review for the week. Like Monday’s rum this is from the Worthy Park distillery in Jamaica. It is a year younger and was distilled two years later. The label says it was “aged in the tropics”, presumably in Jamaica before being bottled by Habitation Velier, an Italian outfit that has become one of the bespoke independent bottlers of high quality rums made without artificial flavouring and colouring and so on. Excitingly, this was one of a few releases that made their way to the US in 2018. I purchased this along with another Worthy Park and a Hampden from Astor Wines & Spirits in New York; I’m not sure if they were more widely available as well. At any rate, wherever they were available, I hope they sold out quickly, thus encouraging Velier and any other bottlers who may be watching about the prospects of selling non-mainstream rum in the American market. God knows we’re closer to the Caribbean than is Italy—there should be a way to get us more good rum. Then again it’s not even possible to have booze shipped to me from Illinois, just one state over from Minnesota…Anyway, let’s see if this is as good as Monday’s excellent Cadenhead release. Continue reading

Worthy Park 11, 2005 (Cadenhead’s)


More rum but not from a distillery I’ve reviewed before. This is from Worthy Park, like Hampden, a Jamaican distillery. The distillery has a long history but not a continuous one. It stopped distilling in 1960 and only started up again in 2005 with brand new facilities (see here for more on the distillery). This means this particular rum was produced in the first year of the distillery’s revival. It was bottled 11 years later by Cadenhead in Scotland. I’m not sure when Scottish and other European bottlers began to carry rum in a big way but I can only imagine that this has been a boon for the revitalized distilleries of the Caribbean. Now if only more of these rums would be available in the US. I purchased a 200 ml bottle from Cadenhead’s Edinburgh store last June and have been looking forward to tasting it. My only other exposure to Jamaican rum has been through a few wild releases of Hampden and I am curious to see how much of that character is shared by Worthy Park.
Continue reading

Hampden 18, 1998 (Kill Devil)


I have been slow to board the rum boat. I’ve only reviewed three rums till now. In the meantime, Serge V.—who all but singlehandedly got whisky geeks around the world to start drinking rum—has already reviewed more rums than I have whiskies in the entire time that I’ve been reviewing whiskies. This is not an exaggeration.

One of the problems with being late to the party is that most of what first got people excited is already gone and prices have begun to rise. Still, they’ve got a long way to go to catch up with whisky. Hampden is a cult distillery, for instance, and this 18 yo, released last year, is still around and costs far less than the Highland Park 18. Of course, the bigger problem for those of us in the US is how little interesting rum is available here. K&L in California were the only ones committed to a rum program but the new limitations on inter-state shipping may have put paid to that: large numbers of bottles of a Hampden they brought in early in the year and expected to sell out in a day or two are still sitting on their shelves (well, it’s possible that asking $70 for a 9 yo rum may also have something to do with that). Anyway, there’s an opportunity here for independent bottlers who already have distribution channels across the US: if you make good rum available to us widely, we will buy it.  Continue reading

Hampden 24, 1992, Golden Devil (Rum)


I interrupt the highly untimely reviews of bourbon cask whisky (Aberlour, Aberlour, Bladnoch) to bring you a review of a relatively recently released Jamaican rum. Well, I guess it might be from a bourbon cask too—I confess I’m not very informed as to rum production methods. I can tell you though that this rum is from the Hampden distillery and that Hampden rums are all the rage these days among whisky geeks who are getting or have recently gotten into rum. I’m not sneering at this phenomenon, mind: here I am myself with a review of a Hampden rum despite not knowing very much about rum. I’ve reviewed another Hampden previously: a highly aromatic bruiser of a 6 yo. That one was bottled at 68.5% (!); this one is at a more staid 50%. A more important difference (possibly) may be that these come from different points in the distillery’s ownership history. As to whether this one is as off the charts with the esters as the Habitation Velier bottle, I don’t know, but I guess I’ll find out in a minute.  Continue reading

Hampden 6, 2010 (Rum)

Hampden 6, 2010
Rum was my drink of choice in my college and post-college years in India. That’s largely because rum was the only decent spirit available in India in those days. Indian whisky was not worth talking about, unless you managed to get your hands on a bottle of Solan No. 1 (which was hard to get even in the late 1980s)—even as a callow teenager I knew that all those whiskies were largely good for was getting drunk, and even then you’d have to mix them with a lot of soda. There were some decent rums though—Old Monk, for example. Truth be told, we drank Old Monk largely with coke as well but it did not punish you if you drank it neat or with water. (Old Monk is still around and even available in the US as of a few years ago.) And not that I could afford very good taste when I came to the US as a graduate student in the early 1990s, but rums that were widely available then (or even now for that matter) weren’t very much better (either bland white rums or spiced monstrosities). Of late though the situation has begun to change as more esoteric rums from the Caribbean have begun to become available and rum is slowly making the transition from a cocktail ingredient to a sipper in its own right. It’s behind tequila and even mezcal in this regard but it’s getting there.  Continue reading