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Rum Reviews

A Trio Of Hampden Great Houses: Hampden Great House 2020, 2021, 2022


To all the rum lovers out there, @hampdenestaterum hardly needs any introduction - one of the stalwart distilleries of Jamaica, and one whose name has become synonymous with the terms “high-ester” and “funky”.

But the flight of rums that we’d be looking at over the next three reviews aren’t those featuring the absurdly high ester single marques. Instead, the rums are derived from Hampden’s Great House series, an annual limited bottling which was first released in 2019 that showcased Hampden’s blending techniques, utilising different marques and vintages every year to bring about new flavours and sensory experiences for those who love Hampden so.

These bottles are often only found as a distillery exclusive, or at @lamaisonandvelier exclusive retailers such as @maison_du_whisky_singapore. Thank you to @shawnbock for the samples too!

Hampden Great House 2020 - Review


Beginning with the Great House 2020, it is a blend of OWH (80-120 grams of esters) distilled in 2013 and Hampden DOK (1,500-1,600 grams of esters) distilled in 2017, blended in the percentages of 80 to 20 respectively, and bottled at 59% abv. It was all very interesting given that the two marques represent the extreme ends of Hampden’s rums.

The nose was perhaps one of the most appealing Hampdens for me thus far. Unlike those incredibly pungent, high ester bottlings, this one came across almost subtle, soft even, words not often associated with this distillery for sure. Of course, it still had all the hallmarks of a Hampden, that nice, tropical fruitiness, pineapples and a side of brine, although not overpowering. The cantaloupe notes, which often appear in its higher ester marques like the DOK here, were also present, but relatively muted. But most interestingly, underneath all that was a soft layer of vanilla, something that I don’t usually get from Hampden rums.

Now the palate swung completely the other way - while the nose was soft and pleasant, the palate did hit pretty hard. Right from the get-go were these extremely punchy notes of turpentine, quite rather bitter actually, tropical, pineapples again, a hint of sweat, leather, and flashes of caramel and vanilla sweetness as it moves on to the finish. The finish itself was long, more of the caramel and vanilla, slightly dry, perhaps as a result of the wood influence. On the whole, not a terribly a complex Hampden, but one that was quite pleasant.

With a drop of water, the palate softened remarkably, although some of that balance was lost. The caramel sweetness and vanilla took centre stage, while the funkier notes dissipated into the background. But perhaps most interestingly was how this coffee candy-like flavour seemed to develop in the finish too.

Hampden Great House 2021 - Review


Next up, we have with us the @hampdenestaterum Great House 2021. While the 2020 was a blend composed of the extreme ends of Hampden’s rum marques, the 2021 was a blend of the medium to high-ester marques, most commonly assumed to be those of LFCH and <>H, though I haven’t been able to say with certainty if it is so. I just thought it was rather peculiar that there was a dearth of information regarding the 2021, such as its blend components and other distillation-related details.

The nose was very much like the Great House 2020, those tropical fruits, that tinge of sourness from rotting or fermenting fruits was incredibly pungent, so much so that my parents genuinely thought something in my home was going bad! Perhaps how the 2021 distinguished itself was that presence petroleum, not in a dirty, tarry way that Caronis may come across, but instead a low, dull note that was slightly off-putting, but in the context of it all very interesting to observe. Of course there was brine, cantaloupe, and surprisingly some sweet vanilla too as the rum opened up.

The palate was rather incredible, probably one of the more interesting Hampdens I’ve had, although I caveat that I am perhaps not the best reference for Hampden rums. It had lots and lots of sweetness, almost candy-like, vanilla, mangoes, while the middle introduced brine, coupled with a slight fizzy texture. The finish interchanged between sweet and bitter notes, rather like caramelised bananas, yellow raisins, vanilla once again, but also some of that tartness that was derived possibly from the wood, although you could hardly detect any oakiness among it all. And with a drop of water, those fruity notes just opened up so much more, pushing those vanilla and baking spice notes right up a notch.

Hampden Great House 2022 - Review


The last @hampdenestaterum Great House of this tasting series was the 2022, an altogether different rum blend from the earlier two, composed of marques at the lower to middle spectrum of Hampden’s vast array of recipes - namely a 2019 HGML (74%) and a 2011 LFCH (26%).

Almost immediately the nose of the 2022 was tellingly different from the 2021, where the lighter marques of the 2022 created a bright and refreshing nosing experience, and all things considered, very fruity too. Pineapples were first to come to my mind, followed closely with a little superglue, varnish, and then those long, lingering cantaloupes that seem to be a commonality across higher ester Jamaican rums. With it also came a hint of brine, and the unmistakable sweetness of ripe, red apples.

The palate faltered a little in its alcohol integration, coming across rather spicy and left a tingling sharpness on the palate. Unlike its predecessors, the 2022 was also less complex, with initial notes of ripe mangoes and pineapples, and a tinge of brine. In the middle I found those sweet cantaloupe notes again, a nice juiciness of green grapes, and as it moved into the finish, some floral notes too, chrysanthemum perhaps, caramel, and cane juice.

All in all, it was a rather interesting exercise tasting these Great House vintages. And of the three, the 2020 was perhaps my favourite, with just that right amount of balance between the sharper, funkier high ester notes of the DOK, paired with the more mellow, fruity, and vanilla-esque notes of the OWH. Coupled with one of the most pleasant noses I have had from a Hampden rum, it was a clear choice, and one that I would recommend to those whom aren’t particularly enamoured by high ester rums, but still appreciate a good, punchy Jamaican rum from time to time.



Image Courtesy of @weixiang_liu


Your occasional rum addict!