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Rum Reviews

Hampden New Beginnings, 57% ABV

 

Hampden has come a long way in fully realising its place as one of the great rums of the world - its distinctiveness gives the Jamaican distillery a unique identity that I'm more than certain most rum drinkers can place with full confidence in a blind tasting. So much so that it's often come to be thought of as emblematic of what Jamaican rum tastes like - which is quite an achievement considering that it wasn't just slighty over 5 years ago in 2018 that the first distillery-aged Hampden rums had made their world premiere.

Since then the rum has captured the hearts of many, and has even extended rum appreciation beyond the pre-existing community. I've often encountered folks who wouldn't ordinarily enjoy rum say that Hampden is one of only three rums they'd ever drink - I'll leave you to guess who the other two are. The distillery itself has also seen much evolution in terms of the rums its put out - more single mark expressions, more vintages, full Sherry cask ageing, more limited editions (some of which galvanised us to go bird hunting or searching for great houses). So much has happened! And I'm certain there's much more to come. 

  

 

But for now, there's at least one more big thing that's happened at the iconic Jamaican distillery - the wedding of the Harris family's own Christelle, who's also been a part of the distillery for some time as its marketing director. The Harris family had come to acquire Hampden in 2009, when the distillery was put for sale by the Jamaican government. With already existing businesses in Jamaica for generations, the Harris family had thus decided to expand its footprint into rum-making as well.

On June 03, 2023, the wedding of Christelle Harris and Matthew Hann took place (fast forward to just less than a year later and they're already expecting!), and as part of their wedding celebrations, they had decided to have a special bottle of Hampden rum made to commemorate the event - they've called it "New Beginnings".

 

 

With the help of Ian Burrell, a notable rum ambassador, who had happened to be in Jamaica at the time, the couple proceeded to pick out their own one of a kind expression. The expression is a blend of 70% Hampden OWH mark 2014 vintage and 30% Hampden <> H mark 2017 vintage. The OWH mark represents a lighter ester mark (Outram Warmold Hussey, 40-80 gr/HLPA ester count), whilst the <> H mark represents a medium ester mark (Hampden, 900-1000gr/HLPA ester count).

With all that said, cheers to the couple's new beginnings! Let's give this a go!

Hampden New Beginnings, 57% ABV - Review

 

Tasting Notes

Color: Amber

Aroma: Bright notes of banana but with an incredibly rich mellowness - it’s not high toned, none of those magic markers - here it’s instead candied with heavy notes of honey and maltose. It’s rich, full-bodied, combining to give maltose and honey coated green bananas. There’s a darker note of tar but again not that of the synthetic variety, rather it’s rich and doesn’t grab the spotlight. Some light notes of brine as well. In the midst of the richer body are some tinned peaches and apricots, and then some tinned lychees towards the back, all rather confectionary. With time it simply levels to a rich and mellow note of green bananas and peaches topped with heaps of honey.

Taste: The richness persists! It’s turned up in intensity and vibrance, moving faster now. Heaps of sweet honey, drops of diesel, flambeed bananas, a touch of higher toned green banana peels, black olives. It’s rich, and whilst moving with more punchiness, still juggles a mellowness that comes in the form of a dense and candied profile. Light touches of green olive in brine, a subtle but present woodiness at the back that’s firm but does not stand out against the heaps of raw honey. Some savouriness of charcuterie meats. A medium plus body here.

Finish: It gets dirtier and higher toned here - more rancio, some nuttiness, dried mushrooms, quite savoury and umami, diesel too. This fades back into the rich candied honey, and we’re back to the tinned apricots and peaches, some light bits of green banana peels too. Long finish with a deep warmth.

 

My Thoughts

This feels incredibly nostalgic - it takes me back a couple of years when Hampden was just taking off and finding its nascent popularity. It sometimes feels like the past couple of years, Hampden has increasingly focused on higher toned flavour profiles marked by acetone, glue, green bananas turned into synthetic jet fuel - I’m not sure if it’s just giving the high ester mob what it wants, but it wasn’t quite for me. 

This takes me back to when I first began to become a Hampden fan - it’s got that signature Jamaican funkiness but rather than being the main card, I find much more balance here where it feels more like the topping on the cake, with the cake being a bed of rich honey, maltose and candied tropical fruits. Nothing here feels daunting or intimidating, it’s rich and mellow and feels whole and voluminous - and just incredibly tasty. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s anything but a walk in the park, it’s got complexity and evolution, and has the punchiness to keep it memorable. It even gives us a little sneak peek towards the finish of a higher toned Hampden, but even so, calls back to that richer and more honeyed style that I so love. The only thing that could take it up a notch is even more depth, with even more fullness - but already this exceeds what we've seen the past couple of years. Really classic, done superbly well.

This was for me an incredibly well-executed rendition of everything great about Hampden - it’s got power, it’s got balance, it’s got richness, it’s got funk, it’s got evolution, it’s so fruity, everything we want to see from Hampden. Reminds me why I’m such a fan after all.

 

Kanpai!

  

 

@111hotpot