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Rum Artesanal Jamaica Rum, High-Ester Rum Distillery, 1983 (35 years)


Background: one of the few 1983 Hampdens. Like the others of the same batch, this should be of the HGML mark.

Nose: incredibly savoury from the get go; preserved mustard green, a cross between the Cantonese-style haam choy and the Hakka-style mei cai; lup cheong, Cantonese dried sausage; pork floss; spicy fermented shrimp paste, somewhere along the stinky-earthy spectrum between sambal belacan and XO sauce; with time, the high-ester Hampden sharpness shows up; fresh paint; nail polish remover; overripe pineapple and papaya; gherkin juice; there is a perfumey undertone, beginning with resinous and floral perfumes, followed by talcum and sandalwood; stewed apples, fresh William pears and sugarcane juice provide freshness, before a wave of earthiness overwhelms the nose; black soil; liquorice; pure cocoa; starch, char and some repeatedly heated cooking oil -- evocative of street food such as roasted sweet potato and fried tapioca cake; earthy, woody Chinese herbs, with a touch of bitterness and umami; a cross between a traditional “cooling” herbal tea and a black chicken herbal soup; the base notes comprise vanilla, dried and pickled mango, fresh chilli and paprika, spoilt milk, cream cheese, sour barley and a foul rubbish chute.

Palate: decidedly funky upon entry; garbage; vegetables done three ways -- rotting, salted and vinegared; overripe tropical fruits; a mix of chemical solvents and artificial fruit flavouring that exemplifies many a baijiu; butyric acid and its associations -- yoghurt, old brittle hard cheeses and vomit; now smoke all the aforementioned items over a wood-fired grill; pure cocoa; liquorice; cooking herbs like oregano, coriander, anise and even Sichuan peppercorn; medicine of all kinds show up on the back-palate; ointments such as Tiger Balm and Vick’s VapoRub; Laphroaig-esque iodine notes; honey lemon cough drops; Chinese herbal tea with sugar (think wang lao ji, say); the medications are served with a glass of unfiltered hard water, the latter imparting its minerality and chalkiness; the back-palate dial the savoury aspects to the eleven, we get soggy fries and cheeseburger with toasted buns, and maybe even a bonus slice of peperoni pizza.

Finish: long but not eternal; tropical fruit concentrate with the obligatory sweet cream; sweet mandarin oranges; honey and brown sugar syrup; strong black tea with milk; blackforest cake; then the funk, earthy and industrial, takes over; organic fertiliser; leaf compost; musty forest undergrowth after a shower; more haam choy, this time soaked in motor oil; assorted hydrocarbons; fried starch with bitter notes coming from the oil that is starting to go bad; I get plantain and durian as sources of said starch; the aftertaste comprises grass jelly, tree bark, hay, a blend of cocoa and shea butter, melting cling wrap, more durian and cempedak, this time in puree form, garnished with olive brine and a modicum of black olives.

Conclusion: the drier cousin of the TAA bottling, this rum is also more complex and, dare I say, more characterful. This is one of those spirits that makes you go “WTF?!” on the first sip, and never lets up from there. What a ride it is! Old, high-ester Hampdens are unlike anything else on the planet. Sadly, with the recent popularity of the brand and the focus on tropical ageing, it is unlikely that new batches of Hampden distillate would be aged this long; we could be nearing the end of an era as IB stocks of yore run out. If you missed the era of old Velier demeraras, try not to miss this one.

Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 94/100


Image Courtesy of u/zoorado



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