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Two Kill Devil Hampdens: Single Cask C<>H distilled 11/07, 63.5% ABV (11 years) & Single Cask <>H distilled 10/01, 61.2% ABV (16 years) & bottled for TheWhiskyBarrel.com

 

Introduction: I recently discovered the treasure trove that is TheWhiskyBarrel (TWB), an honest, efficient online merchant with exclusive bottlings at eye-popping prices. Case in point: this pair of high-ester, continentally-aged Hampden rums cost US$177, shipping excluded. And they have 20 year-old Caronis for under 200 dollars. ‘Nuff said.


Name: Kill Devil Hampden Single Cask, distilled 11/07, 63.5% a.b.v. (11 years)

Background: this is most likely of mark C<>H, going by the year of distillation. I have never tried a C<>H before this.

Nose: overripe tropical fruits as top notes; nail polish remover and wet burp, typical of Hampden; then it gets weirder, with the heart not too far removed from that of a top-drawer Savanna grand arome and the NRJ TECA 2007 -- Chinese white vinegar; sweat-drenched clothes; smelly socks; red meat that has begun to rot; natto; buah keluak paste gone slightly rancid; rotting undergrowth; diesel under combustion; tar; WD-40; the base notes are more conventionally appetising -- toasted malt, salted caramel, toffee and burnt pastries.

Palate: more tame an entry than I expected; grass jelly and honey; olive brine; ginger candy; overripe papaya and its peel; sweet seishu; the signature qu note in a baijiu -- coming from the Chinese equivalent of muck; one of the most earthy combination of notes I have ever experienced -- buah keluak, starchy roots with fresh soil, charred peanuts, and even tar; then it gets back to being sweet, this time yielding notes of milk and white chocolate, the strongest Assam tea with evaporated milk, root beer, and liquorice; it becomes more mineral towards the back-palate -- think plastics and chemical salts; the minerality melds pretty well with sweet and creamy tropical fruit notes to create the illusion of a cling-wrap-infused tropical-fruit-flavoured cough syrup.

Finish: obscenely long, and rather obscene; bananas and cream; rotting papaya; untreated seaweed, fresh from the sea; nail polish remover; WD-40; exhaust fumes; engine grease; fish brine; charred wood; an aftertaste of liquorice, olive brine and all kinds of metal grease and lubricants. EDIT: The brine and the metallic notes last forever, and hours after the last sip, the roof of my mouth would taste as if it was bleeding, invoking even the salty-sweetness of blood. Beyond that, raw fish that is starting to rot. I don't think spirits can get any more than this, while still being enjoyable.

Conclusion: if you had asked me yesterday, whether any spirit from “the West” could come close to capturing the taste of baijiu, I would have said ‘no’. Yet here is a rum that does just that. Somehow, the congeners here taste more of varnish and other harsh chemicals, instead of the rich, savoury and fruity funk found in the Savanna and the TECA (see “Nose” above). Not one of my preferred flavour profiles, that’s for sure. To its credit, it managed to salvage the experience in the nose and the finish -- both are immensely good, albeit not too complex. EDIT: further oxidation in the bottle gives this a titanic hit of earthiness on the palate, which sort of balances out the pungency of the baijiu note.

Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 89/100


 

Name: Kill Devil Hampden Single Cask, distilled 10/01, 61.2% a.b.v. (16 years)

Background: a mark <>H, allegedly. So, how is it going to stack up against this high bar of a Hampden of the same mark?

Nose: a very pastry-like top note; baklava; marzipan; melktert; tropical fruit peels, of mango and papaya especially; varnish; sour milk; stewed apple; nutmeg; thyme and rosemary, on a cornucopia of meats -- some of them grilled over a wood-fire, some of them smoked; fries left too long in a paper bag; tree bark and vines enveloped in petrichor; liquorice; dirty, industrial notes -- diesel oil (combusted and otherwise), cooking gas, grease and tar; pork floss; ham glazed in plum sauce; the base notes comprise pickled and dried fruits, and burnt pastries.

Palate: sweet treacle and honey on entry; then things take a turn for the darker, and wood and phenols become apparent; smoked fish fat; burnt ends; dark sweet soy sauce; Marmite-glazed pork ribs; engine grease; tar; salty liquorice; more smokiness, this time vegetal instead of meaty -- imagine burning wet compost in a forest after a rain; now imagine grilling konbu over that fire; a fruit milkshake with mango, papaya and orange.

Finish: long; starts out woody; liquorice and cream; toffee; milk chocolate; creamy sweet tropical fruits; Chinese herbal candy; green, earthy and musty, like a combination of damp earth, moss and mildew; gasoline and tar; charred tart crust filled with canned tuna and brine; olive tapenade; an aftertaste of liquorice, konbu and Cantonese-style steamed fish.

Conclusion: a great rum, though not quite the singular drinking experience that John Barrett bottling is. I especially like the “green” notes which I find pretty rare in Jamaican rums. TWB seems to have commissioned some really interesting bottlings. Colour me interested to try their other exclusives.

Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 89/100

EDIT: bumping up a few points in total due to greater complexity and integration, not to mention overall awesomeness, after oxidation in the bottles. The improvements were drastic enough to make even the 11 year-old's resemblance to baijiu seem forgivable. Quietly note to self that high-ester rums need weeks to hit their full potential.

EDIT2: The 2007 just gets better and better... I have never had a bottle change so drastically over such a short time.

 

Image Courtesy of u/zoorado

 

u/zoorado



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