Scotch Whisky bottler Hunter Laing and Co Ltd, released their range of Kill Devil rums early in 2016. Not so hidden amongst the interest were a number of comments on the strength of the rums.
All the rums released initially were bottled at 46% ABV. This disappointed quite a few rum connoisseur’s who had hoped to see Cask Strength releases.
Quick to recognise this and following the success of their first releases (both critically and commercially) the team at Hunter Laing have returned with some Cask Strength offerings.
The presentation of the rums remains the same aside from a slight change in colour scheme. The lozenge labels are now a deep reddish/purple colour instead of grey.
As well as releasing rum at Cask Strength Kill Devil have also used one of their older stocks from an iconic Jamaican distillery. Famed for its Pot Still rums this Cask Strength release will be for many rum lovers an essential purchase.
Which is probably just as well for Hunter Laing because this rum retails at around the £200 mark in the UK. For this you get a 62.4% ABV rum which was distilled back in April 1992 and bottled in 2016. So you are getting a Single Cask Jamaican Pot Still Rum. Only 234 bottles of this are available worldwide so despite the price tag some people may still be left disappointed.
From the information available I am unable to determine if this is all pot still rum or a blend. From what I can gather Hampden Estate have only 4 Muller Pot Stills at the distillery. I’m fairly certain this is Pot Still only.
Hampden Estate rums are best known for being high ester. If you aren’t sure what is meant by the term ester I’ll direct you here. They explain it way better than me. Tastewise it means the rums are very “funky”. There are a number of articles about Hampden Estate and their processes. Again as it has already been explained better elsewhere I’ll direct you to Rum Connection who have visited the distillery.
This is very much a rum for someone who knows specifically what they are looking for. If you want to try high ester Pot Still Jamaican rum then I wouldn’t advise beginning with a bottle as expensive as this. You might get quite a shock.
In the glass the rum is a light gold/straw colour. I might have perhaps expected a darker rum considering how long it has been aged. As far as I am aware this rum has not been treated to any finishes – its spent its 24 years maturing in an ex bourbon cask. It’s difficult really to determine what colour rum really should be – so many commercial bottlers colour theirs with caramel.
The nose on this Hampden is huge. You can smell it from across the room. Unlike unaged Jamaican overproofs however it doesn’t smell quite as “boozy”. It’s not as alcohol forward as you might expect as such a proof.
Big wafts of black banana and mango combine with rich unsweetened slightly bitter toffee and caramel notes. Despite all the big high ester Jamaican funk it also displays evidence of its time in the oak.
There is a nice spice to the nose – hints of sweeter bourbon and some nice oak notes. The oak notes are quite light and fragrant. It is better and more rounded than the younger Hampden rums such as Hampden Gold or for instance Smith & Cross.
So onto the sipping. Like many whisky commentators I will always advocate adding water to any spirit which is more than 50% ABV. I am more than happy drinking a spirit at between 46-50%. I personally feel that any higher any my palate simply does not pick everything up from the rum it should. I try rums such as this at Cask Strength for review purposes but I don’t routinely drink them at that strength.
At Cask Strength you get a very big complex rum. However, I add a couple of drops of water and I feel I get more from this rum.
Everything that was found on the nose translates through with this on the sip. It’s a big pot still rum but the ageing really has developed it beyond just that.
It has a lovely spiceiness to it, full of flavour and sweet/sour notes which compare to the Foursquare 2004. Slightly savoury and at times slightly bitter. There’s a lot of fruit and the finish is long, balanced and warming. Some notes which might not sound quite as appealing (but work surprisingly well to give this rum its complexity) would be varnish, shoe polish and even a little astringency.
The sweet fruit flavours make this rum very moreish yet the finish is so good you feel like you mustn’t rush it too much. You get that nice funky Jamaican black banana and tropical fruit hit, good notes of toffee and unsweetened caramel.
As so few bottles of this are available I sincerely hope that the 200 or so people lucky (and rich) enough to get their hands on this fully appreciate what they are getting. I hope it doesn’t fall into the hands of someone looking for another Ron Milonario XO or a replacement for his Zacapa XO.
Expensive but rums this age from Hampden Estate do not come up very often.