The Laurel & Hardy of Hampden rums.
During the summer of 2018 a new beast surface on rum-planet Earth.
Born from the collaboration of Velier and the Hampden Estate, with support from french La Maison du Whisky, we’ve got the La Maison & Velier Hampden Estate 7 year old and its overproof brother.
This could be the start of something great – and great reason to go for a twofer.
It would seem that LMW and Velier has teamed up in maj 2017 and created La Maison & Velier.
Being among the biggest and most well known distributors in France and Italy, that ought to be a powerful alliance. Taking into the equation that the men behind the two companies are a couple of very skilled people just add to the expectations, that we are going to see great things from them in the years to come.
Apart from the already well known Caronis, Clairins and Transcontinental Rum Line-series (which I have still to try), these two new bottles of Hampden are the first real new deal.
It’s not like it’s the first aged Hampden rum we’ve seen with influence from Velier mastermind Luca Garagno. In fact we got quite a few from the Habitation series of educational rums.
And eventhough I can’t claim to have tastet more than the original HLCF version yet, that particular one was very great. If even wrote about it a couple of weeks ago.
But these new ones seem to be a different kind of witchcraft.
LM&V states that the introduction of this particular bottling is reminent of the introduction of single malt Islay whisky back in the 80s. And even though I have no clue about whisky or why that was such a big deal, it sure sounds important.
Unfortunately my googling skills are not good enough to dig out what the importance is all about, so if somebody could fill me in, that would be very much appreciated.
Never the less I can’t help but feel that there is something historic going on, and because Hampden tends to lead to very good experiences, I chose to jump at them and just get them both while I had the chance.
I’ve chosen to do a dual review of them, as I would expect them to be very similar in nature and only really differentiate on the ABV. I have had no luck digging up information on if it is actually the same rum at two difference strengths or if the blend is differente between the two.
Again, dear loyal reader, I hope you’ll reach out if you have any knowledge to share.
As we are dealing with Hampden, we are also dealing with a wild fermented, 100% pot still spring water rum with absolutely no tampering. After 7 years of tropical aging they decided to bottle some at 46% and some at a more beefy 60%.
This looks like something we’ve seen before.
The bottle is the same as the typical black Velier Demerara/Foursquare bottles, so that’s the first thing to really raise my expectations.
The box is the same size as the Demeraras/Foursquares, but visually we have moven away from the two-tone text-only expression. On the box there’s an image of the bottle in size revealing that the labelwork is also something fresh. Two sides with pictures of bottle, two sides with just the brand name and a couple of fierce lookin’ ‘gators. Grrrr…
As I mentioned above the label work is something fresh. Almost like a news paper it has been divided into small sections containing all the different information.
The right half contains the production method and has already been detailed above.
The left half tells the story behind the rum. A short intro to the high ester arts, a discription of the Trelawny area where Hampden Estate is located and information about its 8 years in the tropics.
Wait … 8 years? I thought this was a 7 year old… Let me check…
Front label says 8 years. Back label says 7 years. The LM&V website says 7 years.
That’s a 2-1 decision for 7 years, so I’ll stick to that.
The rum is a beautiful straw colour – almost yellow – liquid, and dispite the extra dillution the 46% is more or less the same colour as the 60%. Perhaps there is a visible difference to the colours. Perhaps I’m fooling my self into believing there is.
Anyway, it’s a very close call.
The rum behaves as you would expect in the glass. Slightly viscous and leaves a thing film on the inside. Super slim ring on top, which generates millions of tiny droplets, that never go anywhere.
Hampden’s in the air. Everywhere I look around.
Having made a double pour the air quickly fills with all those familiar Hampden scents.
Those good old funky rotting bananas along with some soft rubber notes.
Buckets of juice from sour green apples, a little smoke and a dash of several days old stale coke.
The regular proof one comes off a little softer and slightly more acidic than it’s stronger brother, which then in turn feels more fruity and adds a tiny note of wiper fluid and sea water.
Pungent. Fragrant. Good ol’ funky.
Starting out with the weaker one, it all starts out on the more surprising side of things.
So far my experience with Hampden rums has been funk monsters. Fruity, psykadelic explosions. This one however starts out with light woody flavours with an almost watery feel.
Even though it’s bottled at a little more interesting 46% strength, it doesn’t tickle my tonsils at all.
Then it evolves into butter on toast. Ever so soft, ever so slightly burnt.
But the most strange thing: It’s not very fruity. Not very fruity at all. There’s a little brine, but not much fruit.
Mind you there is a slight trace of that Hampden funk bomb, but it exploded a long time ago, and the shrapnel has now been covered in what was mentioned above.
Moving on to the overproof one, we are treated with something a little more familiar.
A good, solid heat blast followed by a flavour bomb.
The flavours still revolve around the same notes as the weaker sibling revealed, but obviously more concentrated.
The higher concentration of flavours in the initial delivery bring the fruits more to the front. They are still greatly outnumbered, but at least more noticeable.
After a handsom amount of sips I started to encounter some apple peel, a little autumn forest floor and two olives.
With the 46%’er the wood grows for a while and bring an increasing heat, preparing for a proper goodbye.
At the peak, it holds it for a little longer than you expect, before finally fading away into the horizon without making much of a fuzz about anything, leaving behind a vague sense of something fruity that once was.
Pleasant, manageable, good.
The strong one is more or less a multiplied version of the weaker one. More heat, higher peak, longer fade. The leftover flavours are more tasty and more memorable, but still not extraordinary.
Still pleasant if you enjoy the higher proof, a little less manageable, but still very good.
Rating and final thoughts
First of all, and considering the things I plan on saying later, please believe me, these are very good rums. Both of them in their own way.
They are great introduction to high ester and pot still rums, which can both be a little off-putting to the aspiring rum drunk.
They don’t tear your face off, but instead give you a taste of what the fuzz is all about and the opportunity to do it in your own pace.
The weak one is a very good and super easy drink. Pull the cork, pour a shot and get to it.
I must admit, that it is a little bit boring for my taste. There’s not much going on and it doesn’t evolve much during the transit from bottle to bowels.
The stronger one is more up my alley. The flavours are strong without wanting to fight you, and the profile is intense, a little demanding and more rewarding.
Should you get them?
Definitely. The value for money is great with these two. I paid around €130 for the pair, and even though that may seem steep, it really isn’t.
It puts them in the price range of a lot of sugared “premiums” and sketchy marketing heavy rum-drinks, but also most of the Foursquare ECS-series rums.
As I mentioned I think they are a great way to experiment with both high ester profiles and pot still expressions. They are not full blown any of those things, and lets you try it all out in a rather controlled environment and become a way to assess if these freaks are something for you.
But for the more seasoned rum veteran these may very well instead become an everyday go-to.
A good, casual afternoon tipple to calm your nerves after dealing with all the idiots of your worklife for the past 8 hours straight.
To be honest they both feel like they were created to be recreated. Products that they could reissue further down the road, and be able to hit a similar if not identical flavour profile.
Both a bit narrow and almost constricted, and in my opinion only a half blood Hampden.
Comparing them to my recently (ish) discovered benchmark, the Habitation Velier HLCF, they are not even close to being a match. The HLCF exceed them in every possible way.
Scents, flavour, finish, presentation, excitement and effort.
The HLCF was truly something unique. 7 year old Laurel & Hardy are not.
Summing it all up, these are still very good rums. I just know that Hampden can deliver so much more. They are super casual, drinkable and approachable, but lack the intensity and madness that we have witnessed from other Hampden expressions.
Translating words into numbers, I arrive at a…
LMV Hampden Estate 7 year old 46%
LMV Hampden Estate 7 year old 60%