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Rum Reviews

Hampden Single Cask by John Barrett, Bristol Spirits and Corman Collins (16 years)


Background: the lockdown has been lifted for close to two months. I was busy with my Master’s thesis, and then with socialising post-lockdown. As a result, I slacked off Redditing, as my backlog of rums to review grew. Finally, just this week, I got myself a bottle that I can’t just not write about.

Nose: big, big hogo hit with varnish, spoilt milk, vomit and rotting tropical fruits; with time the nose settles into a series of more precise notes; talcum powder, potpourri and various sweet perfumes; creamy sandalwood; freshly baked shortcrust pastries; Chinese New Year cookies; bergamot oil; dried mandarin peel; Tiger balm and assorted herbal, medicinal ointments; ice-cream soda; the brine of saltwater; grilled seafood with lemon juice; a mix of salted egg yolk sauce, teriyaki sauce and Thai fish sauce; a tropical rainforest in the morning, with the dampness of the soil and the freshness of the grass and the rotting wood and the thriving lichens; musty mildew; green papaya; juicy jackfruit; beeswax; lime juice; ammonia and limewater, something strongly mineral and pungent and slightly earthy and savoury.

Palate: a furious assault of nigh-inseparable flavours which include sharp lemon juice, sweet alphonso mango, seawater, the umami-ness of izakaya fare such as shiokara, earthy and nutty notes evocative of buah keluak and peanut paste, and a whole five-kernel mooncake stuffed with jinhua ham and candied pork; the nature of the earthiness segues quickly into that of damp soil, seemingly at home with the pairing of green vines and wet roots; luscious milk chocolate (Michel Cluizel’s Mangaro Lait comes to mind); Clynelish-like waxiness with whipped cream; a dense, exotic mix of olive brine, chalky powdered lime, black milk tea, baby vomit, mango sago, plus a melange of other sweet tropical fruits such as papaya, banana and jackfruit.

Finish: that complex final note in the palate fills the mouth, and hangs there with remarkable consistency from the tongue through the retronasal olfaction, for about half a minute, gradually dwindling in intensity; then come more of the woody notes: milk coffee, bitter chocolate, pu-er tea, cola; the cola evolves into ice-cream soda, mixed with a puree of overripe tropical fruits, a sprinkle of ground vanilla and a dash of sour milk.

Conclusion: first, what a remarkable mouthfeel! Dense, creamy, chalky, and mouth-coating. Then, that balance! So much intense hogo kept in check by such a complex array of notes; everything just melds so well and flows so naturally from one note to another. Lastly, the intensity and complexity are among the best I have experienced: make no mistake, this is a heavy hitter through and through, it just does it with aplomb and elegance. EDIT: I think I have just got myself a new favourite.

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


Image Courtesy of u/zoorado