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Rum Reviews

Legends, Old and New: Samaroli 1993 Jamaica (Hampden) Rum Full Proof Single Cask #39 (21 years) & Samaroli 1993 Jamaica (Hampden) Rum Full Proof Single Cask #39 (21 years)


Background: In one corner, we have what many consider the best Hampden ever bottled, the Samaroli 1993 Full Proof. In the other, stands an unyielding, unwavering opponent to the Samaroli, the up-and-coming The Rum Cask 1990. This is more than a battle between two bottlings; it is also a showdown between two legendary vintages of two rather different marks. Moreover, this is probably the most epic matchup I will ever post; it’s all downhill from here.

Name: Samaroli 1993 Jamaica (Hampden) Rum Full Proof Single Cask #39 (21 years)

Nose: ahh yes, this is unmistakably a <>H; varnish; artificial fruit flavouring, particularly of pineapple and watermelon; overripe jackfruit, mango and papaya; some tropical fruit punch notes that are typical in continentally aged C<>H; yoghurt and a little vomit; shortcrust pastry; burnt butter cookie; petrol and engine coolant; Sichuan hotpot base with chilli, butter, Chinese herbs and a huge does of Sichuan peppercorns; with time, it becomes green and vegetal, evocative of rotten vegetables, leaf compost, and forest floor that is almost too dry; stir-fried green and black olives with Chinese white vinegar; cooking herbs like oregano, cilantro and thyme, steeped in calamansi juice; things get progressively more aggressive as we approach the base notes; LPG odorant; mustard seeds; preserved vegetables of various kinds, notably mei cai; something flinty and medicinal, a mix of Chinese rubbing oil, Tiger balm and cheap alcohol-based hand sanitiser; as usual for a <>H, baked and roasted nuts and seeds round off the nose.

Palate: thick and effervescent, possessing the chalky, mineral texture of my benchmark <>H; artificial pineapple flavouring; wet burp after drinking a big glass of mango lassi; doogh -- and Iranian yoghurt drink made with herbs, spices and rose water; then it quickly gets green and spicy and earthy and ointment-like; Dijon mustard; wasabi; preserved vegetables, this time sweeter than on the nose, exemplars of which include canned choi sum and chye poh; a cocktail comprising camphor, Tiger balm and Chartreuse; a ground mixture of fresh leaves, bark shavings and damp black soil; capsicum and herbs and olives, fried with a generous amount of oil and white pepper, until they are somewhat burnt; baked and unsalted sunflower seeds and flax seeds; the back-palate is reminiscent of refreshing tropical fruits cordial a la the Habitation Velier HLCF, complete with its garnish of honey lemon cough drops and ginger candy.

Finish: shorter than I had hoped; tropical fruits and cream to start, as per normal for a Hampden; in a sharp turn, the fruitiness makes way for a big dose of herbal earthiness; salty liquorice; Chinese rubbing oil; wild banana wine, a traditional topical recipe for treatment of rheumatism; a bitterness that reminds me of Chinese herbal teas; some chemical notes become apparent as the influence of herbs and earth fades; Chlorox; liquid antacid smoked with LPG; codeine-based cough syrup; more palatable notes show up for the finale, with papaya peel, balsamic vinegar, olive brine and grass jelly making up the aftertaste.

Conclusion: an onslaught of flavours herbal, medicinal and chemical, unlike any other, this rum defies all I have read about it. It is certainly no easy Hampden, despite what the Samaroli brand tends to suggest. Against the John Barrett, this is a relatively narrow in its range of flavours, even though it is idiosyncratic to a fault. If only it had more of the umami side to it, then it would be a 95-pointer easily. As it stands, this is still a great rum and definitely one that is hard to replicate.

Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 92/100


Name: Samaroli 1993 Jamaica (Hampden) Rum Full Proof Single Cask #39 (21 years)

Nose: very expressive, though the top notes are devoid of the usual Hampden hogo; overripe mango and papaya; crystallised pineapples; ground parmesan on yoghurt; banana milkshake; lemon meringue; fresh passionfruit; lots of confectionaries follow the fruits; marzipan; baklava; orange cake; egg tarts; coconut shavings, fried with brown sugar; the fruit come back in a different form; apple juice with a hint of apple vinegar; perry; dried apricots and sultanas; beneath the appealing facade lies a core of unrelenting funk; cream and feta cheese; white truffle; body odour; sweaty socks; Cantonese-style steamed fish with light soy sauce; olive tapenade; mackerel, grilled and vinegared, with a dash of lemon; natto; beef bourguignon; rotten egg; salted egg; struck match; some greenness now, but of less sharp a form than what is found in the Samaroli; unripe tropical fruits; juices of sugarcane and leafy vegetables; the base notes are perfumey, earthy and industrial, redolent of incense, patchouli, laundry detergent, frizzled churros, rou gui tea, petrichor, cigarette ash, WD-50, shoe polish and tar.

Palate: the entry is tart, and the mouthfeel a wee bit thinner than the Samaroli; overripe soursop and custard apple; lemon juice; green apple; unripe pineapple; yang zhi gan lu, a Chinese mango-pomelo dessert; caramel mango pudding; bananas foster and whipped cream; toffee and milk chocolate; the mid-palate is green and nutty, though again, the manifestation is gentler here than in the Samaroli; stir-fried spinach with spring onion oil; fresh herbs; green papaya salad; konbu dashi; gua zi, a Chinese snack of roasted watermelon seeds; sesame paste; salted green bean tau sar; the back-palate pile up the funk; cream cheese; fried dough pastries the likes of haam chim peng and butterfly bun; black bean pork rib soup; black olives, while going easy on the brine; salty liquorice.

Finish: long; ointment and industrial notes lead the finish; WD-50; Vaseline petroleum jelly; Vick’s VapoRub; tar; camphor and other resins; then comes the earthiness and salinity; chocolate mousse with a surfeit of cocoa butter; dried shiitake mushroom; wet rot of the forest undergrowth; seaweed in briny seawater; deep-fried fish roe; an entire grilled shishamo, glazed in dark soy sauce; the metallic taste of some canned tuna; beef au jus; pan-fried tapioca cake; lightly charred coconut tart; kueh bangkit served with a french cream dip; it gets fresher towards the end; a glass of mojito; lime and mango sherbet; green apple liquorice; the aftertaste includes notes of rotten eggs, uncooked instant noodles, cooked rice, barley water, cling wrap, grass jelly and mint-flavoured chewing gum.

Conclusion: the dark and dirty earthiness of a Hampden is more pronounced here than in the Samaroli. This is also more balanced and complex, although it seems the trade-off is a lower intensity of its expressions and a less rigid structure. Nevertheless, I cannot help but be impressed by the cadence at which its aromas and flavours unfurl in the glass. Judging by its ester level, this is a rum that has no right being so elegant and graceful, yet it somehow managed the impossible. An iron hand in a velvet glove.

Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 93/100



Image Courtesy of u/zoorado