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Rum Reviews

Rum Artesanal Hampden 1990 (31 years)


Background: a cask from one of the best Hampden vintages, bottled by one of the best rum IBs. What could go wrong?

Nose: very expressive, yet incredibly gentle; there is as much balance and refinement as can be found in a high-ester Hampden; confectionery and industrial in equal measure; butter cake; marzipan; bananas foster; cempedak fritter; durian cake made with gula melaka; rotting pineapple and soursop; cooking gas; petrol; tar; carpenter’s glue; WD-40; wet rusty pipes; burnt rubber and plastic; shoe polish; it gets more tart deeper into the glass; fresh apple and pineapple juice; vinegars – balsamic, fruit and white; Shaoxing wine; the skin of various nuts; a briny marc, with its associations of green vines and oysters and seaweed; fresh clippings and freshly cut branches; forest floor; petrichor; tobacco; roasted cashew and pistachio; the base notes are a good mix of the sweet and the savoury; puff pastries; I am particularly reminded of curry puff and honey mustard chicken pie; salmiak liquorice; Marmite; beef bouillon; herbal chicken essence.

Palate: starts our creamy, yet not quite sweet; sour cream; salty tau sar; salted lassi; then, an explosion of tropical fruits, in concentrated syrup form; pineapple; soursop; mango; pink guava; durian; caramelised banana; the heavy Hampden funk kicks things up a notch on the mid-palate; sea brine and olive brine; fermented seafood, including but not limited to, shime saba and chanja; a whiff of a garbage truck as it passes by; forest notes – fresh leaves, dead leaves, tree bark, damp soil; almond and sesame paste; bitter Chinese herbal tea; fried starchy roots the likes of lotus root and potato and tapioca; the back-palate is fatty, oily, and seems to tie together the disparate elements that have come before; more fruits, this time fresh and juicy; grapes and pomegranate; a slushie of fresh stone fruits, blended with their pits; meat fat on a hot grill; braised shiitake mushroom with spinach, oysters, chopped olives, and a generous drizzle of black truffle oil.

Finish: long; industrial notes accompany an intense earthiness; cooking gas; burnt rubber and plastic; tar; loose soil; gravel on a hot day; vegetal peat; the rice char of a good claypot rice; wok-fried chestnuts; baked pecan pie; hazelnut praline; gingerbread; roasted coffee beans; the earthiness segues into some kind of mildly fruity funk; Shaoxing wine; rotting berries; root beer topped with baking spices; the aftertaste is mentholated, green and piney, and further, on honey lemon cough drop, overripe tropical fruit cordial, lemon barley, unsweetened chocolate, gan cao, fermented beans.

Conclusion: so much of the two Fs – flavour and finesse – on display here. There is remarkable roundness to the way the various notes are interwoven, at a level I have not encountered in a long time. Something about the gestalt holding everything together, reminds me of a certain exceptional New Yarmouth 2009 by the same IB. The much greater complexity of this rum makes the feat even more impressive. A top 5 Hampden, probably.

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


Image Courtesy of u/zoorado