Hampden Great House – Distillery Edition 2020 – 59%

Stats: A limited release of 3000 bottles, made in copper pot stills, aged entirely in Jamaica, and bottled at 59% ABV, this blend consists of 80% of their lowest ester mark (OWH) from 2013 and 20% <>H (between 900-1000 esters) from 2017. Originally only available at the distillery, this is the second release that has come to market, and I believe the first to hit US soil.

Note: I preface this by saying I did not like this on first pour. Or second. Or third. It started to come into its own a bit after it mingled with some air. Here’s my assessment over time…

Nose: (1st through 3rd pours): Mild cinnamon, black pepper, papaya, banana peel, rank armpit, compost, stale foot, tar, pencil shavings. (4th pour): Just popping the cork I get an explosion of tropical fruit and a heavy dose of cinnamon. I was mad at this bottle the first three visits and couldn’t figure out why everyone was raving about it. It’s finally coming together! There’s a little heat as my nose goes fishing for nuances. This now resembles the Hampden I’m accustomed to. There is still a mild hint of body odor, but its vibrant hogo has finally come out to play. It’s sweet and spicy and delightful. (5th pour): Nose is wonderful. Grilled pineapple covered with cinnamon. Perfectly ripe banana. Some black pepper and baking spice. The off notes are barely noticeable now and coming in the form of tar and rubberiness from a shoe store. 

Mouth: (1st through 3rd pours): Funk. Trash heap, smokiness, treacle, Indian cooking spices, bitter tannins, a very sour note, locker room. Not getting the tropical notes I expected. It’s actually very similar to the funk I get from St Lucian rums that my palate happens to disagree with and I’ve not yet become accustomed to. (4th pour): Thick oiliness, a mild hint of strawberry and banana Laffy Taffy, fresh pineapple, cinnamon, a sour/citrus note, lemon candy, there’s still something dank but not so off putting. Every sip brings something else. (5th pour): Oily, savory, very funky. Petrol and industrial notes. Reminds me more of a Caroni than a typical Hampden. Cumin maybe? Tobacco. Really old banana bread. Rotting vegetables. Burnt coals. Lots of bitter tannins. I feel like we’ve taken a step back here. 

Final Thoughts: I’ve never had to revisit a rum so many times to feel confident sharing my thoughts. I feel the nose takes you on a nice journey, but the palate is lacking. While this has gotten much more drinkable over time, or maybe I’ve just gotten more accustomed to its oddness, it’s not bringing what I’d consider the quintessential Hampden profile that I desire. Considering the general consensus I’ve read about this being a very approachable and absolutely delicious rum, I just don’t see it. I don’t feel like I’m a Hampden novice by any means, nor am I an expert, but this would certainly not be the expression I shared with a friend who’s new to rum. I honestly don’t know what to do with the bottle. It’s just not enjoyable to me. 

My Rating: 3-

My scale:
1 – I don’t want this in my mouth ever again
2 – Best used for mixing
3 – Decent sipper
4 – Very enjoyable
5 – I’m buying a back up bottle

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