Five Year Old Hampdens

Oops! I forgot to post a review for six months! Silly me.

Let’s get back in the swing of things with some rums from Ol’ Reliable: Hampden. Conveniently, the three selections I have today were all aged five years at the distillery in their respective ex-bourbon barrels.

Habitation Velier Hampden HGML 2017 Single Cask Nº 146 (For Astor Wines)

Hampden’s HGML marque contains an ester count between 1000 and 1100 gr/hlpa. Like all of Hampden’s rums, it was made from wild-fermented molasses and distilled in copper double retort pot stills. This cask was aged for five years in the tropics and bottled exclusively for Astor Wines at a cask strength of 60%.

On the nose, I get an intense mix of fruit and chemical aromas: melon, pineapple, coconut, lemon, super glue, and permanent marker. Also some coriander and black tea.

The palate is wonderfully fruity. I get melon, pineapple, passionfruit, and lemon, plus more solvent notes, and some of that classic Hampden cherry cola. It’s light on oak, but it doesn’t feel immature. It feels very composed, especially with a little water.

It feels strange to call this easygoing, but it kind of is! For a cask strength, high ester Hampden, this feels surprisingly affable. An excellent selection by Astor! (8/10)

Habitation Velier Hampden <>H 2016

A slightly older bottling than the other two, this expression of <>H was put out by Habitation Velier back in 2021. <>H contains between 900 and 1000 gr/hlpa in esters. Unlike the others in this lineup, it is not a single cask, but it was still bottled without dilution at 62%.

The nose on this is noticeably different from the HGML. It’s less fruity and, to be honest, less expressive in general. I get buttered popcorn, pastry, earthy wood, dried mint, and almost a popsicle stick note. There are some fruits like unripe pineapple and lemon, but they aren’t nearly as prominent as they were in the HGML.

The fruit comes out a little more on the palate, especially in the form of lemon, but it still isn’t particularly fruity. There’s a surprising amount of cask influence, coming through in notes like baked pastry, wood chips, and vanilla. Lastly, I get some prairie flowers – interestingly, I found the same note in another <>H distilled fifteen years earlier.

Not quite what I was expecting. The cask seems to be doing more of the work here, and I find myself missing those fruity notes. I’d consider this a bit of a miss, but a miss for Hampden is still a very good rum. (6/10)

Habitation Velier Hampden DOK 2017 Single Cask Nº 155 (For PM Spirits)

The dreaded and beloved DOK – Hampden’s highest ester marque. It weighs in at astonishing 1500 to 1600 gr/hlpa of esters, and this expression was bottled at a cask strength of 64.6%.

The nose opens with pungent super glue and sharpie notes. With a little time, there emerges pineapple, pure lemon extract, kumquat, Twizzlers, cola syrup, flowers, seawater, and oversteeped black tea. 

The palate runs the gamut of high ester flavors. There are fruits like lemon, grilled pineapple, passionfruit, and sour cherry; floral notes like orange blossom and rose; spices like nutmeg and clove; chemical notes like sharpie and superglue; and finally some cherry cola, oversteeped black tea, greek yogurt, and Twizzlers. The oak is just present enough to subtly mellow out the brute force of the distillate, and it takes water very well.

Beautiful and unmerciful. As much as I love this, I don’t reach for it often. It’s presented incredibly well for such potent distillate, but it’s still an unrelenting experience — not that anyone imagined it would be anything else.

I used to think that each distillery’s marques were essentially different versions of the same distillate with varying levels of “funk.” This tasting has shown me that is absolutely not the case. There are obvious similarities, but each has its own unique qualities. In the case of DOK, those qualities are simply extraordinary. (9/10)