Founded in Trelawney Jamaica in 1753 the Hampden Estate by the Sterling family, Hampden Estate is one of the oldest sugar cane estates in the country. By 1779 Archibold Sterling was selling rum out of the first floor of the estates, Great House, and a Jamaican rum legacy was born. Over time the estate changed hands and was owned briefly by the government of Jamaica. That changed in 2009 when the Hussey family purchased the estate and continued producing rum in the renowned Queen of Spain valley.
In July of 2018 the Hussey family partnered with La Maison Vellier to manage the worldwide distribution of Hampden Estate rums. They make their rums using molasses from the sugar cane they grow on their estate.
These rums have a reputation for being high ester 100% pot still rums, that uses local spring water for blending and does not add any color or other additives to their products. During fermentation, they prefer to use wild yeast and during distillation use a double retort copper pot still. The rums used in the blend for this product were aged in used American Oak barrels for seven years before being blended to 46% ABV and bottled for the global market.
In the bottle the rum has a dark amber color that lightens slightly in the glass. The labels on the bottle are loaded with information about Hampden Estate and the providence of the rum. Agitating the liquid formed a thick band around the glass that spun off a wide array of fast moving legs before evaporating and leaving a band of residue and beads in their wake.
As I poured the rum in the glass the smell of banana, green apple and lemon zest filled the air. As the aroma settled, I found the aroma reminding me of walking through a greenhouse providing a combination of earthy, floral, and herbal notes all spun together. overall, I found it quite pleasant as it was difficult to decipher specific notes beyond mineral rich earth, decaying vegetable matter, fresh blooming flowers, etc.
On the palate the rum provides and initial swirl of the fruit notes from the aroma with the addition of a strong orange note mid-palate. The herbaceous notes take over and a note of cooked pineapple and roasted coconut comes into play. The flavors are grounded by strong vegetal flavors combined with graphite, old leather, anise, mushrooms, and roasted nuts. As the rum begins to fade the herbaceous and fungal notes marry and linger in a nice long finish.
When I received the news that La Maison Vellier was handling the distribution I was in part relieved. This is a company that I am familiar with through the Clairin and Caroni lines and there was a certain amount of confidence that the people involved would take care of one of the crown jewels of Jamaican rums. As far as this particular product, it met and exceeded all of my expectations. Reasonably priced and with expanding U.S. distribution; I am happy that this rum is easily accessible to the U.S. readers as well as obtainable in the European and Australian markets. This rum, along with the overproof version, provides those who appreciate the flavor dynamics of Jamaican rum an excellent product to explore and experiment with neat or in cocktails.