I started my rum journey in 2010 when I was 22 years old by drinking some good drinks like Vic’s Mai Tai. In 2011 I had my first Hampden ever, a 13 YO Cadenheads HLCF in cask strength and I fell in love. Since then I was “on fire” and Hampden was and is and will be one of my absolutely favourite distilleries. But HLCF? What does this mean? I instantly began to research for the different marks and tried to decode them. Unfortunately my work was very difficult because nobody else did it in until 2011 and so the information sources were very rare. Nevertheless, over time I have developed a feeling for the marks and the different styles of esters and rum in general because my heart does not only beat for Hampden. I also like the other Jamaican distilleries like Long Pond, Monymusk or Worthy Park, Trinidad’s legendary Caroni rum, St. Lucia Distillers or the “Rockley” style of the WIRD, Barbados. I love it to drink my rum in cask strength and without any additives, so I am also a big fan of the independent bottlers. In 2012, I started “Barrel Aged Thoughts (BAT)”, which was one of the very first blogs ever that presented such independent rum bottlings in cask strength. But back then, there also wasn’t any interest in these rums, nearly nobody else drank them. A time, when you could unhurriedly buy old Velier Demerara if you wanted (unfortunately I didn’t). A long time ago… Since 2013 I am supporting the German IB “The Rum Cask” with my knowledge and sometimes in the selection of the barrels. In 2018, I was involved in the release of the “Letter of Marque” Hampden DOK. Currently, I am helping some people with their exciting projects, which the public will hear from in the future. One of these is a unique book. 2019 was a great year for rum with some outstanding bottlings. I have summarized three of them for you:
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1. Velier Heavy Trinidad Rum 23 YO “The Last Caroni” 1996 – 61,9% vol
The first rum I have to name, if we talk about the best rums in 2019 is Velier’s “Last Caroni” of its Guyana Stock. An absolutely outstanding bottling of very rare quality and also their regular series’ final release! For me, it’s even one of the best Caronis ever, awesome! It contains everything we love so much if we are fans of this great lost distillery. It’s sweet and also dirty, heavy bodied and rich in character but totally smooth. My number one in 2019, no doubt! And I’d like to add, that it was a good year for Caroni in general. So I also want to remind you of the David “Sarge” Charran Employee or the Single Cask for Bar Lamp & Shinanoya, both from the great 1996 vintage.
2. The Rum Cask Jamaica Rum 18 YO Hampden 2001 – 61,2% vol
Brand new stuff, but sold out in just 13 minutes. Sounds like Velier, but no, we talk about the German independent bottler “The Rum Cask”. This release of a <>H vintage 2001 is a brilliant example of continentally aged rum in outstanding quality. It shows that this kind of maturation is just another way of aging, but not a worse one – fantastic! Very fruity, estery, with good influences from the wood, smooth, unbelievably heavy bodied and -after all- an endless finish (the big snag of the tropically aged Hampdens so far)! So I’m very proud that I’ve been involved in this bottling. And yes, there were other good continentally aged Hampden in 2019 as well. In particular I want to name Rum Artesanal’s 1983 Hampden. Great release as well!
3. Habitation Velier Jamaica Rum 9 YO Hampden 2010 – 62% vol.
Hampden again, but this time tropically aged! 2019 was also a year with some new and very good tropically aged Hampden bottlings and the HGML was definitely the best of them as far as I know (not tried all the SCs yet). Here we can see how much faster tropical aging works but also that it can’t replace 20+ continental years. It’s simply different, not better. The HGML release was a very small batch bottling and so it wasn’t easy to get your hands on a bottle. And if we talk about tropically aged Hampden, I also have to name the Hampden Estate “Great House”! This is one of just a few original bottlings I really, really like! Great surprise in 2019 when I tasted it first on the German Rum Festival in Berlin just off a sample bottle by Daniele Biondi. Very, very good!
To name just a top 3 is very hard for me because there were so many very good bottlings last year and I’d like to nominate more. I would also take a focus on the Monymusk EMBs of 2010 and 1995 – outstanding Monymusk rums, including the setting of new standards! We also saw some new Mount Gay 2000 bottlings are much better than the older ones if you ask me. And last but not least, for me as a German connaisseur, the rebirth of Rum Artesanal in general (they brought some nice bottlings onto the market last year) was one of my highlights. A very pleasant bottler of which we will here much more in the future I think.
And now, I’d like to thank all you readers out there around the world for following my small German blog. Greetings to all of you I met at fairs last year. Hope to see you again!