Sunday 26 August 2018

Review 104 – Habitation Velier Hampden HLCF 2010

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes. Funk is all around us.

To move things along after the ancient Blairmont, I think the next natural step will be some of the newish stuff coming from everyones favorite Italian indie.

The Habitation range already has a few years under its belt, and consist of some quite young single still expressions, ranging from traditional column fra Rhum Rhum, to the pot stills of Worthy Park, Hampden, Foursquare and Port Mourant.

I my world all these rums are mostly inspirational pieces, show cases that excist to educate on what certain types of still can produce and bring to the table – so to speak.

They also provide hyper specific profiles to be used as ingredients in cocktails.

Most of them will be too intense and/or insane for the casual rum drinker. But that shouldn’t discourage you from giving them a go. We are all explorers of the rum world and most of us won’t think twice before dipping our snouts into something we should have just left alone.

As part of the original Habitation release, the Hampden was one of the first times (if not the first) that the world laid eyes upon a tropically aged Hampden. And to add to that, a pure pot still beast.

Being six years old it comes off as a rather young rum in a world where we are accustomed to rums of 10+ years of age. But the young age may very well be very intentional.

The HLCF is a traditional jamaican marque indicating which ester profile we are dealing with. Since the Jamaicans deal in a huge range of ester count, they needed labels to differentiate. HLCF being a high ester profile – but no where near the highest – I’m sure we can expect something rather intense from this bottling.

An ester count of 550 gl/laa is mentioned on the box, but other than it being a relatively high value compared to the vast majority of available rums out there, I have no idea what to make of it yet or any desire to geek it out further at this point.

Something I do know what to make of, if the proof. 68,5% ABV. Take that pesky little 40%’ers.

This rum is on steroids and will easily beat your manly tonsils into submission. On paper at least. Let’s see how it handles later on.

Knowing where this comes from and who bottled it, it shouldn’t be necessary to point it out, but of course this contains no sugar as stated right there on the label. Nice.

Where the black, monolithic appearance of the Velier Demeraras brought potency, heft and power, the Habitation range sports something else.

With partly opaque brown medicine bottles (although I don’t think medicine was ever ordained in 70 cl bottles), a very large lable with old style writings and what looks like hand drawings of the originating still, this line of rums glow of medicine, science, education and knowledge.

“Dr. Trustworthy’s Miracle Medicine” … but there’s no quackery afoot here. Not in the least.

The box is sturdy, beige and mimic the aura of both bottle and label.

The front label mentions all the relevant details, and on the back we get a little historic insight: Namely that this is a first ever. Locally, tropically aged rum from Hampden Distillery, Trelawny, Jamaica.

In the glass the beautiful straw coloured liquid moves with grace as it coates the sides and never lets go.

Already when you pull the cork, you know something crazy is stirring. A quick stab of funk lashes out at you as you pour the shot. And as it breathes in the glass even more funky fruits leap at you.

Thick, super ripe bananas comes to mind first. It almost feels like it oozes over the edge of the glass. It’s that kind of thick.

Hitching a ride on the banana ooze we find concentrated green apples and mangoes.

There is the typical dash of cola which was better yesterday and something slightly rotten underneath.

When people say “Funky Jamaican” this is what I think of. It’s an overabundance of fragrances – mostly delishious tropical fruits, but also death and decay.

At this point I would expect it to be rather high proof, but nowhere near the listed 68,5%. There is no serious nasal stabbing going on except for the first few whiffs. But those seemed more playful than ill intended.

First tastes reveal some eager burnt rubber notes, that quickly dies off and sets the scene for the more fruity main course.

As you let it progress to the sides of you tongue it opens up and becomes super tasty with a fruity salad akin to the notes from the nose. The bananas, mangoes and apples are back and really doesn’t bring much more.

There is a little oak in the mix as well but not enough to take a proper stand.

It does set fire to everything it touches and lets you remember that we are dealing with a just south of 70% beef cake and that one should tread lightly or suffer the consequences.

After the first few sips it does become more manageable and when you finally get to enjoy the full blast, it’s equal pleasure, sweat, joy and regret. Regret that you didn’t buy a case of these instead of just the one bottle.

At first the heat seems to never want to leave. It keeps churning on and it hits you like waves pummeling the shore.

Only when you finally get used to it, it slowly starts to die off taking all the lovely fruity flavours with it in a great big dance off.

The dying fruits leaves more space for the oaks, and eventually you’ll get a little spicy finale to remind you of the barrel aging.

Several minutes later while the sweat still trickles from your forehead you’re left with a vague sense of the tropical fruit bonanza and an oily feel coating the mouth.

Rating and final thoughts
This was by far one of the biggest and best surprise during my down time. The first time I tried it was with some fellow rum nerds in the Rum Symposium Copenhagen and we were all blown away by it. I remember people immediately pulling out their phones to buy bottles from eBay and other webshops to secure their own bottle.

Later I tried it alone with plenty of time to savour the moment, and it was equally fantastic.

For me this particular rum marks the essence of why Hampden remains as one of my favorite distilleries.

The intense flavours we get from them are unique and in my eyes unrivalled by anybody the world of rum.

Where the majestic, monstrous, behemoth Demeraras are exactly that, Hampden delivers the most delicate ballerina of a rum with a massive flavour bomb up her skirt – pardon my french.

And what’s not to like about that?

I could have wished for a more wide array of flavours and more evidence of the aging. But when it tastes this good, would I even want it any different? Truth be told, I’m not sure.

My love for this rum is the sole reason I’ve been reluctant to take in the newer Habitation Velier Hampden expressions. There is also an lower ester LROK and a blend of LROK and HLCF out there. But to this day, I’m very happy with my HLCF and I’m not sure I want to dull down the ester count.

Bet it’s pricy then? That depends what you usually fork over for a bottle of rum. But somewhere in the vicinity of €100 doesn’t scare me off at all. Not when you get a rum this beautiful and well crafted.

Hell, if they hadn’t put it in the science-y Habitation package, and had gone for a flashy decanter style bottle and put it in a fancy engraved wooden box with a magnetic seal, it would have pulled a price three times as high and nobody would have frowned the least little bit.

But this seems to follow a recent trend where very good rums doesn’t need to be very expensive as well. Take Foursquare and their insanely cheap prices for one. The Habitation bottlings all range from €50 – 70 for unaged varieties and €90 – 120 for the aged ones.

That’s really not bad considering the massive quality in the bottles.

Let’s have more of this! Pure, proper rum in a price range where most can play along.

Come to the end of this second review in the new Rum Corner age, we have to settle the score.

I don’t care… this rum belong right at the best end of the scale. With flavour, beauty and craft like this, we gotta reach for someting along the line of a …

Rating: 90/100


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