Hampden LROK - Side by Side
Episode six of my Hampden series! And the third review dedicated to a specific 'mark'. Over a month since my last review, damn day job getting in the way :-)
Previously Hampden reviews:
HGML side by side here
Great House vertical here
Rum Fire vs Rum Fire Velvet here
Today is all about LROK. A mid ester designation for Hampden, off the scale high ester for 99% of other distillers. Over recent years LROK seems to have been the most commonly seen style of the various single mark Hampden bottlings released. No bad thing given how many people class it as their favourite mark. Unquestionably big bold Jamaican rum, but without going too far into the 'DOK zone' of super extreme rums that are targeted solely at cave dwelling heavily bearded rum nerds :-)
Here's a reminder of Hampden's rum marks along with the ester level in grams per hectolitre of pure alcohol.
Molasses based rums, produced on a copper double retort pot still following extremely long fermentation with natural yeast and dunder ... a living sourdough style acidic flavour catalyst from sinister sounding dunder pits - a hallmark of rum production at Hampden.
The sun's out so I've chosen the scintillating Jimmy Cliff to assist me today. 15ml of each, left to open up for 30 mins. Nosed first, and then tasted, in increasing abv order.
Estate Bottling, The Younger - 2016, 5yr, 47%
The most recent release of this line-up. Only available in the UK last month this follows a trend of Hampden to release younger rums. These are likely to be bolder, fruitier and potentially a little more fiery than their more mature brothers and sisters. A cynic might also point out that they are considerably more cost efficient to produce (especially given the extreme angel's share experienced in Jamaica).
The fact that this was aged at the distillery will mean that 5yrs aging might well have a similar effect to much longer continentally aged rums.
This bottle is available in the standard 70cl or a muscular 300cl ! In the UK it costs around £55.
Easily the lightest colour of the line-up. Chardonnay-esque. Some unctiousness with decent legs running slowly down the sides of my glass.
Nose: Fresh and fruity but disappointingly muted. A little varnish with warm mango & banana. Some esters. Wisps of smoked caramel. A little salt. Overall very lacking.
Mouth: Fresh pineapple. Some bitterness. Poorly integrated alcohol. Quite thin and watery at first and then the alcohol hits you, along with a little rotting tropical fruit, mint and spices - cloves & pepper. Too wishy-washy for me. Given the age I was expecting something punchy but it falls short. I'm probably being a bit harsh, it's a pleasant rum with a long enjoyable finish, and actually not bad value. I'll be testing this in a Mai Tai where I suspect it will work very well. [82pts]
Estate Bottling, 2010 LROK - 11yr, 47%
Released in 2021 this rum has received mixed reviews. At around £130 it's extremely pricey for a rum bottled at 'just' 47%, however it has been aged for a massive 11 tropical years with an angel's share (loss) of well over 60% - so it was never going to be cheap. And let's face it, rum lovers have had it very good for a long time and a price hike was always expected. Anyway, the steep price means it's still widely available.
A rich dark gold. Thick in the glass. Very inviting
Nose: Sweet, caramelised, tropical fruit. Floor polish. Lacking some depth. More wood polish. A little creaminess. Not as much obvious ester I'd like but all clearly well integrated. A touch of balsamic vinegar. I'm just not being blown away.
Mouth: Interesting. Not your usual Hampden profile. It's lead by a dry medicinal flavour, followed by a swathe of mint, and only next do you get the usual sweet vinegary tropical fruit. Good caramel and vanilla oak on the long finish, along with a touch of bitter cola.
A little too much mint in the profile for me. It's well made and the alcohol & complex flavours are beautifully integrated. I'm really enjoying it but not £130 level. An approachable, very complete and interesting 'easy drinking' Hampden. [84pts]
Samaroli Caksus - 2012, 9yr, 60%, 236 bottles
Part of the 'Caksus' trio of Hampdens released by legendary bottler Samaroli in 2021. I reviewed the <H> of the trio as part of my tasting of that mark last year (here).
Aged for 9 years (unclear where or what portion of this aging was tropical & continental) before being bottled at punchy 60% in Scotland in 2021. A single cask with an outturn of just 236 bottles.
Lovely deep amber colour.
Nose: Great nose. I could wear this as cologne. It's got a sweet musky profile. Earthy, almost creamy but also spicy chocolate. Let's say spicy, oaky, chocolate orange :-) A little floral but with backdrop of the deep oak and vinegary pear drops. Glue, almonds, satsumas, mango and eucalyptus. It's clearly Hampton but again atypical - there an unmistakable side order of caramelly Bajan rum on this nose. Rich, delicious and interesting.
Mouth: A great big mouthful of flavour. Literally feels like I've stuffed my mouth with oily, candied tropical fruit. Quite spicy. A little ginger. Good richness. Creamy and yet tannic. Mid length finish. A few gaps in the profile but it's a big enjoyable rum. Lots of tropical fruit. Cola cubes. A touch of smoke. Reasonable alcohol integration. Not perfect but a tasty drop. [87pts]
Habitation Velier US release LROK - 2010, 10yr, 62%
A limited release that I managed to pick up from the US. The second of three rums today from 2010. This one with a massive 10 years aging at the distillery. Bottled by Habitation Velier who rarely miss with their picks, I'm expecting big things. The rear label informs us that the ester concentration is 300-400gr/hlpa (as expected for LROK) and that there was an angel's share (loss) of over 60% during the long tropical aging. I've been unable to find a bottle count but expect it's a few thousand. Really interested to compare this to the HV 6yr, both from 2010 with a little difference in abv and big difference in aging.
Outstanding vibrant light gold. Super thick when swirled in the glass.
Nose: I've only just opened the bottle so this might need time but my first impressions (after 30+ mins in glass) are that the nose isn't as big or as exciting as the Samaroli, 6yr HV or the Shark. It's all there, the tropical fruit, lots of banana, a little glue, lots of dry raisins, vinegar, caramel vanilla oak, but nothing is leading the way. A warm background orchestra with no solo flair out front. And definitely less sweet, less candied than the others. Don't get me wrong, it's exceptional, just maybe a smidge less exciting.
Mouth: Yum. A lovely big thick mouthfeel. Quite dry. As with the nose, there's not the sweet punchy esters. I really like it but I am missing the candy shop visit. Super well integrated. Long balanced finish. Perfect oak influence. Sort of dry savoury salted caramel, if that's a thing. An outstanding quality rum, just missing the flair, the stand-out element.
After a few minutes the savouriness is really growing on me - it's dry but not bitter which makes it really moorish. [licks lips and goes back for another sip] 
Habitation Velier LROK - 2010, 6yr, 67%, 5292 bottles
A 2017 release from the dependent* bottler Habitation Velier, this was (I understand) the first original bottling of the LROK mark. Aged for 6 years at the distillery with a >40% angel's share. 21 barrels we're bottled at balmy 67% in 2016 producing 5292 bottles.
*Dependent as opposed to independent bottler(IB), Habitation Velier work closely with distillers through the whole production and aging process, rather than buying a cask and aging it themselves elsewhere.
Nose: And there is that flair :-) A huge rum. Complex, balanced, yet with stand out sweet estery roasted pineapple. Tropical fruit salad with smoked caramel. Salty. Spicy. Deep dark esters. A near perfect example of Hampden nose.
Mouth: Layers of flavoursome tropical fruit. Vanilla. Good oak. Great texture. Black banana. Vinegar. Loads of spice, imagine nutmeg grated on tropical caramel custard. Tasted blind I'd never guess this is only 6 years old. More exciting than the already excellent 10 year. That splash of old fashioned candy shop sweetness is balanced by the spicy dry background. A stunning Hampden. Not quite as integrated as the 10 year but the extra zip and liveliness give this one the edge (well today anyway 😁) [91+ pts]
Rum Shark Hampden, 2005, 15yr, 69%, 276 bottles
Final rum of the line-up, a 2005 LROK released as part of Czech bottler RumShark's inaugural set of releases in 2020. I have previously reviewed two others of these first releases - New Yarmouth (here) and Clarendon (here). lnformation online suggests this was aged in Jamaica for 13 years followed by 2 years in cooler Europe. A single cask - bottled at an eye watering 69%, producing just 276 bottles.
Unbelievable colour, dark tan, gorgeous. Super excited about this now I've seen that colour.
Nose: Damn. Best nose of the day. It's always annoying when an unavailable rum is excellent. Better make this 15ml last :-) There is a risk is could actually be over oaked. It's almost got a coffee edge. Leather, recently polished. The estery fruit is sitting in the background. So much going on. Very tannic. Savoury caramel. Dried banana slices. Oak smoke. The rum is so deep it smells like the treacly residue of a barrel. I swear this is evaporating as I watch.
Mouth: Not a typical Hampden. Dry but complex and still showing a sweet side. Very very tasty. Lots of glue. Lots of dark rich dried fruit. It's massive as you would expect, yet approachable and perfectly balanced. I'd understand someone being critical of the lack of freshness & liveliness so much a hallmark of Hampden's usual profile - but this is a different rum, and it's great. The long age has resulted in a classy gentleman of a rum. Refined. Venerable. Classic. A rum firmly on my wish list. [92pts]
In conclusion, buy Hampden rum, it's outstanding! I'm thrilled that I have bottles of the two Habitation Velier and look forward to many evenings comparing the merits of each.
LROK is a beautiful mark, perfectly balancing funky excitement with rummy drinkablility. A glass of any of these offers a unique and different experience - elegantly & honestly capturing the profile of aged Jamaican rum. The kaleidescope of rum styles and flavours available today is awesome 😊