I’m very willing to admit that I love Jamaican rum. I like Worthy Park, Appleton and Long Pond. I love Hampden and New Yarmouth. Inside the small rum enthusiast bubble, all the Jamaican distilleries and their expressions are well known. Outside of that, the overproofs seem to be the celebrities. A while ago I tasted Rum Bar Overproof, Wray & Nephew and Rum Fire next to each other. Turned into an article with amazing collaborations of Joy Spence, Christelle Harris and Zan Kong. My conclusion that time was that I love all three rums, but Hampden’s Rum Fire just a bit more than the other two.
I recently spent some time with my family and friends in Holland. Naturally, I went into as many liquor stores as I could to check the rum options. The selection in Toronto is average at best, so when I’m over there it’s actually exciting to look at the rum aisles. One of the bottles I came across was Sample Seventeen. I’d seen it online at some point, but couldn’t remember exactly what it was. Reading the label further, it states “from a great house on Jamaica” and “pot still rum, funky and bold”. Clearly hints towards Hampden being the distillery. The 60.3% abv got me even more interested.
The blend is made by Scheer in Amsterdam. It’s bottled by Kintra Spirits and The Rum Mercenary. Erik Molenaar is the man behind Kintra and the “Sample” range of rums. I met him during my trip, so I was able to see some of his operation and chat a bit about this particular rum. With Sample Eleven they already have an aged blend and they wanted to release an unaged rum next to it. They decided it had to be a funky Jamaican expression. After going back and forth with Scheer, the 17th sample they received was the winner. Hence the name “Sample Seventeen”. I asked if they used Rum Fire as an inspiration/comparison. Erik said:”No, we didn’t compare anything, we just followed our noses”.
The Hampden marques in this blend are LROK, HGML and DOK. These have different ester levels, as you can see in the table above. Sample Seventeen is definitely leaning to the higher ester half. Rum Fire's marque is HLCF and therefore a little more moderate in the ester department in comparison.
When I opened Sample Seventeen and smelt it, I felt instant joy. Hampden gloriousness. My next thought was that I wanted to compare it to Rum Fire. Here goes. I won’t describe Rum Fire in detail, as I’ve already done that here, but just use it as a marker.
Sample Seventeen is briny. I'm also smelling mint, a massive fruit basket, panela, it’s nutty, nutmeg, pineapple, strawberry, cardboard, overripe fruit. The longer I leave it, the more pineapple is rotting away and even mushrooms are added now. Feels like DOK is shining through more and more.
Rum Fire has a bit more of that overripe fruit but is overall slightly less fruity and has less going on than Sample Seventeen. It has similar traits, with less abundance. It's like driving a sports car that has a speed limiter on it. An incredible experience, which abruptly stops. That's when you are overtaken by the Sample Seventeen sponsored super car.
It’s fat, bold and fruity. I guess that’s enough, but I’ll add a few things. Briny and meaty, light acetone, rotten fruit. Surprisingly sippable and much more interesting than DOK on its own. The “lower” ester rums in the blend bring more balance to the DOK part, while keeping it fruity and funky enough, even for ester junkies.
In comparison, Rum Fire is very solid, with a little less creative energy in a way. It doesn’t pull you in as many directions as Sample Seventeen. It’s surrounded by concrete borders which Sample Seventeen has no knowledge of.
Most people will use this rum for blending/mixing. So it made sense for me to do two experiments. First a rum and Coke and then a daiquiri. I won’t analyze these in detail, just a quick description of my preference.
Rum Fire wins the rum and Coke round. The additional fruitiness of Sample Seventeen doesn’t combine as well with the sweetness of Coke as Rum Fire does. Too much going on, no balance. A bridge too far for me.
It was harder to decide between the two daiquiris. Rum Fire is easier to "manage", taste wise. Sample Seventeen's additional fruitiness works quite well in combination with the lime. Rum Fire has a slight bitterness that the other doesn't have. Overall I'd take the Sample Seventeen daiquiri. Although, if I had more options, I wouldn't take either as my choice of daiquiri rum.
With Sample Seventeen, I like how the funky/fruity level is brought up in comparison to Rum Fire, without going overboard. However, for straight up mixes/cocktails, the fruitiness of Sample Seventeen might be a bit too much for some. Rum Fire is so solid in that department. Hampden made a good decision with that in mind. On the other hand, a good bartender will know how to deal with a problem like this.
I mentioned not choosing either as my daiquiri preference. That's because they are a little too far out there for me. However, the story is completely different when we are talking about blending rums. These two are so good to blend with. Think Appleton is missing Jamaican funk? Add a little bit of Sample Seventeen to it and you are off to the races. Do you have a rum that's gone flat, or one that's flat to begin with....let's say a 21 year 40% Panama rum....??? Blend it with one of these two and you'll have a rejuvenated bottle of rum.
Blend it in a multi rum daiquiri, or add a few drops on top for an amazing fragrance. Even if you are not into high ester or high abv rum, you should still have these expressions in your collection. Once you start blending, a new rum path will open up for you. Serious rum bars should definitely have at least one of these on their menu.
For sipping it’s an easy choice, Sample Seventeen for the win. Overall I rate it slightly higher than Rum Fire….but it’s a minuscule difference in enjoyment. I wish I could get these in Canada.
Sample Seventeen Pot Still – 91
Rum Fire – 90
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