Hammond

Two Hammonds-RG1-USE

Product of:  St. Kitts & Nevis
Aged:  mere minutes
Price:  $10-$20 
Alcohol: Varies by batch and still, normally 47%-56% + Sugar: 0 g/L
Context:  W.I. Bush Rum
RG Rating: A unique treasure, an acquired taste.

Anecdotes
Knowing about Hammond is cool.  Knowing Hammond is even cooler.  Hammond is a high ester “pot still” rum (it’s actually distilled in old used oil drums) that’s chock full of funk and culture.  How Hammond got it’s name I cannot say.  I did not ask.  See, Hammond is also illegal.  It’s wise to keep one’s questions to a minimum when seeking Hammond.  I had to know whom and how to make the right inquiries of in order to buy this native spirit.  

Hammond has a status similar to marijuana in the Caribbean:  it’s highly illegal yet widely consumed.  Laws prohibiting its production, sale and use are largely unenforceable.  Yet, when a tourist/foreigner tries to buy Hammond under the counter – something ubiquitously common to the culture – locals will stare away or shake their head.   Better to stay cool at a beach bar and wait for a local to ask: “Need anything?”  In the Caribbean, that generally means weed.  But on the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, it more likely means Hammond, the illegal-but-everybody-drinks-it bush rum.  Methinks the happy woman pictured below knew how to request Hammond in her rum punch.

IRC @ Sunshine's, Nevis

Knowing the protocol during my first treasure hunt for Hammond in 2013, I employed trusted local assistance to help me purchase a bottle though the back door of a local bar.  Packaging was random in the extreme, and semi-clean at best.  Whisper a few words to a guy in the right context.  A barback digs an empty bottle out of a garbage can, rinses it a few times, produces a funnel and fills the bottle from a five gallon jerry can.  No hygiene?  No fear.  At 45-60% ethanol, Hammond is nearly as antiseptic as the rubbing alcohol sold in your local drug store.  Good for what ails ya.  Besides, I needed the kind of relief only Kill Devil provides to get me through a rough day of bartending during one of my rum cruises in the Leeward Islands.  Hammond took the edge off the surly cruisers.  

Making Hammond in the bush of St. Kitts-B Davies

Returning in 2014, I found that visiting an illegal Hammond still proved a far more difficult, yet worthy, adventure.  I called upon my trusted colleague and island native The Ron de Nevis (bottom photo) to gain access to this most hallowed and secret of island institutions.  You can see photos of our journey into the bush here.

For another veteran Caribbean traveler's take on Hammond, read what our friend Steve Bennett of Uncommon Caribbean has to say about the elusive spirit here:  Friday Happy Hour: Kaddy & Dan's Midnight Creeper.  

Tasting Notes
Two versions of Hammond are described below, purchased 16 months apart and produced in different stills.  I’ll call the one in the Capriccio bottle H1 (56% ABV), and the Smirnoff bottle H2 (47% ABV).  They are as colorless as water, the same as all raw spirits fresh from the still.  Both are rough-edged yet smooth enough for cautious sipping,  Islanders almost always mix their Hammond with cola or juice, while the carbonated grapefruit-flavored soda called ‘Ting is my mixer of choice.  

Aromas:  Understand that both distillates are closely related in their, er, “olfactory profile”, especially when compared to other styles of rum.  However, each delivers the unique odors and scents characteristic of their respective stills and distillers.
H1 (56% ABV) smells of high ester pot still funk, molasses dunder, rubber, band-aid, vegetal forest smells and sweet rotten bananas.
H2 (47% ABV) delivers the unmistakeable odor of fermenting molasses, milder grassy notes and white magnolia scents, old stagnant water, something like a mild skin infection, and rubber smells.  
Initial Taste: 
H1 (56% ABV) is unsweet, crisp with alcohol and having some mild white pepper.
H2 (47% ABV) exhibits mild flavors of sweet white corn and ethyl alcohol, lessor notes of marshmallow and white chocolate.
Body:
H1 (56% ABV):  medium-lightweight, thin, slight lemon citrus acid, the rubber smells are reflected in the flavors and palate texture.
H2 (47% ABV):  medium-weight with an almost creamy texture.
Finish:  neither version of Hammond leaves much of an aftertaste; both vacate quickly and dry your palate. 

Nevis' Rum Man MarTe and Rum Gallery's Dave Russell venture into the forst to find Hammond.  That small patch of mud between us is th eonly indication of a path.  Inward we go.

Opinion
Aside from the fact that it is forbidden fruit, I find Hammond incredibly appealing because it's the closest thing we can get to rum as it was made 300-400 years ago.  Rumbustion, Kill-Devil, Tafia; by any name this was the alcohol of slaves.  Hammond has historical significance, it is our bridge to the past. 

There is nothing quite like Hammond.  Buying it is half the fun.  Visiting a Hammond still was my persoanl rum chautauqua. Sure, some Jamaican overproofs, like Charley’s JB and Rum Fire are close in flavor and funkier, but they’re legal.  Hammond is the speakeasy rum of St. Kitts and Nevis.  If you can handle the Hammond adventure, step outside the all inclusive resort compound or the organized cruise ship tour and seek it out.  

Reviewed: While anchored off Nevis during July 2013 and November 2014.

© Dave Russell 2017