This is the last of the four Amruts I opened for a special Amrut tasting for some members of my local tasting group back in May. I’ve already reviewed the two other single casks we drank that night (one from a bourbon cask and one from a PX sherry cask). Those were both distilled from unpeated Indian barley. This one, from a port pipe, was distilled from peated barley (the provenance of the barley is not mentioned on the label; I assume it was Scottish). We drank this one alongside the Portonova, which was our consensus favourite on the night (and I liked it the most then too). However, in the last couple of weeks I’ve really been enjoying this peated version a lot more than I did that night and am looking forward to taking some formal notes.
This was bottled exclusively for the European market, by the way, and the cask saw a whopping 43% evaporation loss during maturation.
Amrut 4, 2009 (59%; port pipe 2712; from my own bottle)
Nose: Unlike the bourbon and PX sherry casks this one doesn’t have the trademark Amrut powdered ginger wafting off the top but it does have the polished wood; mild farmy peat below that but not a whole lot of the port at first. As it sits the wood gets spicier and sweeter with a hint of incense (which is probably the port influence). More salt too and some pipe tobacco. The peat gets more pronounced with time. With a lot more time there’s quite a bit of fruit: orange peel, plum (sauce); some leather too. With water there’s more red fruit (cherry) and it’s more perfumed as well. At least at first; then it’s back to the pipe tobacco and now there’s some toffee too.
Palate: Leads with the salt and the farmy peat. Hot but approachable at full strength. The salt is even more pronounced on the second sip. The usual red fruit notes of port cask whiskies are nowhere to be found. With a bit of time and air there’s quite a bit of dry smoke (a la Bunnahabhain/Jura/Ledaig). Water pushes back the salt and lets the smoke really take center stage—it’s not that it’s not salty now, it’s that the salt is now at the edges of the smoke and not vice versa. The sweeter notes get to come out to play now too. With more time there’s more citrus (lemon zest) and more spice (including some pepper).
Finish: Long. The salt lingers a long time. The farmy note turns a bit rubbery as it goes. Some ash and tar at the very end. As on the palate with water. Some citrus starts showing up at the end.
Comments: This is the first Amrut I’ve had that I feel I would be very hard pressed to identify as an Amrut if drinking it blind: it tastes like any number of non-phenolic peaty Scottish malts. Some aspects of it are very reminiscent of Ledaig, others of Springbank (particularly this sherried 13 yo from SMWSA). Neat, it’s not proclaiming its port cask origins very loudly either; with water it’s a different story. And I think it needs water—not so much for the alcohol burn but more because it’s almost oppressively salty on the palate without (the nose is quite nice with and without water). I look forward to trying more of these single casks (though Amrut doesn’t make it easy for those of us in the US). On the whole so far, however, I think these three have been testament to their blenders’ skills with their usual vatted special releases.
Rating: 87 points. (Pulled up by the nose.)