A week of reviews of Indian malt whiskies began with one from a new distillery: Kamet. I’ll continue now with the distillery that really put Indian whisky on the single malt aficionado’s radar: Amrut.
Over the course of the last decade Amrut has added to its core roster of malts—the Fusion and the unpeated and peated variants of its base malt—with a number of special releases. They’ve also bottled a large number of casks both for specific markets and for retailers across the world. This is one of the latter. It’s a 7 yo bottled for the Spec’s chain in Texas. It is made from unpeated Indian barley, triple-distilled and matured in an ex-bourbon cask—a far cry from the last Amrut I reviewed, the Naarangi, which featured an infusion of oranges. Not very many Scottish distilleries triple distill. In Ireland, of course, it’s far more common and I’ll be interested to see if there are any Indo-Irish crossovers here. And speaking of Amrut’s core roster of malts, I’m quite out of touch with the current state of all of those. I should look into some recent releases at some point—especially as it appears that I’ve never reviewed the Fusion. Continue reading
So far in August I’ve sandwiched two weeks of brandy and rum reviews between two weeks of single malt whisky reviews. Let’s close the month with a review of a release whose category identity is a little more ambiguous. The Amrut Naarangi—of which this is the 5th batch—is made in a complicated way. Amrut takes casks of sherry, adds Indian oranges to them and lets them macerate. The casks are then emptied, filled with Amrut’s spirit and allowed to mature for an unspecified period of time before it is bottled. In Scotland this could not be labelled whisky. Compass Box’s Orangerie—which is made in a similar manner—is officially a “whisky infusion”. In India, however, genre boundaries are looser—a lot of Indian whisky is, of course, technically rum—and so Naarangi is sold as a single malt whisky. Is this an outrage? I don’t know—a lot of contemporary sherry and wine cask whiskies taste to me like infusions made with far less care. The more interesting question is whether this is any good. Let’s see. Continue reading
It’s been a year and a half since my last Amrut review—what kind of an Indian am I? It’s not my fault though: there just isn’t so much Amrut around in the US. The last one I reviewed—the Amaze, a single cask release for an Indian club—was bottled in late 2018. This one came out half a decade earlier. A NAS release (like most Amruts), I purchased it right after it was bottled in 2013. Like most Amruts it’s also been bottled at an eye-wateringly high proof. The bottler is Blackadder. They’ve put out a large number of Amruts, far more than any other bottler—Whiskybase only lists a handful of others and they only seem to have one or two each. I wonder what Blackadder’s connection is. The cask was first-fill sherry. I rather liked the last sherry cask Amrut I had—this PX cask—and their Intermediate Sherry is one of my favourites, if now a little too expensive for my wallet. And so I have high hopes for this one. Let’s see if they’re borne out. Continue reading
Though I did not drink much whisky in India last month, here’s a whisky from the trip.
If you’re wondering what the Amrut Amaze is, you’re probably not alone. It is not a regular release from the distillery, though it is an official bottling. It was bottled for the Single Malt Amateurs Club in India in November and only made available to their members. I am not one of these members. I read about the whisky when Serge reviewed it last year. As I was going to be in India in December, I reached out to Hemanth Rao, the founder of the club and asked if it would be possible to taste a sample and possibly buy a bottle. I suspect the bottles were long sold out by the time I got in touch with him (via O.W.I member, Billy Abbott) but he was kind enough to arrange for a sample to get to me in Delhi. I’m not sure what the cask details are but I assume it is a single cask. This release is said to be the first of three through the club. It was priced very fairly at Rs. 3300 (or about $44)—which makes me think I should probably try to become a member of the club before the next two releases hit. Anyway, I was looking forward to tasting it, and here are my notes. Continue reading
It’s been almost three years since my last review of an Amrut. The distillery’s strong reputation among single malt whisky drinkers endures, even if they’re not quite as exciting a prospect as they were a few years ago. Their lineup hasn’t changed very much either, and in the US we mostly see the Fusion and the regular and cask strength editions of their standard and peated releases. As far as I know, we have still not begun to get the single casks that go to the UK and EU and even to Canada. If true, I’m not sure why that is—is the market for Amrut in the US not strong enough to sustain that? I’d imagine that those paying >$100 for the Intermediate Sherry and Portonova releases would be fine shelling out for the occasional single cask as well.
Anyway, I’ve reviewed the Amrut Peated CS before—that was Batch 4, released in January 2010. This is Batch 9 and was released only a few months later. I assume by now they’re on to Batch 50 or so. I liked that previous bottle a lot and when I opened this one recently for one of my local group’s tastings, I liked it a lot too (as did the others: it was our top whisky on the night, beating out the Lagavulin 12 CS, 2016 release). Here now are my formal notes. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
I’m a big fan of Amrut and a big fan of high quality, intensely sherried whisky (and, unlike some whisky geeks, I quite like PX sherry cask whiskies as well). And the only other sherried Amrut I’ve had (the Intermediate Sherry) I like a lot. So this purchase was a bit of a no-brainer when I came across it. I did not, of course, come across it in the US. For some reason we don’t get these single cask Amruts here—maybe this will change? Those who keep company with brand ambassadors may know if it will or the reasons why it won’t.
I was particularly curious to see how this full-term matured (though, of course, not a very long full term given the climate issues) sherry cask Amrut would compare to the more complicatedly made Intermediate Sherry which only spends a portion of its maturation period in sherry casks (what type? I don’t know). I opened it for an Amrut vertical I hosted for some friends a month or so ago. We all liked it but I have to admit that, given the high strengths of all the whiskies we drank, they ran together in my mind not very long after the tasting concluded—and I’ve not gone back to it yet since. And so I’m interested to see what I make of it tonight when I have more time to give to it.
In my review of Amrut’s Portonova on Wednesday I mentioned that I’d opened it for an Amrut tasting that also featured three single casks of different kinds. This was the one we started with. Whisky made from unpeated barley, matured for just over 4 years in a single bourbon cask—this was a EU release. I’m not sure why we don’t get these single cask Amruts in the US (unless, of course, we do and I’m just misinformed as usual). I saw one on sale in Montreal when I was there in March. Is this yet more evidence of the relatively immature market for single malt whisky in the US? Or are we poised to get some too soon?
As per the label this cask lost a staggering 42% of its volume during that brief maturation. I think we have to forgive Amrut the fact that they charge higher amounts than we would in the abstract like to see asked for young whisky. Anyway, let’s get right to it.
This first batch of Amrut’s Portonova was released in 2011 and I purchased my bottle in early 2012. I have no idea why I’ve waited so long to open it. Well, open it I finally have and it was on the occasion of a vertical tasting of a number of Amrut I held for a few friends in town earlier this month. We drank three single casks along with it: a bourbon cask, a sherry cask and a peated port cask. The Portonova was third in the sequence but I think it was the consensus, and perhaps even the unanimous favourite on the night. I’m not always a fan of port cask whisky, and generally the ones I’ve liked most have been peated in the bargain, but on the night I really liked it. Indeed, I thought this might have been the best port cask whisky I’ve had to date—I certainly liked it more than the peated single cask. Let’s see if I like it as much tonight when I have more time to give to it for a formal review.
This is not full-term matured in port casks/pipes, by the way. It’s made the same way as their Intermediate Sherry. It starts out in bourbon casks then goes into port casks for a brief while and then goes back into bourbon casks for a final marrying. Portonova is a better name than Intermediate Port, I guess.
Following my review of the Amrut CS, Batch 2, here is the Amrut Peated CS, Batch 4, which was also released in January 2010. It is an even higher octane whisky, coming in at a whopping 62.8% abv. I believe Indian barley is used in the regular Amruts (46% and CS) whereas peated Scottish barley is used in peated Amruts. I could well be wrong though so please do not take this as gospel. And if you know for sure one way or the other please chime in below.
Amrut Peated, CS, Batch 4 (62.8%; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)
Nose: Mild, farmy peat and a big hit of brine too. Some milk chocolate and some malty sweetness below this as well. Just when I was about to say that this is reminiscent of this lightly peated Bladnoch the peat expands and becomes more phenolic. It also gets more farmy/”dirty”. With more time there’s a note somewhere between raisins and toffee. With a drop of water that toffee thing expands and there’s also a touch of lime now; and then there’s a lot of lime. Continue reading
Amrut is now so identified with all their one-off or otherwise limited edition whiskies that their core line-up seems to get lost in the shuffle. Well, maybe that’s not true of the Fusion, but the basic 46% releases and even the rather good cask strength releases certainly don’t seem to get talked about much these days. That’s a shame as the cask strength versions, at least, are rather good. I’m as guilty as anyone else as all my Amrut reviews so far have been of the more exotic/hard to get bottles. While I don’t have any of the 46% bottles at hand I do have large reference samples left from my bottles of the regular and peated CS releases from a couple of years ago. This review is of Batch 2 of the regular CS (unpeated) and will be followed soon by a review of Batch 4 of the peated CS. This was bottled in January 2010–I have no idea what batch number they’re up to now.
Amrut CS, Batch 2 (61.8%; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)
This is another of Amrut’s gimmicks, I mean experiments. Some of their normal peated whisky, which is matured in bourbon barrels was matured for an additional year in custom made 100 litre virgin oak casks. It was then bottled at British 100 proof (57.1%) and 100 bottles (at 100 cl rather than the usual 70 or 75 cl) each were originally released in five different countries. As the US was not on that list I am not sure if we are only the sixth market to receive the Amrut 100 or if this batch was bottled for a whole new list of countries. At any rate this is bottle 38 of 100 for the US.
Amrut 100 (57.1%; peated; from my own bottle)
Nose: Quite expressive at 57.1%. Much more peat than I remember in the regular Amrut Peated CS. The peat is quite farmy and there’s some lime mixed in with it as well. There’s some vanilla as well, and the powdered ginger I always get in Amrut (would I get it blind or if I didn’t know this was young and part matured in virgin oak?). The farmy/organic peat notes get stronger with time and there’s a little bit of rubber too. With a lot more time there’s some honey and caramel under the farmy peat and more salt too. Water pushes the peat back and lets the caramel emerge along with more of the lime. Continue reading
The Intermediate Sherry, which came/comes in a truly monstrous box (in terms of size and aesthetics), was one of Amrut’s very first complicatedly matured whiskies (I think the even more complicated Kadhambam was released around the same time–though it took longer to come to the US). As per the press release the spirit was matured first in ex-bourbon and virgin oak casks then in sherry casks and then finished once again in bourbon casks. It’s not clear how long each stage lasted. (As an aside, four of the six people whose approval is cited in the press release are/were putative amateurs; more evidence of how important amateurs are to the industry’s marketing.) It was a very successful release and paved the way for the Portonova which was matured in a similarly complicated way.
I quite liked it when the bottle was on the go (which is when this large reserve sample was put away) but didn’t feel it was so very different from more conventional sherried whiskies or that the quality quite justified the price (it hit the ground in the US at $119.99 or thereabouts). Of course, since then non-cs (but age stated) whiskies like the Yamazaki 18 have become even more expensive and even the Highland Park 18 is above $100 in most US markets (to name only two of my favourite sherried whiskies). Let’s see what I make of it tonight. Continue reading
This somewhat gimmicky Amrut was a big hit at our local group’s most recent tasting. I call it gimmicky because it is: it’s matured in a combination of sherry, rum and brandy casks (Kadhambam means “combination” in Tamil, I believe). But, as an enemy of gimmickry, I am disappointed to say it works rather well. At some point though–and I hope it will be before someone has the idea of putting cashew feni into a cask for a year and then maturing some Amrut in it–they’re going to run out of these ideas. At that point I hope they’ll make the Kadhambam a part of their regular rotation.
(As an aside, I want to also applaud Amrut for their improved packaging. Gone is the massive and ugly shoebox of the Intermediate Sherry; the innovative boxes of the Portonova and Kadhambam are really nice, and the labels are done well too.) Continue reading
Amrut, as I’ve noted before, engage in all kinds of experiments with casks and maturation; but so do a lot of Scotch distilleries. But as Amrut is not bound by the regulations of the Scotch Whisky Association–which governs the production and marketing of all Scotch whisky–they are also free to run some experiments forbidden by the SWA: in this case, to mature their spirit not just in India but in other places as well (Scotch whisky, by law, has to be matured only in Scotland). The Two Continents is one of at least two whiskies released by the distillery (the Herald is the other that I know of) that is made with spirit matured partly in India and partly in Europe. The idea, I guess, is to marry the effects of “quick” maturation in a hot and humid climate with the effects of maturation in a cooler European climate (the label does not disclose the location). I am not sure how much time it spends in each location, but assuming neither is trivial the effects should be palpable. Continue reading
Amrut is an Indian distillery that became very prominent a few years ago when Jim Murray awarded a very high score to their Fusion bottling. Their whisky is quite different from the vast majority of Indian whisky in that it is actually malt whisky–made from malted barley, and not a blend of spirit made from molasses and grain/malt whisky. There is, of course, all kinds of controversy over the labeling of that vast majority of Indian whisky as whisky and it’s not all academic either. European regulations will not allow for this spirit to be sold in that market as whisky on account of its molasses based/dominant origins. And at the same time the Indian government will not relax its high import tariffs on liquor, which more or less closes the lucrative Indian market (the largest market for whisky, or “whisky” in the world) to the conglomerates that own most Scottish distilleries. Both sides insist these things are unrelated, but who knows (see here for a sense of how charged all this was a while ago).
At any rate, even though I am not a fan of the non-malt/grain Indian whisky–and believe me, I consumed a fair amount of it in my late teens and early twenties–it doesn’t really bother me so very much if Indians want to have a more expansive definition of whisky. God knows, we’ve put up with all kinds of culinary abominations being called “curry” in the West. And frankly, most of these whiskies are not so very much worse than the bog standard blends that are the cornerstone of the scotch whisky industry.