March 2018: Amrut Indian Whisky

Amrut” – Sanskrit for “nectar of the gods.”

Amrut is relatively new to the whisky scene, but has been producing spirits since 1948. At that time, Amrut produced varieties of liquor manufactured from a neutral spirit with a molasses base and blended with a variety of flavor enhancers or other spirits.

Then, in 1987, the modern distillery was built in Kambipura, a village near Bangalore, which is located here:

Amrut

A few years prior, Amrut’s current chairman, and son of the company’s founder, decided to try something new. Rather than exclusively pursue  its molasses-base neutral spirit, it began to experiment with malted barley. Upon discovering that India’s climate caused the malted barley spirit to mature much faster than they originally anticipated, Amrut decided to expand into the European market. Early test-marketing in Europe revealed that Amrut’s single malt whiskies were very well-received, being most closely compared to Speyside single malt Scotch.

The barley used in Amrut’s distilling process is mainly derived from northern Indian states, though the peated barley is imported from Scotland. The main difference between Indian barley and Scottish barley is that Indian barley produces smaller grains, which are said to have a broader spectrum of flavor.

Amrut ages its whisky in a mixture of new oak and ex-bourbon barrels. The whisky is generally aged for 4 and 1/2 years. After 5 years, according to Amrut, it begins to become more tannic. The elevation where the whisky is aged is 3,000 feet above sea level. There is a true wet season and dry season, resulting in temperature variation under 50 F and over 100 F each year. The angel’s share, as a result, is approximately five times higher than in Scotland.

Amrut has gone on record as saying that its whisky ages three times faster than Scotch due to these conditions. While that may be true, it is undeniable that if Amrut aged its whisky for 12 or 18 years, there would barely be enough left in the barrel to fill a single bottle.

In 2004, Amrut officially debuted its single malt flagship whisky in Scotland (for marketing reasons – though it continued to be sold in India). In 2010, Amrut began selling its whisky in the United States.

Amrut has enjoyed high praise since its European and American release. Its core lineup is three bottles: Single Malt, Fusion, and Peated Single Malt. Each of those are featured below, along with a cask strength release of the Peated Single Malt. Amrut also has several special releases, including a cask strength single malt, and variations of sherry cask finished single malts. Amrut, along with Paul John Distilling, have brought positive attention to Indian Whisky in the past several years.

  • Cocktail:
    • Name: The Alexander Duff
    • Ingredients: 2 oz. Amrut Fusion, .5 oz. sweet vermouth, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, heavy dash Barrel Aged Havana and Hide bitters.
    • Recipe: In a cocktail shaker, combine ingredients. Fill with ice and stir well. Strain into chilled glass. Garnish with  brandied cherry.

  • Bottle 1: Amrut Single Malt
    • Distillery: Amrut
    • Proof: 92
    • Price: $43.99
    • Purchase location: R&J Discount Liquor
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Fruity; pineapple; green apple flesh; ginger; banana; very grainy; burnt honeycomb and toffee.
      • Palate: Grain forward; Frosted Flakes cereal, Raisin Bran cereal;  some light oak. The combination of barley and bright sweet fruit is nice.
      • Finish:  A dryness reminiscent of a sherry finish or club soda; a bit of pepper, the light fruitiness lingers the longest.
    • Why this bottle is featured: Amrut’s flagship whisky. This is claimed to be the first Indian single malt whisky ever produced.

  • Bottle 2: Fusion 
    • Distillery: Amrut
    • Proof: 100
    • Price: $54.99
    • Purchase location: R&J Discount Liquor
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Caramel Delights; vanilla; mango; a hint of brine; sawdust.
      • Palate: A fair bit of oak; soft peat, grainy, like freshly baked yeast bread; raisins.
      • Finish: Long; prunes and peaty grain.
    • Why this bottle is featured:  This whisky combines 75% Indian barley with 25% Scottish peated barley. The Scottish peated barley has a ppm level of between 15-18 by the time it arrives in India. The two are separately distilled and separately aged for four years. Then, they are combined for additional aging (probably less than a year) in ex-bourbon barrels before bottling. Amrut Fusion was named 3rd best whisky in the World by Jim Murray in 2010.

  • Bottle 3: Peated Single Malt 
    • Distillery: Amrut
    • Proof: 92
    • Price: $54.99
    • Purchase location: R&J Discount Liquor
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Peat; some funky cheese; mushrooms; new car leather; doughy; damp leaves.
      • Palate: Nice smoky peat; a sweet and savory combination like a buttered charred steak; there is some subtle fruit underneath the smoke.
      • Finish: Some char; salty; leaves a burning sensation like smoking the last bit of a cigar.
    • Why this bottle is featured: This bottle features Scottish peated barley that is imported and then distilled and aged at Amrut. The Scottish peated barley has a ppm level of between 15-18 by the time it arrives in India.

  • Bottle 4: Peated Single Malt Cask Strength
    • Distillery: Amrut
    • Proof: 
    • Price: $89.99
    • Purchase location: Caskers (online)
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Strong butterscotch at the forefront; then a creamy vanilla sourdough; fresh roasted coffee beans; leather; buttered toast.
      • Palate: Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal; buttered sourdough English muffin; peat and salt and pepper.
      • Finish: Long and warming; not as hot as the 92 proof bottle; the doughy peat lingers the longest and is nicely balanced; a wonderful ending to a terrific dram. 
    • Why this bottle is featured: The barrel strength version of the Peated Single Malt.
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Stephen Netherton

Stephen is a regular writer at FlightClubICT.com

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