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Any Portanova in a storm | Blog # 88

It has been well over a year since I represented Amrut Distilleries in Canada and the US. Time however has not diminished my love of this Distillery and it’s iconic whisky.

Today I want to review a bottle that I have had for a while and an expression that I believe Amrut still releases on occasion.

Portonova Batch Number 1 – Bottled in October of 2011 – Cask Strength of 62.1% (a little cheat here as this is the maximum the Indian Government will allow a whisky to be bottled so it was probably a little higher than this out of the barrel).

Amrut tells us that this whisky was named both for the use of port pipes imported from Portugal and also the town of Portonovo (Parangipettai) on the East coast of India in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu which was under Portuguese control from the 16th to the 18th century.

Spending the first part of it’s life in New American and Ex-Bourbon Oak casks for about 4 years it was then transferred into the Port Pipes for around another year then back into Ex-Bourbon casks for a further 6 months or so. Remembering that Amrut experiences about 12 to 18% Angel’s Share every year, a 6 year old whisky that has been re-racked several times is going to have a very advanced age profile compared to Scotland.

Sign at the entrance of the barrel room at Amrut, Bangalore  Sign at the entrance of the barrel room at Amrut, Bangalore

I have been hiding this bottle away in my collection for almost 4 years and today is the day to crack it open and hop into this much lauded whisky.

This is a whisky that absolutely makes a mockery of the adage that “older is better”. Should Amrut have the 6 year old age statement on this package? My answer is a resounding “no” for several reasons. Firstly, most consumers will see the 6 and compare it instantly to what they know of age statements and dismiss it as too expensive for a whisky that young so never purchase it. Secondly, it would be unfair for Amrut to be compared in the same aging terms as climates that evaporate whisky at a snail’s pace in comparison.

This whisky as NAS should just be measured by what is in the bottle and oh boy, is there something worthwhile inside.

Colour:     Rich Mahogany. This whisky looks like it should be in the mid 20’s minimum with such a deep hue.

Nose:     Shut the front door…… and lock the kids out of the house you are going to need some time to sit and think about this dram if you can get a bottle.

This is one absolute explosion of the deepest richest exotic fruits and spices I have ever nosed in a glass and all with the support of a 62.1% that leaves very little if any nose prickle or high alcohol scents. Citrusy Pomelo and ripe tropical banana topped with high cocoa dark chocolate. There is so much there I could just sit and sniff at this for hours and still probably not be able to completely get to the heart of everything that is making this tick. Baked Cherry Clafoutis just like my sister in law likes to make, warm and inviting, topped with rich fresh farm cream. Good lord, this is awesome…

Palate:     Madagascar Spice Market, dark black fresh vanilla bean, Chocolate Fondue, caramelized orange zest and sticky date pudding. These are a few of my favorite things……

Finish:     On and on and on like riding a hand painted horse on a gaily lit carousel, holding hands with the most beautiful girl in the world. That’s one ride that I never want to finish. Amazingly smooth considering the volume and a drop of water released even more bursts of spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove with a touch of star anise.

Something this good definitely has to be a staple special release on a regular basis. Not sure what batch # they are up to almost 5 years later but I’m sure it’s just as good.

Amrut is just plain awesome for any whisky fan. As an equal opportunity drammer, I find it actually sad when I hear other whisky fans belittle Single Malts that are made and aged outside of the Scottish isles. The very things that make Single Malt Whisky so diverse and incredible are only enhanced by the addition of an array of new and unique variables.

This is what makes whisky so freaking amazing. To stop at just one style or one country is to do it a massive disservice.

Next week will be the last blog before we plunge into 25 days straight with the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 2nd Edition.

Are you ready?


Whisky Review – Amrut Fusion Single Malt | Blog#6

The subject Whisky in today’s Blog, Amrut Fusion, has received a tremendous amount of attention in the past few years. It has been written about, talked about, debated, argued, dismissed, lauded, praised, and ultimately consumed.

I was fortunate enough to receive a sample of Amrut Fusion almost a year before it’s release, from the International Brand Ambassador for Amrut, Ashok Chokalingham. The initial sample sent to me was at 46%, non chill filtered (topic for a later blog) and with no caramel coloring

A single malt with both peated and non-peated barley, Fusion was crafted to be a balance of both.

Having loved the Amrut Cask Strength I was hoping that Fusion might be bottled a little higher than 46% and was excited to see it at 50% upon release. Sometimes the stars align when crafting a new expression of Single Malt and in this case it would be a defining moment for the Amrut distillery and help to put them firmly on the whisky map for any enthusiast.

Amrut Distillery has been around since 1948, just after India achieved independence from the British.

Owned ever since by the Jagdale family. The distillery is located on the southern outskirts of Bangalore and boasts a height of 3000 feet above sea level and a year round average temperature of 25 to 30 degrees Celsius, without the humidity of the coastal cities.

This unique climate offers a much higher degree of whisky to barrel interaction through increased evaporation (The Angel’s Share).

The result is complex balanced whisky at a much younger age than can be achieved at sea level and a much lower average temperature. The Angel’s Share in Scotland runs roughly at 2 to 3% a year compared with Bangalore at 10 to 18% depending on where the barrel is located in the warehouse.

Amrut sources most of their barley from the Punjab region in Northern India along with a percentage from Rajasthan. Known as the breadbasket of India, nestled at the base of the Himalayan mountain range, agriculture in the Punjab boasts some of the most fertile land in the world fed by nutrient rich snow melt.

There is often a lot of debate over how much different barley strains effect the flavor of Single Malt. Given the diversity achieved in beer it would be hard to convince that different barley does not imbue unique flavors.

75% of Fusion is Single Malt made with this lush Indian barley, malted and distilled in India into Single Malt then aged in mostly ex-bourbon barrels with a small amount of New American oak thrown into the mix. 25% of Fusion is Single Malt distilled at Amrut using imported Scottish barley that is peated and malted in Scotland then shipped half way around the world to Amrut. The majority of Scottish distilleries also order their barley in this way as very few distilleries malt their own anymore.

Once both these components have reached about 3 and a half years old they are combined into the same barrel for a further 6 to 8 months to create the Fusion effect.

Tasting notes:

As mentioned in my Blog #2 “Stop and smell the Mangos” everyone has their own unique palate and for me the bottom line is “if you taste it……it’s in there”. What comes below is my own take on the flavor of Fusion. You will have to find out for yourself what your “buds” make of it.

How I tasted it: Glass was a Spiegelau Whisky glass which is a tulip lipped tumbler that is great for warming whisky and especially good for higher strength whiskies. I warmed the whisky in the glass over a mug of hot water letting the steam gently warm it slightly above room temperature.

Nose: Complex – requiring some time to distinguish individual notes. Sweet wispy smoke enveloping gentle citrus and clove. Present but not overpowering alcohol. Inviting and intriguing, gets the “buds” buzzing in anticipation.

Taste: Initially soft and pallet enveloping, undertones of fruit mince pie with its dried fruits, sweet spices and biscuit crust. Remarkable balance between fruit, smoke and alcohol especially considering the 50% strength.

Finish: The flavors mix and dance like pairs ice skating champions, slowly making their way across the entire arena. Harmony and balance personified. Tiny explosions of spice add flair to the routine and culminate in a lingering smoky sultry embrace that reveals to all that this Fusion is a match made in Heaven.

Long after the lights and the music subside the memory of the dance lingers on, stirring even more respect for the skill of the choreographer. Well done Amrut.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Share your Amrut Fusion experience.

“A la sature”

Jonathan Bray

Amrut Website