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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?

Cheers!

Ever scored 100? | Blog # 61

There are many ways you can score 100. Perhaps that math test you aced at school or that perfect art project that stood out from your peers and earned you the perfect score.

There are loads of wines that have received the coveted 100 from both Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate and have gone on to be massively sought after in the market at extremely high prices. My most memorable “100” was batting for almost 3 hours against the Edmonton Masters at Victoria park in 2010, eventually dismissed LBW for exactly 100 runs. (for obscure cricket references some Googling may be required for clarification).

That same year I was given a bottle of Amrut 100 by their international brand ambassador Ashok Chokalingham. A treasured possession, I rarely bring it out, however as promised this delicious whisky is one of my Winter Series reviews promised way back in Blog number #27.

There are very few whisky writers that use the 100 point system and as yet there have been no “perfect” whiskies for consumers to go crazy over. So why did Amrut seemingly give themselves 100 for this extremely rare bottling?

Firstly each bottle was exactly 100cl or 1 litre. Bottled at 57.1% which equates to the old British Proof of 100. After aging in ex-bourbon casks the whisky was poured into hand crafted 100 litre virgin oak barrels for a further period of fast aging. Given the conditions at 3000 feet above sea level in Bangalore and the small 100 litre barrels the impact on the whisky was immense. The additional touch was to only release 100 bottles into any given market. The expression I have is batch number 1.

Utilizing Scottish Peated Barley sourced from Inverness, the single malt could have ended up as the Amrut 46% or Cask Strength Peated versions we have seen in Canada. However, the very best casks were siphoned off to be turned into this amazing expression. One of the fantastic aspects of Amrut is the ability to age whisky extremely fast and so try all sorts of fun variations with amazing results.

Tasted in a Speigelau whisky tumbler.
Colour: Rich pale ale red with golden hues.
Nose: Sweet and savory like maple glazed smoky bacon. Enticing nose for 57+ percent and not at all nostril searing as you might expect from a whisky packing such high alcohol.
Palate: Soft enveloping peaty tones underpined by sweet hickory smoke and just a touch of high cocoa dark baking chocolate.
Finish: perfect marriage of that soft peat and smoke outlines a steady concentration of burnt toffee and dark fruit cake.
Water: Brings the peat to the surface and is like salty and sweet beef jerky – the kind you buy from the service station on a long road trip. Super soft on the palate with the extra alcohol completely balanced. Far more delicate now toning down the smoke and peat and allowing softer fruits to take over. Almost like drinking two completely different whiskies. Which one would be up to my mood on the day with perhaps a slight tendency to add the wee splash.

This is another fantastic experiment from Amrut that paid of handsomely. Such an amazing climate, elevation and skill combination to be able to produce whiskies of this complexity in such a short time.

If you get the chance to grab any of the further editions of Amrut 100 I would jump at it quick. This belongs in every whisky lovers collection.

I’m down below what even marbles will help with now so might have to knock it off this year.

Thanks Ashok for this treasured bottle I will always cherish the time I spent championing Amrut and the amazing whiskies this distillery produces.

Namaste!

Does it feel like Whisky Season at your place? | Blog #27

G’day everyone,

With the days rapidly getting chiller here in the Northern Hemisphere and October almost half over my thoughts definitely start to turn like the autumn leaves away from the frivolous and refreshing into a desire for something full and warm.

In fact I get positively over the top with excitement sometimes thinking about all those lovely drams that I am yearning for over the next 6 months. With all the special holiday moments soon to come it is also a time of year that I crack open or re-open some special drams to share with family and friends and I can hardly wait.

Below and in no particular order are some of the awesome drams that I will be drinking and writing about over the course of the frozen season. Here is my top 10 as it stands now.

  1. High West – A Midwinter Nights Dram
  2. Stranahans Snowflake – Paladise Cask Finish
  3. Auchentoshan 1973 Single Sherry Cask
  4. Tullibardine 1966 Single Cask
  5. A.D. Rattray Batch No. 1 “Rattray’s Selection” Blended Malt 19 year old
  6. The English Whisky Peated Single Malt
  7. Amrut 100
  8. Armorik Double Maturation
  9. A.D. Rattray Girvan Single Grain 25 year old
  10. Samaroli Evolution 2011

No doubt there will be other contenders that will come along to grab my attention but the list above really does get me salivating in anticipation.

Although personally I find the long harsh Calgary Winter hard to cope with, after 13 years my one solace is that it makes for a great environment to get into whisky.

This is the time of year that I hang up the Pipe and hopefully finish off my last cigar of the season or buy a bulk pack of those little humidity sachets to keep my stash moist during the dry furnace ravaged months cooped up at home. Thank goodness one vice can be replaced by another 🙂

So please write in and let me know what special drams you have lined up ready to go to keep you alive through the long Winter months. Either that or tell me your sob story about how you don’t have anything in your cupboard and are desperate for something different.

From My Contact Page

Name all the Islay Distilleries for a chance to win a bottle of A.D. Rattray Cask Islay Batch #1 Blended Malt Whisky.

Please don’t share your answers in the comments below, or you’ll give it all away.

I am on a mission to get some decent dialogue going about the ‘when and where’ of your dramming habits so am willing to pimp out some freebies to do so.

Next week’s Blog is the launching point for something that has become a raging passion for me over the past few years. This will be a multi-part blog as there is too much story to tell for just one quickie.

If you love whisky and love to be surprised and amazed with unique whisky experiences then you had better tune in next week.

Don’t want to miss a thing? Then subscribe to this blog and follow me on Twitter.

See you then.

Cheers!

Jonathan

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
Singlemalting.com

Amrut Website