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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Single Malt Report: Amrut Cask Strength 2010, Batch 2

This whisky may sound familiar.  A similar version was amongst my epic Whisky Attic tastings, reported on five weeks ago.  This time, I'm reviewing an earlier batch of the Amrut Cask Strength single malt, and doing so via a controlled setting with home field advantage (a.k.a. my kitchen).

I purchased this 50mL mini from Mission Wine & Spirits in Pasadena (who have four different Amrut minis!)  The bottle had the import sticker -- as Scotch whisky used to have many years ago -- which works to its benefit, psychologically, because it makes the product feel more exotic.  But really, it's just whisky.

When India won their independence from the British in 1947, the westerners may have left, but a taste for whisky must have remained.  Amrut Distilleries opened in 1948.  The business was started by Shri J.N. Radhakrishna, and management has been kept within the Jagdale family ever since.  They produced India's first official single malt, The MaQintosh, and have kept their production based on the Scotch Whisky Association's (SWA) regulations.

That last bit is important to keep in mind because though the India whisky industry produces many millions of liters of what's referred to as "whisky", the vast majority of it is distilled from molasses.  Amrut produces actual malt whisky.

But to produce a whisky following SWA guidelines, Amrut has to take a number of variables into consideration.  Specifically those relating to climate.  This may shock you, but the weather in Glasgow differs from the weather in Bangalore.

Cooler temperatures in Scotland allow for slower maturation and less alcohol evaporation.  So while casked Scotch malt whisky may lose a percent or two of alcohol per year, the Karnataka heat can cause Indian malt whisky to lose up to twelve percent of its alcohol share to the angels each year [Update: actual loss ranges from 10-16%!].  So Amrut needs to bottle its product while it's still very young.  They never print the age statement, but it can't be much older than three years (minimum age per SWA standards).  The climate may also effect the way the spirit reacts with the oak, creating flavors and textures unique to Indian whisky.

The results have been very successful, as many of Amrut's releases are met with critical raves.  I enjoyed my tasting of their big bruiser of a Cask Strength in February.  Let's see how this batch takes.

Distillery: Amrut
Age: unknown (possibly around 3 years)
Batch: #02, January 2010
Maturation: bourbon casks
Region: India (Bangalore)
Alcohol by Volume: 61.8%


A big difference between this whisky and the Connemara Cask Strength from yesterday's post is the alcohol content's effect on the senses.  At 58% ABV, the Connemara was sharp and hot, even after water was added.  As a result, it took more time and patience to try to find the other characteristics beneath the heat.  Yet while this Amrut's ABV sits at almost 62%, it's well incorporated and not overwhelming in the least.

The color is light gold; if there's any added caramel coloring, it's been done lightly.  [Update: they don't add coloring!]  The nose is malty, cereal-y, nestled in a little bourbon, with a hint of chlorine.  And there's a lovely sweet note much like rose water syrup.  The palate is full of honey, warm bread, and raisin bran muffins.  The finish is hot, maintaining the malt note and Crème brûlée for a good while.


I attempted to get the alcohol down close to a normal official bottling level, resulting in something close to 44% ABV.

The nose softens.  It's still malty, but the sweetness is more like a fruity Belgian ale.  Overall, a little saltier and still has the chlorine note.  The palate sweetens, but not too much.  Citrus juices and booze-dipped ladyfingers.  Desserty.  The finish is still lengthy, the boozy cookies remain as well as a nice nutty note.

Overall, it was more enjoyable with the water.  Mellower and very pleasant.  As I'd said in the previous Amrut report, had I been blindfolded when tasting this, I wouldn't have known that it wasn't from Scotland.  Which means either I'm an ignoramus or Amrut has their specific whisky production down pat.  Or both.

Availability - (This Batch) 700mL bottles in the UK, while in the US only 50mL minis are available at a few liquor specialists.  (Other Batches) Available at many liquor specialists.
Pricing - (This Batch) for UK residents around 45GBP, in the US the mini bottles are a steal at $7!  (Other Batches) Reasonably around $75.
Rating - 82 (with water)

Amrut has a number of other releases, one of which I will explore further at the conclusion of our World Whisk(e)y Tour, at the end of the month.

Next week, we'll go to the European mainland for a pair of drams.