...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Single(?) Malt Report: Amrut Fusion

We conclude our World Whisky Tour with a multi-national option.  A British Empire selection, if you will.  Amrut Fusion.

Recipe:  1 part Indian barley + 1 part peated Scotch barley.  Malt 'em, distill 'em, age them for 3-4 years in oak.  Dispense into bottles.  Win some serious awards:

2009 - Best Natural Cask (Daily Drams), Malt Maniacs Awards
2010 - 3rd Best Whisky in the World, Jim Murray
2011 - World Whisky of the Year, Malt Advocate

Three sets of folks who rarely concur on their whisky faves and they all raved about this one.

Distillery: Amrut
Age: around 3 to 4 years
Batch: #04, January 2010
Maturation: ex-bourbon and/or new oak casks
Region: Distillation - India (Bangalore), Maltings - Scotland and India
Alcohol by Volume: 50%

First, a question.  Is this really a single malt?  I've read various descriptions about this whisky's parts.  I had seen "Indian barley and Scottish barley" and "Indian malt and Scottish malt".  So I wondered how they could bottle this as a "single malt".

I went to the Scottish Whisky Association's 2009 Scotch Whisky regulations for an answer.  Amrut says they play by the SWA's rules.  So how does the SWA define a single malt?
Single Malt Scotch Whisky means a Scotch Whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills.
Thus what Amrut must be doing is shipping the peated Scottish barley all the way to India, then distilling it along with the Indian barley in their facilities in Bangalore.  Since the Scottish barley is peated, then it was likely malted in Scotland then dried with peat smoke before it shipped.

So, to conclude:  The barley can be malted in multiple locations (around the world), but as long as the whisky is distilled at a single distillery, it can be labelled a single malt.  Okey doke.

I've done a pair of Amrut reports already, both with some distillery info, we can skip the history part.  But why 'Amrut'?  What does it mean?  Per their website:
According to Indian Mythology, when Gods and Rakshasas - the demons - churned the oceans using the mountain Meru as churner, a golden pot sprang out containing the Elixir of Life. That was called the "Amrut".
Amrut is the Elixir of Life.

One of Whisky's root Gaelic terms is 'uisge beatha' which translates roughly to "Water of Life".

So Amrut's doubling up on the life-giving-liquid terminology.  Works for me.

I picked up a 50mL mini of Fusion along with Amrut's Cask Strength (reviewed here) at Mission Wine & Spirits several months back.  I freed it last night.


Color -- Brass
Nose -- Brown sugar, bourbon oak, bitter grapefruit, lots of vanilla yogurt, Nillas!, new oak; with some time it gets a little candy-sweeter and there's a brief swimming pool note
Texture -- Very thick
Palate -- Grassy, light peat, caramel, very ripe fruit, mildly sweet
Finish -- Lengthy, drying, light peat, caramel

WITH WATER (about 40% ABV)
Color -- It clouds up immediately, thus no chill filtering!
Nose -- Pencils, new oak, alcohol + spice zing, apple juice, light peat
Palate -- Water brings out more peat and more sweet, soft sweet creamy custard, brown sugar, almond cookies
Finish -- Medium, molasses, citrus sour

You may notice how brief the palate notes were, compared to the nose, on the neat sampling.  That was because it was SO DAMN GOOD that I had difficultly figuring out what I was tasting.  Some folks say they get something chocolate fudgy.

Fusion works very well with water too.  It helped sort through the individual characteristics.  Overall, it's not really that peaty.  A little less than Highland Park, probably.

I recommend this for Scotch lovers.  It's definitely a dessert dram.  It's one of those whiskys that you sip, then stare at your glass and say in your most manly voice, "That's yummy."

Because this marks the end of my World Whisky Tour, I'd like to comment on the international character of this whisky's production.  As mentioned earlier, a good portion of this whisky's barley is grown in Scotland.  Then it is shipped to India.  After it's been distilled and aged, the bottles are then shipped to the United States.  If you're not following my italics here, I'll make it plain.

Scotch Whisky import distance:
3,300 miles by boat
3,300 miles by boat
2,800 miles by land

Amrut Fusion full import distance:
16,100 miles by boat
2,800 miles by land
16,100 miles by boat

Consider Fusion's carbon footprint.  Or, if carbon footprints aren't your thing, think about how much petroleum is needed for that whisky bottle to get to your liquor cabinet.

Maybe it's just me but I can't not think about it.  As tremendous as this malt is, I will probably never buy a bottle (mini or otherwise) of it......until container ships are run on happiness.

But the whisky is great.

Availability - Available at most liquor specialists
Pricing - Good at $60-$70
Rating - 90