In the last 30 days, the Water of Life has seen a surge of fans from India check out our reviews. In honour of the 6000+ views this month from India alone, I thought I’d go a little off-kilter from my typical Irish staple and check out some Indian liquid. Fortunately, my whiskey club recently held an Asian night where we sampled many quality liquids. However, none stood out quite as much as Amrut for more reasons than one.
Amrut, loosely translates from Sanskrit as ‘Elixir of Life’, couldn’t be more well suited to being reviewed by us! Amrut Single Malt is the first distillery to produce a Single Malt in India since its inception in 2004 and was made famous when a certain Jim M*&%$y gave it a rating of 82 out of 100 in 2005. Likewise in 2010 out of 4000 or so entrants, he awarded the Amrut Fusion single malt whisky as the third-best in the world.
Before Amrut, the appetite for Indian ‘whisky’ was not so high compared to the taste for imported scotch. Indian whisky was also deemed lesser quality and resembled more of a rum regarding its molasses content. Amrut Single Malt whisky changed that in 2004 when it debuted in Glasgow, with its Managing Director publicly stating, “From a marketing perspective, we thought if our product had to pass the test, why not do so in the toughest location. Scotland is the home of Scotch. If they acknowledge our single malt, then that’s good enough for me”. Part of its surge was a ploy by its MD to sneak in Amrut into a blind tasting hosted by the Pot Still in Glasgow, with a stunned audience mistaking it for a 15-year-old Scotch. Amrut passed the initial test with flying colours and has flourished ever since.
Amrut Single Malt is now sold in over 15 countries worldwide. Alongside Jim M’s salutations, it was critically acclaimed by ‘Malt Maniacs’, who awarded Amrut Single Malt as the Best Natural Cask whisky in Daily Drams (under 50 pounds) Category. The make-up of their whisky comes from Indian Barley grown at the feet of the Himalayas. The unique tropical environment, 3000ft above sea level, is matchless and almost enviable; the whisky matures extremely quickly. As much as 15% abv is lost annually to the angel’s share; thus, it is unwise to mature it for more than a few years.
The dram I selected for the tasting was chosen explicitly due to its ABV and peat content. It’s the peated Single Malt, and at a mouth-watering 62.8% ABV and 28ppm, it’s safe to say it struck quite a note with our tasting. Interestingly, it’s made from peated Scottish barley, likely due to their inability to peat grain. It’s non-chill filtered and has no added colouring; both are proudly adorned on their bottle.
Price: £76 on Master of Malt
Nose: First up, there’s obviously the smoke, but it’s by no means overpowering. It’s a ‘clean’ smoke from freshly dry cut wood. An undoubted freshness too, zesty limes and cutting through the smoke admirably. There’s also some spice, black peppercorns and the warmth of ginger all filling the nostrils. I can also sense a maritime influence, some saltiness and brine suggesting Islay influence and origin.
Palate: Boom, an ultimate explosion of ABV, spice and smoke. Let’s try and break that down. Spice is dominant throughout the palate, the peppercorns changes to chilis, and the maritime influence dulls down slightly with more of an emphasis on sweetness, much like lemon sherbet and lime mini jellies. A drop of water ‘calms’ it down, and more veiled notes such as smoky bacon, coffee beans and black liquorice make their way into the spotlight.
Finish: A striking, rich, smoky and luxurious finish given the ABV and peated nature. A finish that keeps on going with complexity galore.
For my third experience with an Indian whisky, I can only say it is unforgettable. There is no double entendre; it truly is. The ABV is probably a tad on the high side (coming from someone who drinks Bulcàn like it’s going out of fashion…), and it needs a drop of water to slice through the hefty burning to get some notes out of it. Once a couple of drops are added, it does open up, and the complexity subsequently increases.
I do like an Islay whisky and thought this would be right up my street, but wrongly, I am comparing it to other Islay’s I’ve tried, which is probably doing this an injustice. This is not an attempt to recreate an Islay whisky in India, but to produce an Indian peated malt: it is its own spirit in its own style. On its own merits, it’s a great indication of how Indian whisky is flourishing. The sweet and spicy notes are really something, and the added depth of coffee beans and black liquorice is delightful, but I’m not sure what I was missing. Perhaps it’s been ‘overmatured’; there’s a lot of wood influence, and the spice can be quite overpowering for some.
It will certainly not be my last foray into some Asian whisky, certainly not for Indian whisky anyway; they’re on to something, and it’s pretty decent. The Amrut Single Malt core range is extensive, not to mention the limited edition expressions too. We, at the Water of Life look forward to trying more over the coming months.