Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky

Sigmund Freud's sofa


It's time for your weekly therapy session or should I say 'whisky' therapy session with your learned and spirited psychoanalyst: moi.

Let's do some free association.

"Whisky."

"Scotland."

Yes, the home of scotch.

What else?

"Bourbon from Kentucky."

Okay.  Keep going . . . Yes, Canadian whisky from well, yeah Canada.  Irish, uhuh.  Good.  What else?

"Japan?"

Yes!  Absolutely!  Japan makes great whisky and several are single malts.  Please continue.

(Silence)

C'mon.  There must be more?

. . .

But, sadly there isn't.  Most scotch and whisky fans and even some pompous, self-professed, Harris Tweed capped aficionados seem to have nothing to add, as they pull on their greyish whiskers.

Whisky Without Borders
Whisky has gone global.  Truly a global phenomenon.  Viral!  There are fans everywhere!  Many other non-traditional countries are producing whisky to satisfy growing domestic consumption.  One of the biggest consumers of whisky by volume in the world is India.

"Huh, did you say India."

Yup.

Indians love whisky.  So much so that they have been making their own dating back to 19th Century British rule.

Indian whisky does not have the greatest reputation.  But, so what?  Neither did bourbon, Irish whisky, or this blog in the early days of development.  Everyone has to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually near the bottom.

The poor regard for Indian whisky stems from the fact that much of it is distilled from fermented molasses, as opposed to malted barley.  These 'whiskies' are typically blends that may have a small amount of fermented mash that is barley in addition to the fermented molasses.  So, it's basically rum and would be labelled so outside of India.  Inside India, it's labelled "whisky."

Reading the labels can make for good entertainment too:  Bagpiper, Royal Challenge, McDowell's No. 1, Black Dog.

In spite of the valiant wannabe Scottish names, many of these spirits are, as I said above, hardly whisky, but rather rums that taste somewhat like whisky due to blending of roughly 10% malt whiskies from India and maybe a little from Scotland.  Anyhow, not great stuff.  Hence, the reputation.

Against this background of rum (flavored by way of some malt whisky added to the blend) and reckless product labelling is: hope.  'Hope' in the form of a single malt made in India.  Yes, single malt.  Remember, the barley can come from anywhere, so long as it is distilled at one distillery, it is single malt.

Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky
This Indian single malt whisky is made in Bangalore.  The distillery takes Punjabi and peated Scottish barley and makes an interesting single malt.  Hence, the name:  Fusion.

Nose (undiluted)
Concentrated floral notes of mint, lavender, jasmine and loam.  Brine too.   Intriguing.

Palate (undiluted)
Powerful horse kick of cedar, cloves, cardamon, spiced dark treacle, coriander.  Dark chocolate that has a heavy weighting of cocoa.  Some big peat notes reminiscent of Islay are also present.

Finish (undiluted)
Long lingering flavors of polished mahogany, leather, mouth watering body, red and black licorice, slight anise, pungent cocoa, raisin, Moroccan dates.  Rich black coffee.  During the finish, your palate will tingle and the flavors spiced quality continues.  Repeated sips are less vibrant, no doubt because the palate is dulled by the 50% abv.

General Impressions
This is a big dog whisky!  50% abv!  But, I am happy to report that at no point is it rough, raw or volatile.  If you sip carefully, taking very little at a time, you will experience one helluva wallop of the aforementioned flavors.  Gigantic, towering skyscraper flavors demand your attention!  This is no shrinking violet or Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Amrut Fusion starts sweet for a nanosecond before going very, very dry!  Kinda reminds me of Highland Park 25 in the sense that it is very concentrated, powerful, heavy with flavors of dark fruit and pomegranate.  Unlike Highland Park 25 or many scotch whiskies, Amrut Fusion is not sherried.  As for peat, technically peated barley imported from Scotland is used in this whisky, but the peat is mostly lost by the time it is bottled.  It's there, but not in a significant amount.  Not a flaw.  Just an observation.

Add Water?
As I said before, this whisky is seriously huge in terms of flavor.











Think Don King's hair.  Still not clear?  Okay, think Donald Trump's ego. (The Freudian in me wonders if he is over compensating for some shortcoming in his life.  Donald, size really doesn't matter.  Melania still loves you for your money.)









So, in light of the huge flavors, water is understandably a must for some people.  However, I find water must be used in small quantities with this gem of a whisky.  For example, adding a teaspoon to a double pour is too much.  Such a tactic tones down everything.  It may make it more palatable for the novice, but the trade-off is a loss of complexity of all those competing flavors of chocolate, black coffee, and oak, to name but a few.

India - Be Proud!!!!!
Amrut Fusion is good whisky!  A whisky India can be proud of and I am very happy to enjoy.  It was not too long ago that many scoffed at the thought of Japan producing good whisky, but now the reputation of several Japanese distilleries is held in high regard.  Brands like Suntory Yamazaki, Hibiki, Nikka and a host of others are excellent and can go head to head with some of the best scotch.  India appears to be on the same path!

Cheers!


Jason Debly

P.S.  I recently corresponded with a reader (who will remain anonymous) in Bangalore about the whisky habits of Indians and it was fascinating.  Indians love whisky, but there is a tension with religious observance that frowns upon such consumption.  Here's a quote from his email:

"drinking in India .. largely [ except metros] is looked down upon
because of our religious beliefs.. so you ll find friends only in the
larger cities.. one or 2 states even have prohibition like where i work 

and alcohol sale is strictly a state monopoly.. very few
scotches are available..

about India or Bangalore.. the drinking scene is very crowded by
people who want to be/ are visible... those who wont be caught dead
with a teachers or any single malt below 15 years.. because its so
unbecoming of the 'high life' they so wish to portray.

and then there is the other group which includes people like me ...
who are closet aficionados...  who will experiment, take notes [
mental or otherwise] grow specific likes and dislikes.. this group is
small right now but it is growing.. here you ll find the teachers ,
jim beam and the single malt men ... who ll argue till dawn and still
smile and call it a day over a large  one with a splash of water..

[ there is a cocktail... jim beam black + teachers+ jw black label..
its called the three musketeers i think .. i got that made once at a
bar.. people thought i was mad or something.. but it was good ."


Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission. Note:  All images appearing in this article are for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment.  Moreover, all images used are considered by the author to be significant in illustrating the subject matter, facilitating artistic/critical commentary, as it provides an immediate relevance to the reader more capably than the textual description.  Photograph of Sigmund Freud's sofa was taken by Konstantin Binder and is reproduced here pursuant to a GFDL license permitting reproduction in this post.  Photo of Donald Trump courtesy of Reuters.

22 comments:

  1. Haven't tried the Fusion yet (it is on my wish list, along with a host of others), but I was able to pick up a bottle of their NAS 'Single Malt' (46% ABV, made with Indian malted barley only) in Calgary a couple of years ago, well before the LCBO ever started carrying it. While there are some that don't care for Amrut on the whole, I'm fairly fond of it. It goes really well with sweeter curries, samossa, onion bhaji, etc.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Dan, I find Amrut has an old world feel to it, kinda what I would imagine whisky was like 50 years ago, being consumed in mahogany panelled rooms of bankers and business types.

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  2. Wonderful and amusing review, Jason, as always. I loved every minute of it. You nail Fusion - a superb iconoclastic landmark malt. The high heat in Bangalore causes rapid maturation which changes the flavor profile. It's certainly unusual and extremely delicious. Amrut is rocking these days and it's changing minds and palates all over the whisky world.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, the angel's share would be greater due to the hot weather of Bangalore and with such weather the spirit in the casks would mature more quickly. So, a 12 year old might have the complexity of flavors that you would expect from a scotch with a greater age statement (ie. 14, 16yrs).

      Thanks for commenting.

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    2. Great review. I also enjoyed the Fusion, though my notes differ greatly. Different paths to the same destination, I guess. Anyhow, thought I'd comment to say that I was told Amrut matures their whiskies to a maximum of five years, for the reasons Josh mentions. I was blown away by that.

      Cheers!

      Delete
    3. Yes, it seems the hotter the climate, the quicker the maturation and greater the 'angel's share.'

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  3. I have a bottle of the Fusion at home and it is delicious. Really nailed the review. I look forward to the day when we can get more Indian and Japanese whisky here in the US. I can't spend $80 every time I want a bottle of Nikka Whisky from the Barrel!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. $80 for a bottle of Nikka is brutal!

      I think an entrepreneur should investigate bringing in some foreign malt gems. There is a market for it.

      Glad to hear my review accords with your experience.

      Delete
  4. I truly do think there needs to be an increase in different locales seeing what they can do in terms of whisky! I firmly am convinced that providence as to where materials were collected and where distillation takes place (furthermore origin of wood, etc) has an even larger influence on production methods and style/complexity of aging spirit (although those are big influences in flavor profile as well). Personally, I'd be intrigued to see what a Serious whisky distillery, for one example merely, in my locale in northern Illinois would produce. The locale here is a unique biome dabbling in the rich-soil grasslands just west and south, and the decidious forests just to the east, making an interesting potential providence for whisky making. I'll admit, many might cringe considering the locally sourced water (Lake Michigan and the Chicago River don't have the greatest reputations as spring water!. Still, far from the worst...).
    -Yochanan

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    Replies
    1. Did you know that there is a lot of whisky production going on outside of traditional bourbon and Tennessee whisky regions? For example, there's McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt made in Oregon. Imported peated Scottish barley is distilled near Mt. Hood, aged in sherry casks followed by Oregon oak. Or how about Wasmund's Rappahannock Single Malt made in Virginia? Some of the malt is dried over local apple and cherry wood.

      There are other examples too. I think it would make for a great post. Ahh if I was independently wealthy, I would visit these up and coming distilleries to see for myself.

      Delete
    2. Yochanan,
      Have you gotten your hands on a bottle of cut spike whiskey from Nebraska? I was lucky enough to be travelling through there recently and find it's a pretty unique tasting whiskey!

      http://www.cutspikedistillery.com/public_pages

      Cheers,
      Kevin

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    3. Yochanan,
      Have you gotten your hands on a bottle of cut spike whiskey from Nebraska? I was lucky enough to be travelling through there recently and find it's a pretty unique tasting whiskey!

      http://www.cutspikedistillery.com/public_pages

      Cheers,
      Kevin

      Delete
  5. Great review of a seriously great Malt. I love the chocolate notes in this one.

    My favourite Amrut whisky though is the unpeated Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky, (I reviewed it two years ago). It has lots of character a nice weaving of spice and a bit of an exotic flair which I love.

    But, it's not just their whisky that is made well in India. The Amrut Old Port Deluxe Rum is great as well, and at this very moment, I am working through a series of reviews for some flavoured vodkas distilled at the Rampur Distillery made from Long Grain Rice. So far each one that I have tried has been excellent. I think India is going to become a force worldwide with respect to distilled spirits.

    Cheers Chip

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    1. Hi Chip!

      I can just imagine Amrut rum being very good.

      Amrut is hopefully an indication of the bright distilling future of India.

      Delete
  6. Hi Jason,
    This si the second whisky I have bought after Te Bheag based on your recommendations and once again I have to thank you for your wonderful recommendation. I spent more than an hour drinking my first dram between savouring the aroma and the wonderful aftertaste. Best 50E spent on alcohol ever. Thanks Again!

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    1. I am pleased to read that my recommendations accord with your own personal tastes!

      I can't say enough good things about that Te Bheag.

      Delete
  7. The SAQ just introduced the Fusion this week.
    Can;tb wait to try it.

    Mark in Montreal

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    Replies
    1. Mark, I think you will enjoy it. It's a big whisky so sip carefully!

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  8. I purchased a bottle of this a few weeks back and I must say I have been enjoying it immensely.

    A big flavoured slightly peaty whisky with a lovely memorable finish. It reminds me very much of another of my favourites, Talisker 10 year old.

    Thanks very much for the excellent review.

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  9. Yes I agree with that Whisky has gone global. Truly a global phenomenon. Viral! There are fans everywhere! Many other non-traditional countries are producing whisky to satisfy growing domestic consumption. One of the biggest consumers of whisky by volume in the world is India.Now in India lots of whiskey brands available but I think Dewar’s is Best whisky in india.

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  10. Excellent review, Jason. I can attest that this is a good malt. I am a Lagavulin 16, Aberlour 16, Highland Park 18 guy, and I like this malt. I have spent a lot of time traveling in India over the past 12 years and have many friends that really like their whiskey. Good review and thanks for giving it a quality mention.

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    1. Eric, I figure 15 years from now, the whisky buying public will be as enthusiastic about Indian whiskey as they are Japanese today. Just a matter of time.

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