AMRUT SINGLE MALT
Ex-oloroso sherry butt #3890 selected by K&L (2022)
MASH BILL – 100% un-peated Indian malted barley
PROOF – 120
AGE – 6 years 6 months
DISTILLERY – Amrut Distilleries
PRICE – $122 (on sale from $163)
WORTH BUYING? – on sale, yes.
Amrut is one of those brands I’ve often noticed sitting high up on one shelf or another, in a very ornate tube or box, usually adjacent to the similarly decorative Kavalan brand. Amrut is from India and Kavalan from Taiwan. Their frequent appearance side-by-side on various top shelves has led me to associate them with one another over time. Both are typically placed under the rubric of “world whisky,” a term generally used for anything not from the UK, Ireland, US, or Canada.
Were we in person together, we could have an interesting conversation about how habitual colonial perceptions have contributed to the variable recognition of “world” whiskies around the globe. But we’re not in person, so I’ll save that for then.
Here I’ll focus on what is my second experience with this notable Indian brand. The first was a neat pour of the Amrut Fusion release, which I had in Portland, OR, back in 2016. I was with some old friends at their neighborhood bar, which had an extensive range of whiskies on hand. I asked the bartender for whatever he was most excited about. The Amrut Fusion was one of five pours he dolled out that afternoon, I believe, so my memory of any one of them is not distinct. Thus I consider the current bottle my true introduction.
Amrut was established by founder Shri J.N. Radhakrishna in Bengaluru, the capital city of India’s southern state of Karnataka, in 1948—just one year after India established its independence from Great Britain. Then it was called Amrut Laboratories, and made various liquors, not yet key among them whisky. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Amrut began to distill malt, and it was finally in 2004 that Amrut Single Malt Whisky was launched—at Cafe India, a popular Indian restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland. (This Scottish launch site for this Indian whisky will no doubt add to our in-person sociopolitical discussion.) From there, Amrut began to garner awards and attention internationally. Today, one can find the occasional Amrut single barrel store-pick release right alongside other more commonly expected Scottish and American store picks.
Though Amrut whiskies are made following the same basic techniques and principles by which Scottish whisky is made, the Indian terroir could not be more different than Scotland’s. The barley itself is grown in the northwest of India, where fresh water from the Himalayas irrigates the fields, and the push and pull of cold winters and fiery summers render a hearty grain. Then in Bengaluru, where the grains are mashed and distilled, the intensely tropical southern Indian weather rips color and flavor from the barrels in a very short amount of time as the whiskies age. The angels are very thirsty in such heat, of course, and in even just 3 years quite a lot is lost to evaporation. So at 6+ years, this K&L selected single barrel is middle-aged by Amrut standards.
How is it?
Here we are, nearing five weeks after uncorking and three pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – fiery and smoky oranges
NOSE – caramelized sherry notes, fleshy red stone fruits with black pepper, juicy prunes, syrupy tropical fruits like mango and papaya, a savory herbed bread sprinkled with crystal sea salt
TASTE – pungent, very syrupy, well balanced between sweet and sour, the fruit notes from the nose all darken a bit here, the barley’s own nutty-fruity notes emerge amidst the sherry’s influence
FINISH – dark plum and prune notes oozing like a thick syrup, a fine prickly heat that’s remarkably easygoing considering the substantial proof
OVERALL – humid summer weather in a glass
This is a warm whisky. Not hot. Warm. But a warmth that soaks into your bones. Combined with the prevalent syrupy aspects, this creates that sense of humid summer weather. It’s not yet stifling, but rather very comfortable and relaxing.
There is a slightly burnt quality around the edges, coming in the form of a dryness, a bitterness, barrel and sherry tannins working together to outline the dominant sweet and syrupy qualities like a rough charred coal outline.
Chilly day or evening? Warm up with this. Want a high-octane Highball cocktail? Pour in a shot of this. Rich meaty meal? Top it off with this. For some it might be “over sherried.” But I don’t mind it in this instance. It certainly has a decadent impact. But the barley does seem to hold its own, allowing the Oloroso cask its share of the spotlight. All in all, it’s dangerously easy to drink!
Not a bad re-introduction to this storied brand. I’ll have to try more Amrut variations to know if it’s a brand I wish to make a regular on the home shelf. There are certainly less expensive, more readily available whisky brands that offer similarly pungent experiences—I’m thinking about BenRiach and Penderyn off the top of my head. But as a fan of the occasional thick, rich, decadently sweet flavor bomb, I’m very pleased with this Amrut single cask.