Alright. Time to get on this one. This wee sip session went down a few weeks back and I’m only now digging deep to find the motivation (and inspiration) to share a few words for those who be interested.
My mates locally know I’m constantly on the lookout for opportunity and occasion to pull together an extensive range of malts, a good group of friends and a kickass playlist on my iPod. This time ’round it wasn’t the malts that dictated event time, it was the calendar. It had simply been too long since I hosted the gang. I hunted through samples, open bottles and sealed bottled and in the end found myself with thirteen different Amrut expressions at my disposal.
So…back to India we went. In a manner of speaking.
It’s no secret that I’m very much behind this brand. The malts are great, the local representation is by a group of good people I’m proud to call friends and the global brand ambassador, Ashok Chokalingam, is another of my brothers from abroad, whom I drop everything to see when those rare occasions permit. Further, the distillery makes incredibly innovative whiskies and serves them up as I like ’em: strong, non chill filtered, uncolored and with an eye to pushing boundaries. They have also been very honest with us in terms of cask types, batch releases, evaporation rates and age (though not always stated). But none of this matters an iota if the drams aren’t spectacular. Fortunately…they are.
I did want to mention something. I had a bit of a revelation not long ago, as relates to young whisky such as Amrut that benefits from the idea of ‘accelerated maturation’. Many like to say that these subtropical malts taste like very mature malts from Scotland (or elsewhere). I’ve said this myself on occasion. While not far off on the sentiments, I think I need to offer a better observation. It’s not so much that they exactly mirror older malts on a time ratio basis, as it is that they hit a state of full maturity so much younger. The characteristics are sometimes similar (i.e. Greedy Angels 8), though not always, but what does matter is that there is a point where the spirit and wood have been together long enough. And recognizing and working with that crux is exactly what Amrut has perfected.
Anyway…a few of us gathered and drank. And laughed. And drank some more. We went through all thirteen, took some sketchy ‘shout along’ tasting notes and just simply reveled in company and intoxication.
…and while it would have been brilliant to finish off with a dram of Greedy Angels…well…beggars can’t be choosers.
As an aside…it must be an absolute blast to be part of either the blending team or the marketing department at Amrut. These guys and gals seem like they’re having way too much fun. Creativity is at an unparalleled height here, as many of these releases can attest.
Just to be clear, these notes below are from five guys shouting out their thoughts. In many cases there were disagreements. And they’re also not broken into nose, palate, etc. It was just sort of a running stream of bullshit. Articulate bullshit, bullshit nevertheless. Enjoy!
Single Malt (46% abv) – Orange zest. Doughy and bready. Fresh scones. Slight farmy-ness. Nice spices. Somewhat salty. Homemade Play Dough. Somewhat bitter on finish.
Cask Strength 2012 Batch 17 (61.8% abv) – More fruits now. Eucalytpus. Pine. Perfume-y. Salty. Chocolate-y on the palate. Orange, as expected. A bit of mince. Cinnamon and other spices. Powdered ginger. Oaky notes on the palate. Slightly bitter finish again.
Cask Strength 2007 (61.9% abv) – Softer still. Spicy. Substantial bourbon cask notes. Fennel/anise. Jujubes. Orange and chocolate. Oaky and more spices. Short finish, said one.
Fusion Batch 40 (50% abv) – Leather. Fruity and zesty. Orange candies. Vanilla. Fairly light mouthfeel. Tart citrus zest (orange rind, actually). Baking spices. Light peat.
Two Continents (50% abv) – Almost tropical. Mandarin. Pineapple. Tangerine. Sugar cookies. A lot of fruit on the palate too. Coconut oil. Vanilla cookies or cakes. Creamsicles. Pepper or chili. Sweet, juicy finish.
Herald (60.8% abv) – Less fruits than on the Two Continents. Less doughy too. Orange fruits. Red jujubes. Cinnamon. More chocolate on the palate than on the nose. Bitter chocolate, that is. Pops on the palate.
Single Cask #2701 “Bengal Tiger” (56.5% abv) – Sharper now. Tangy, zesty notes. A bit of a farmy-ness to it. Butter. Creamy and leathery. A little wine-heavy on the palate. Touch of peat. Toffee/caramel. Black jujube on the palate. A bit of a savoury note.
Intermediate Sherry Batch 05 (57.1% abv) – A lot of fruit. Very jammy. Candied fruits and sugar-coated fruit notes. Chocolate. Raspberry and cherry. Dough. Orange zest. Slight savouriness again. Cola. This one was universally adored this eve.
Portonova Batch 1 (62.1% abv) – Almond and spice. Dr. Pepper. Raspberry. Spiced mince and jam. Berries. Does NOT smell like port. Ginger. Sooooo fruity on the palate. Milk chocolate and orange peels. Very dessert-like. Rich and almost surreal.
Naarangi (50% abv) – Huge orange and spice notes. Citrus oils. The fruits are very lively on this one. The palate is a little disappointing compared to the vibrancy of the nose. Vanilla. Lots of candies and fruit notes. A little too sweet. Almost liqueur-like.
Kadhambam (50% abv) – Coffee. Orange marmalade and citrus zest. Berry jam. Thick, juicy arrival. Chewy and juicy. Syrupy. A lot of spiced chocolate. Cinnamon. Slightly bitter on the palate. Bittersweet chocolate. Spicy. Mouthwatering.
Spectrum (50% abv) – Savoury. Sulphur? (said one or two…though I say not). Rubber bands. Overcooked fruits. Coffee. Toffee. Burnt caramel. Thick jammy-ness. Cola syrup. Dark chocolate caramels. Smoke. Nougat.
Peated Cask Strength 2009 Batch 03 (62.8% abv) – Peat. Earth. Leather. A touch of smoke. Still a lot of fruit. And definitely still notes of orange, of course. Universally loved again, but let’s face it…everyone was a little ‘drunk-ish by now.
Thanks to Jay, Dave, Tone and Danny for helping make these disappear and more importantly…helping cobble together the rather scrambly tasting notes above. Appreciate the memories, boys.
– Images & words: Curt
Great story…. Wish I’d been there.
Given that I (and I daresay others) drink vicariously through you, and looking at this lineup, I feel pretty good that I’ve tried (or tried and own) 9 of those 13 expressions (if not specific batches at least the same expression, though the CS 2007, Portonova and IS are the same batch for sure).
Amrut is an excellent distillery, producing quality stuff. Sadly it’s price has increased along with the general trend for whiskies. It will make buying new bottles more difficult but I doubt I would ever turn down a dram if offered.
I am a fan of big flavours and cask strength, yet even the single malt at 46% captures my attention. I won’t buy it because the only place I can find it (Calgary) also sells the CS and I have single cask bottles I got at deep discounts in Ontario, but again, if someone were serving it, I would be very happy.
Thanks for “making my day” with this post.
I’m glad that Amrut is at least honest with someone about age – the average consumer going to the store shelf is usually left in the dark, really left to believe that, as most bottles don’t talk about age, age must be meaningless and that all that NAS product is equally “timeless” whisky. It’s true that age information wouldn’t make the whisky itself better or worse, but age does matter – and there’s honesty and then there’s honesty. Some would say that NAS is about “flexibility”, but I think it’s pretty plainly about getting the consumer to pay more and more for younger and younger product without the consumer’s knowledge. Readers can judge for themselves.
All that said, I don’t have a problem with Amrut’s products, just the leaps in logic sometimes used to market them – and those leaps aren’t unique to Amrut in any way. Spirit/cask interaction, even when accelerated, isn’t exactly the entire definition of maturation – more, and different, flavours do form with the passing of time and some don’t/won’t get the chance to form, depending on when the spirit is bottled. I liked Ralfy’s comment on accelerated maturation, to the effect that, yes, it’s beneficial, but a different type OF maturation that isn’t a dead ringer for what’s going on in Scottish casks. Better, worse or just different is, again, up to the reader – but, regardless, cask time does matter.
I don’t intend to point out that this is another example where you can’t let a single thread go without bringing up the NAS debate, but I would like to take issue with one word in the least line of your post.
When you say “Better, worse, or just different it, again, up to the [READER]…”
I would suggest that “academic” whisky enjoyment can really only go so far. If you really want to comment on whether fast maturation is better different or worse, I don’t think one can make the argument for any way to determine that other than Tasting. So I would, if it were up to me, delete “reader” and replace with “taster”.
I didn’t bring up the issue of age, or honesty about it, here – read FAR more carefully, above – but it is fair to say that, as the industry turns its back on the issue of age (where talking about age can’t help to turn a profit), the industry’s pursuit of NAS marketing WILL bring it more and more into rational conflict with those who simply won’t give a distillery a pass on the entire issue of cask physics based on who makes a buck.
Related to that, are you connected to the whisky trade, Bob?
Further, on different types of maturation, that’s the entire IDEA of Two Continents – that different amounts of time in different maturation environments WILL give you different results.
And, sorry, I assumed that readers with a real interest in whisky were also tasters. As for the issue of “academics”, tasting doesn’t, in and of itself, convey much information, and I always WAS of the belief that there was more of importance to know about whisky than just what I liked or had in my glass. But, indeed, too MUCH thinking about whisky results in too many people realizing that the industry is simply full of shit in much of what it says, which makes a lot of other people uncomfortable.
Jeff, you thinking of jumping over to the Whisky Advocate blog to comment on the Speyside of the Year post? Here’s how it opens:
“Glenrothes Vintage Reserve is a fine advertisement for the fact that when no age statement (NAS) whiskies are created with integrity, they can be extremely good indeed.”
Seems rife for a response from you!
No, Whisky Advocate and I parted ways (at Hansell’s request) some time ago. My mistake was asking Gavin Smith whether, after sampling Dalmore’s “Million Pound” Paterson Collection, he actually thought that it was worth a million pounds.
And, if other people are actually opposed to NAS, they should be speaking out as well.
Am I connected to the whisky trade? Only insofar as I trade my money for the whisky I buy. And I read about it and watch reviews.
I think, I have to insist though, that tasting gives you the most important information about a whisky. I don’t care if it’s 3 years or 30 (I do want to know), but if it’s crap, it’s crap.
Right, you want to know the other information because, whether it’s stellar, crap or “just whisk(e)y”, the product, not surprisingly, is the result of what went into it and tasting alone is limited in that area – which is why that information is important. Anyone can pronounce a whisky crap and say what they don’t like about it, but how the product’s end result was arrived at is something else.
The same people who tell me “I don’t care if it’s 3 or 30” WOULD care very much if, in propping up NAS by buying Blue Label, their next bottle was a “deluxe blend” of the “most exclusive” 3 year-old product available to JW.
Not sure why you are twisting my words… I want to know the other information like cask time, amount of dilution from cask strength (if any), storage conditions, etc… because as an “academic” these things interest me and they allow me to predict what some of the characteristics of the whisky will be.
But there are good 5 YO whiskies, and there are bad 30 YO whiskies, and there are some old whiskies matured in bad, tired casks, and they will not taste like other 30 YO whiskies.
What I am saying is that the final, and most important arbiter of quality is taste.
You must be a fan of “Pretty Woman”, where Richard Gere’s character buys everything he does (I guess including the girl) because “it’s the best”, but he really has no appreciation for it.
To me, if I don’t like it, it doesn’t matter how old, how well-matured, how many good reviews. And if I like it, it doesn’t matter if Curt or Malt Activist, both of whom I respect greatly, say it’s bad.
But Quality and enjoyment are only tangentially related to the NAS issue. While I agree that time in the barrel will have an important role (maybe even the most important role), and the NAS trend will have an impact on what I can afford to enjoy, even if I only looked at age stated bottles I would ave to try before I buy.
Not sure how I’m “twisting your words” – “and they allow me to predict what some of the characteristics of the whisky will be” – Bingo! Again, a whisky is the result of what went into it, product information reflects that, and more information is better, because no single piece of information tells you much out of context – including just whether you “like it or not”. If all you know about a whisky is whether you like it, it makes it very difficult to find other similar whiskies that you like.
“You must be a fan of “Pretty Woman”, where Richard Gere’s character buys everything he does (I guess including the girl) because “it’s the best”, but he really has no appreciation for it.” – easily one of the silliest things I’ve seen you type, and that’s quite something in context, but I digress.
Obviously everyone has their own thoughts on quality, but if everyone has to “try before they buy” – even assuming that’s an option – then what IS the value of information that “allows you to predict what some of the characteristics of the whisky will be” or in reading reviews FROM other people at all?
Quality is not “tangentially” related to the NAS issue, no matter how quality is defined. If age has a major impact on whisky and NAS is being embraced to allow product age to change without notice, then quality, no matter how defined, will change as well. Young has become the new “good” because that’s what can be supplied in quantity and because the casking choice(s) alone has become the new limit of “complexity” (piled on, rather than developed, flavours).
You’re right Jess, Bob is wrong.
My grandmother made the absolute best chopped liver. I couldn’t eat it. But it was definitely the best, by all criteria.
Similarly, Bob, it doesn’t matter if you like the taste. if it has an age on the bottle, and you know all about it, it’s good…so choke it down and like it!
Sorry, leave Jess out of this! I meant Jeff.
It’s OK, David, you weren’t making any sense before anyway. As you were.
Yes, please leave me out of this. I enjoy the site but don’t want to get involved in this ……-contest.
What the —— is going on with Amrut?
The most reliable and consistent of all the distilleries. Putting out great expressions. Price creep concerning but understandable.
Now we see that IS has gone travel retail, but more than that… both IS and Portonova are now being bottled at 46%???????????
I can’t even say “say it isn’t so”, cause the website sys it’s so, so it’s so.
This is a disaster, in my opinion, of epic proportions!
I’m over Amrut. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me four times…well…let’s just say I’ve moved on.
That’s a little harsh no?
To his credit, I left a comment on their website and Ashok replied within 24 hours. He said they may consider bringing back the original strength as there has been a lot of demand.
And to be fair, they still have a lot of great expressions. In Calgary you should know, because it’s the only place you can get a variety.
Not harsh at all. Literally burned four times. Four personal issues dealt with to no resolution. I won’t get into the ins and outs here – no airing dirty laundry – but suffice to say I have moved on.
Sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine having personal issues with a distillery. I’m not that close with anyone in the industry that it would ever come up.
I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Amrut. Ashok gave me a sample of Greedy Angels way back in 2014 at Spirit of Toronto, and every expression I’ve tasted, 13 and counting, has ranged from pretty good to outstanding. And Ashok wrote to me right away when I left a comment on their website.
Of course I’m a little disappointed that a lot of new expressions, Naarangi and Madeira as examples, are only bottled at 50%, and I’m quite put off by the watering down of two legendary malts to 46% (even though I have no capacity or need to personally purchase any for years unless it’s for gifts).
But none of that is personal. It’s about the quality of the spirit. And about the drop in standards.