Naarangi – Hindi for ‘orange’. This one just as easily have been called ‘Amrut cheekily skates up to the edge of the rules, flashes a bare ass at the powers that be, then skates away laughing’. But then again…what rules does Amrut have to follow? Short answer: None but those they make for themselves, which essentially means satisfying their own moral compass and innate sense of curiosity. Ok, ok…and that would have been a hell of a stupid name for a whisky. But you get the point, yeah?
As you know, under the regulations laid out by the SWA (Starchy Withered Assholes, if I’ve heard the acronym spelled out correctly), Scotch malt whisky can contain nothing more than water, yeast and barley (oh, yeah…and seemingly as much of that nasty over-bitter artificial coloring you may wish to add). No infusions, no creative barrel play, no true innovation. Sometimes this is a good thing. We whisky codgers are nothing if not suckers for the purity of tradition. Having said that, how does the category ever advance if the forward-thinkers are forced to work in hobbles and shackles? Quite a balancing act, I’d say. And one which I’ve not really attained my own philosophically enlightened vantage for yet.
Anyway…though not bound to the sacred tenets like the great producers in Celtic-land, Amrut has chosen to play it square. They did not infuse the whisky with orange (like another Maverick whisky maker did in the not too distant past), instead they infused the sherry that previously lived in the cask with orange. Ergo, when the barrel was dumped the residual oils and flavors from the peels would be left clinging as tightly to the staves as Trump supporters to a gun law. When Amrut new make spirit was splashed inside these wooden beds for the long sleep (well…not too long in the case of Bangalore’s unforgiving climate) the effect was obviously immediate and massive. This is a heck of a unique dram, and really is only a hop, skip and a jump from a liqueur.
Nose: Huge orange and spice notes. Citrus oils. The fruits are very lively on this one, both juicy, over-the-top ripe ones and dry oily figgy ones. Some chocolate. Immediately recognizable as Amrut, in spite of the tomfoolery. A slight pastry or dough note. Vanilla.
Palate: The palate is a little disappointing compared to the vibrancy of the nose. Lots of candies and fruit notes, and actually maybe a little too sweet. And also a little sharp and woody. Lots of spice again. Caramelized sugars. Orange oil. Syrupy. Almost liqueur-like in both flavour and texture.
Thoughts: Liked it a lot. Not quite love, but sometimes it’s nice just to be ‘in like’.
– Images & Words: Curt
Right, so they didn’t flavour the whisky, they flavoured the barrelwash. Regardless of what anyone makes of the result, if this is “advancement in whisky” compared to telling people what they’re buying or not pricing them out of the market altogether as producers get ever more “artistic and creative” (particularly with their logic) – yes, I’m looking at you, Compass Box – then the future looks somewhat bleak, no matter how “exciting and innovative”.
“Anyway…though not bound to the sacred tenets like the great producers in Celtic-land” – right, so I’m not sure what Amrut’s “big protest” against the SWA amounts to here; the SWA, for all its faults, only concerns itself with what can and can’t be called scotch. As far as I know, Amrut never had any interest in marketing in that category, and the SWA never had any interest in Amrut. The scotch world might well have reason to shudder if this stuff ever catches on – liqueur scotches for people too lazy to buy both liqueur and scotch or to mix their cocktails at home – but the “hobbles and shackles” indicated here are pretty illusory (as they were when people defended the huge expansion in NAS). Maybe producers could help the category “advance” by making quality more affordable and by being honest about what they’re selling. Those would be advancements from where I sit, particularly in the current climate of overpricing and nonsense. Just a thought.
Anyway, yeah, no malice in it, but learning the Hindi word for orange at the price of not knowing what I’m really buying in terms of age is just a new take on Corryvreckan.
Am I missing something? I don’t see anything on Amrut’s website (I’m not lucky enough to have a bottle to read the label) in which it thumbs its nose at the SWA.
I believe that was editorialization (though welcome and entertaining) by our site host.
And further, Jeff, at the risk of breaking the truce, and with sincere respect, I have to say I’m OK with an obviously experimental one-off type thing like this not having an age statement. why? Because it’s clear (or strongly implied) that the maturation times are similar to the standard Amrut, and the major player in taste and smell here is the special cask conditioning, and there is no time-based criterion against which to compare.
I know that the time in the cask is important, and it certainly would not hurt, but in a unique bottling like this I don’t think knowing it would affect my decision to buy it and that is essentially why we as consumers want information.
Again, I say this with respect. I don’t disagree with you. I think it’s ok to hold the industry to standards. I also think it’s ok to make exceptions on a case by case basis, though I see the “slippery slope” possibility.
My bigger beef with this expression is its price. Amrut is no longer a bargain malt, that’s for sure…
Exactly! Thanks for stepping in. Was just about to reply that we shouldn’t confuse my words with Amrut’s intent. It’s me suggesting that the SWA are outdated, and not that Amrut is engaging them. Indeed, there is no jurisdiction there.
As to price and age…well…I like age statements and low prices. I’ll say no more here. Will reserve that for the next review.
Yeah, I didn’t see the connection in the mention of the SWA in the above review either; hence my skepticism as to its relevance – and to the “maverick” nature of the product. If, however, the SWA DOES keep anything like this stuff from being called Scotch, Curt might win me to their cause yet. I might even argue that India needs an Indian Whisky Association.
And, sure, people are OK with utter nonsense – and then they complain that there should be less of it, and that other people should ensure that it’s so. As for what people supposedly know (read “make up”) about cask times here – well it’s “implied”, “suggested”, yeah, made up, which is why if you don’t have an age statement, you don’t have an age statement. Most of the same folks who would prefer that NAS products went away are the same ones who are “OK with them” when it comes to buying them. So it goes. It’s OK to hold producers to standards, but the time for it is usually never now.
I have met the enemy and he is us. America got the president it collectively deserved; we, as a group, have gotten the whisky market we deserve. Shame on us; I’m sure we could have done better.
“There is no time-based criterion against which to compare” – EXACTLY! So, the “no need for age statements” argument becomes a self-perpetuating thing: “we didn’t know the age of the last one, and we probably won’t know the age of the next one, so knowing the age of this one really doesn’t tell us anything”. So much for “one offs” and how harmless they are. This IS the slippery slope you’re talking about; we’re currently careening down it – it’s our fault.
The idea that “it’s all about cask conditioning here” WITHOUT any concern about how much time was spent in said conditioned casks shows a touching faith in cask management that defies the realities of cask physics – and the lack of baseline information IS conveniently self justifying (see above). But most people do come by this stuff honestly; the industry has been selling them this nonsense for years now. It’s difficult to demand that producers should respect consumers’ intelligence when the latter are so shy about showing any.
So, yes, I’m certainly looking forward to every distillery becoming some version of Baskin Robbins: 31 flavours and no age statements. Who wouldn’t? Maybe the people who don’t need their cocktails mixed in cask (something they can do at home, with wood maturation sticks if necessary) and who, instead, would appreciate the distillery production information they CAN’T make at home (although, God knows, people DO try to make up whisky ages in their heads everyday – usually right after they tell you age doesn’t matter “here”). Maybe, if they get to take away ABV as well, somebody will “be able” to make some Rocky Road whisky that they somehow “can’t” make now (presently too many “shackles”). What an exciting and innovative world we live in!
Also, although I’m sure that Amrut would, of course, like this product to be promoted as “bold and innovative”, exactly what aspects of its present designation/labeling/marketing WOULD have to be changed if the orange flavouring was just added after casking? The same as would have to be changed in order for me to add 5-Alive to an Amrut product at home?
I say the above with respect as well, but it’s also been people who have been praising Amrut and other whiskies to the skies DESPITE a lack of benchmarks – benchmarks that they’ll always argue for in other writings – that has brought us to where we now are. Bring on the flavours!
true everybody outside of Europe can make their own whisky rules. Which is not a bad thing.
Curt’s and Jeff’s mentioning of the SWA reminded me of something Oliver wrote some time ago.
Innovation is not a bad thing but when it dissolves categories stay away. They should have in many cases imo.
I think the article cited might well be one of the best things Oliver ever wrote (and http://www.pourmeanotherone.com/2014/11/24/blast-from-the-past-what-old-whisky-news-can-tell-us/ is another).
It’s true: present marketing wants to play to the idea the the influx of hipsters has put whisky on its ear – and it HAS put whisky on its ear, because the crushing ignorance OF hipsters about whisky, encouraged and played to BY the industry, is dragging the entire category into the ditch. Then they’ll move on to vodka.
It is a little ironic that Oliver sat on the fence himself for so long as to whether age is “just a number” but, then again, he doesn’t really commit to a side here either; he only says that the whisky industry is of two minds on the subject.The battle for truth goes on.
If I understand correctly, Amrut aged new make in casks previously seasoned with orange flavoured sherry. If true, I don’t see any difference from what Scotch distilleries do all the time – namely age new make in new/re-used casks soaked with all kinds of different wines. All they would have to do is pour a few gallons of orange flavoured liqueur into some casks, spin them to force the liquid into the staves, “empty” out the mixture, pour the new-make (or dull whisky requiring some “finishing”) into the “empty casks”, leave for a few months/years … bingo! … Glenmorangie Orains
I am not quite sure if this is the right place but…
As we all know too well there is no arguing about taste. And unfortunately there is no arguing about consumer behaviour as well.
Innovation and experimentation do justify themselfs if they sell in a world like ours. But that does not mean because millions buy some stuff or other that I have to like it as well.
I came here with this today because of David Driscoll’s take on Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle.
“I’ve said a hundred times that I hate the line: the best whisky is the one that tastes best to you. I think it needs to read: the best whisky for you is the one that tastes best to you. I believe that quality is an entity that exists whether we’re able to recognize it or not, but in no way do I think that it exists in a singular form.”
Now, this thought has moved us here and on other blogs and forums countless times and well could be one universally true constant.
I still do not have to like whisky innovations for innovations sake. In a world where everything is blue you can neither develop nor define the categoryor term “blueness” for the lack of differences.
And whisky should not try to be more than it is and try to imitate vodka gin cognac or any other spirit which is well defined because it is “not whisky”.
So I think boundaries should not be too floating and a category should stay a category.
Dave Driscoll has also said the following:
“The K&L Spirits Journal is not a journalistic news source. It has never been, never claimed to be, nor will it ever be. This is mainly because there is no such thing as booze journalism as far as absolute truth is concerned. There is only booze romanticism or booze antagonism. The president can be held accountable for lying to the general public, but booze companies cannot be, nor should they be. Unlike publicly elected officials, it’s not their job to tell you the truth. It’s their job to sell you something. As consumers, it’s our job to decide whether or not to give them our money.” – https://myannoyingopinions.com/2014/04/19/jumping-the-driscoll/
Hence my trust of what Dave Driscoll says. In Dave’s world, if he thought he could sell me a bottle by lying about it, he’d be justified in doing so. The uncertainty principle with regard to Driscoll is only whether he’s lying to you at any given time to achieve his sales goal and, to me, sales is where Dave’s idea of “what you really need to know about whisky is inside you” comes from; nobody and nothing else can really inform you about whisky, so “real” information can only be had by trying/buying everything for yourself, which sounds very good for sales indeed. Just listen to your heart – and Dave’s, if you can find it. You don’t need to know anything, much less the truth, about what you’re buying – and nobody should have to tell it to you anyway. “The best whisky for you is the one that tastes best to you”, but no one can help you find it – you have a lot of purchasing to do.
I take Portwood’s point that this orange thing COULD well be done with Scotch as well – if you add the flavour to the wood as opposed to directly to the whisky, the SWA has nothing to say about it – and it IS done with “untainted” sherry all the time. I don’t personally need anyone to make me a flavoured cocktail in cask – and if it’s all about individual taste anyway, let people make their cocktails to individual taste at home – but the industry will always need some new and exciting distraction (and flavours ARE an open category) which will somehow “prevent” it from telling me if I’m buying a 3 or a 13 for $100+. Beyond the fact that we could end up with an almost infinite number of flavour “innovations” and very little unflavoured whisky, what I resent most is how “innovation” HAS become a distraction from telling you what you’re otherwise buying in terms of age.
And that’s the second “uncertainty principle” here. Heisenberg said that precision in position costs you precision with regard to momentum. The industry says that precision with regard to product information somehow costs you the ability to innovate – and it’s crap. What we’ve more or less now accepted are the ridiculous ideas that more information is the mortal enemy of innovation and that seeking said information is nothing less than the advocacy of collective bias over individual taste. It’s utter bullshit, but it’s now an article of faith, and not much else, that we’ll get new and better products/values by knowing nothing about them and allowing our heads to soften.
So, not surprisingly, everything’s become a “special case” now, and that supposedly explains why you can’t know what you’re buying – this product is “experimental”, a “one-off”, “has staves”, “celebrates soccer”, “couldn’t be made/sold at this price level with an age statement” (wouldn’t THAT be terrible), and so on. This producer gets a pass on logic/truthfulness because someone likes a company rep; that one gets a pass because they’re somehow “the underdogs” in the whisky game; the other one gets a pass because they’re Ardbeg and just oh SO magical. And so it goes. If this stuff wasn’t orange flavoured, would anyone be entitled to an age statement on it then? Of COURSE not, either because “it’s Amrut” or for some other excuse.
But all this “exceptionalism”, in the end, comes from us – we foster it. It seems we need benchmarks/information everywhere but “here” – and “here”, as always, is a movable feast. But, all the hype notwithstanding, there’d be much less nonsense in whisky if consumers would stop tolerating, and making “special case” excuses for, all the nonsense in whisky. Most people who really care about whisky enough to want to know why it is going to shit can look in the mirror. The issue is that we support principle, standards and information in the abstract, but support industry bullshit in the concrete – and then wonder why things don’t improve. If it’s a matter of respect, I respect readers enough to tell them that, unpopular as it may be – many do not.
I don’t necessarily disagree with much of what you’ve said, but I do have a question:
do you hold all other products to the same disclosure standards as you do Scotch?
“do you hold all other products to the same disclosure standards…?”
Reminds me of an observation I made since “branching out” to the “craft” beer. I’ve observed whisky nerds drinking mass produced “craft” beer (Creemore, Steam Whistle) between drams of $300/bottle whisky and beer nerds proudly posting pictures of their $30 bottles of unobtanium beer with Fireball “whisky” in the background.
So, it would seem, the answer to your question would be no. No-one has the time/energy to worry about EVERY single product to the same level of geekery! And this is the reason whisky producers don’t give a rats ass about how much disclosure we (a tiny fraction of their target consumer) want.
So if that’s the case, I can see someone who likes the tastes and complexities of good whisky caring more about what goes into the meat and vegetables they buy than how many years in oak the spirit lies.
Sure it’s important, but we all have different priorities. So we shouldn’t beat each other up if we disagree.
I have recently read an article about bullying within the medical profession over something as silly as whether they supported a contract:
And recently a member of parliament received hate mail for promoting a motion calling attention to racism.
SO I WONDER:
Are we ensuring that this is a safe place for all to post their views? If someone doesn’t feel that NAS is a problem, do they feel intimidated about participating? And if so, are we OK with that? I wouldn’t be.
I’d essentially agree with Portwood’s assessment: people can’t be everywhere, so they choose their battles whether others agree with those choices or not. I’d say that my choice here is driven by 3 factors:
1. The level of sheer duplicity on the part of the industry (and others) with regard to age;
2. The importance of the subject OF that duplicity to whisky. Age is one of the most important factors to whisky character – we’re not talking about the stillman’s shoe size here;
3. The fact few other people manage to raise these points.
It’s probably true that my caring about whisky won’t help it, just as it’s true that other people NOT giving a rat’s ass about it WILL put whisky in the ditch. The difference is, when the results occur, I won’t be confused as to why things happened. It does all even out in the end in terms of proportion, but people who play stupid games WILL win stupid prizes (witness the US presidency) – but, unfortunately, some others always get dragged along for the ride.
“If someone doesn’t feel that NAS is a problem, do they feel intimidated about participating?”. I really don’t know, but people who don’t know something far more fundamental – that age matters to whisky – manage to participate all the time, both here and elsewhere on the internet, and to hold prominent industry positions.
as I am lazy I waited for this comment of mine to come online http://www.allthingswhisky.com/?p=2608#comment-683291
It is about innovation and premiumisation. Both of which I do believe are profit and marketing driven and will end sharply in a very hard brick wall – again since 1983 at least for whisky.
Here a take on that issues from another spirit’s point of view
That sentence went down like oil with me: “We noticed that the Tequila category has fallen victim to uniformity with brands trying to pursue premiumness”, with many “trying to behave like vodkas, with beautiful shots and images of people drinking cocktails.”
Situations always never the same… so who needs constant innovation?
And what is the point of constant innovation? Is it to improve what you’re making now or to meet/create tastes for consumers outside your current sphere? If it’s the latter, one CAN make whisky more like wine or vodka to better satisfy wine and vodka drinkers but, if it’s the former, some better casks and more time IN cask would help many current releases. From another angle, wouldn’t it be easier to win larger audiences for these products AND retain old ones if the products themselves used higher quality elements and gave more complete product information?
the last two paragraphs of Dr. Bill Lumsden on the SWA ….
Make your own decisions.
Off-topic, but are those Glenmo one-offs really “eagerly-awaited”? I’ve never had one, I’ve never know anyone to own one, and I’ve never witnessed anyone across the vast whisky interwebs actually evince any enthusiasm or anticipation about one coming out. If I see any response, it’s usually of the “oh, here’s a thing I might try” variety.
Ardbegs, yes. But the Glenmos, no.
Also off-topic, but is Lumsden always so entertaining to read? That might be the first time I’ve read much out of him.
He’s pretty frank about the lukewarm reception the recent Ardbeg one-offs got from the geek cirlces. (Granted, he’s using that point here to promote the Kelpie thing.)
Thanks for the link, kallaskander.
I guess, despite having his hands “tied” by current age information regulations, Lumsden sees no need for reform there (plenty of “flexibility” in just telling paying customers “nothing”). Instead, while advocating fighting against “all sorts of nonsense happening”, he wants to makes casks out of different kinds of wood while HE nonsensically gets to “decide” which whiskies are affected by time. It’s embarrassing, really.