Amrut Cask Strength (61.8%, OB, Batch 87, 2017)

Well, it almost seems a bit unfair reviewing a Paul John Whisky and not look at Amrut too, so here it goes… ehhh, ok, ok, ok, it has nothing to do with being fair. I seem to like Indian Whiskies, so I will come up with almost any excuse to review another one. I had to hurry writing this review, (spoiler alert), because this one is going fast! At Amrut they also make entry-level cask strength versions of their Whiskies. We already know NAS is not a terrible problem with Indian Whisky, since maturation in India moves at a pace like trains move in Japan. Apart from this Amrut Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky there is also a Amrut Peated Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky, which will find a place on my lectern right before I finish this unpeated one, and I’m guessing that won’t take long…

Color: Vibrant orange gold.

Nose: Creamy, vanilla and oak, with a hint of orange (the fruit, this time). Vanilla powder and fairly simple initially. Hints of oak, exotic spices on oak and sometimes pencil shavings, fresh air or ozone. Sweetish and full on aroma. Warm, warming and fuzzy, sunny. This has a very positive vibe. Milk chocolate, maybe even some mocha. Creamy with a slightly acidic top note, yet not fruity, so no unripe berries here, although I do get some candied yellow fruits. Dried apricots but well in the back although on some occasions it is more upfront. That’s it really. That’s all there is. Now for something funny, in a Whisky like this, it is also all you might need. It is well-balanced and very tasty, so I have no beef with the relative simplicity here. It’s instantly rewarding, not far behind the single cask reviewed earlier.

Taste: Creamy pencil shavings on steroids. Lots of exotic spices with soft oaky bitterness. Very nice wood notes, and again fruity. A bit hot, like the climate in Bangalore, but definitely all about Indian 6-row barley malt, and American oak. Candied yellow fruits again. Apricots in sweet yoghurt. Very high quality and very, very balanced. No off notes and everything is in the right place. Spicy, with very good wood notes. Tasty stuff. Amazing value! Not for nothing, this is already batch 87, and this was back in 2017! Wonderful aftertaste, maybe even better than the body itself since it seems to reach an even higher level of balance. Good, slightly short, aftertaste with hints of lightly roasted coffee, arriving late.

First of all, this looks the part, simple bar style bottle with a nice label, and packaged in a proper shiny heavy-duty tin.

If Master Quill would be an institute of some sorts, issuing awards, this Malt would most definitely win a category, something like best (Indian, or World, or any) cask strength bang-for-your-buck Whisky. Excellent quality for an excellent price. I’m baffled you’re still reading this. Stop it now, go out and buy one. Wonderful stuff, a definite must-have.

Last but not least, I have to make the same remarks as I did the previous review (Paul John). For me, this might be a no brainer, but I have been informed, and I occasionally witness, that Indian Whisky may not be for everyone. personally, I love this style and I can’t believe someone wouldn’t like it, but the same goes for every style of Whisky. Some don’t like peat, some don’t like heavy sherry, some don’t like grassy Lowlanders and some like Loch Dhu… So be warned. Keep an open mind though, you don’t know what you’re missing otherwise…

Points: 87

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Amrut 4yo 2009/2013 (60%, OB, Single Cask, for Europe, Virgin Oak & First Fill Bourbon Barrel #3445, 172 bottles)

Maybe Amrut is a true Malternative, because it’s another Malt Whisky. If you love Scottish Single Malts best, why look at other distillates? They are just different. Other distillates can broaden your horizon, but will not replace your Single Malt that has become too expensive. For instance look outside of Scotland.

Looking back I seem to like Amrut. This is now the third review, and after the Intermediate Sherry (87 points) and the Portonova (88 points), this is something of a speciality. Maybe I should take that back. Most Amruts are in fact specialities. Something out of the box is often done. Maturing on two continents, or blending many different casks together, to name but a few of things Amrut does.

This time a single cask bottling. Often, you will have a Whisky that has matured in a first fill or second fill Bourbon cask, barrel or hogshead, but no, Amrut had to do it differently. This particular example was first matured in charred virgin oak and then transferred into a first fill Bourbon barrel. Barrels being the original casks Bourbon matures in, where hogsheads are remade casks from the staves of barrels. Hogsheads are bigger than barrels. Most barrels are shipped in staves anyway.

There is some additional useful information on the label as well. I like that. In the four years this Whisky has been maturing, 42% has evaporated over time, as compared to around 8% in that evaporates is Scotland over the same period of time. By the way, unpeated (six row) Indian barley was used.

Amrut Single Cask #3445Color: Gold.

Nose: The first whiff that enters my nose is of virgin oak. Creamy sawdust and vanilla. Although only four years old, at the fast forward maturation rate, this can be called a woody Whisky. The typical American oak notes are here, but I actually miss the typical Amrut spiciness. Amrut is indian, and Indian Whisky should be a bit exotic, not just another copy of Scottish Whisky. This Amrut does hide it Indian. After some vigorous movement in the glass and some patience, there is exotic spice emerging and apart from that the Whisky becomes a bit dusty.

Taste: Initially hot and then an explosion of sweet Vanilla. When the thick vanilla, travels down, quite some (virgin) oak, emerges here in the taste as well. So we have wood and vanilla. What else? Over the top vanilla combined with hot butter. Just as with the nose this needs air to show some exotic spices. Luckily it’s Indian-ness is here at last. Spicy hot sawdust from Massaranduba. A very hard tropical wood. It’s so hard in fact that you can’t cut it without the saw charring the wood. This slightly sour odour is very similar to the spiciness of this Whisky, especially in the taste of it.

I mentioned decanting Whisky before. This Amrut is one that needs a lot of air as well to fully blossom. This is still a pretty full bottle, but already there is a difference to the first taste of the freshly opened bottle. I will score it now (after lots of air in the glass), but I feel this will grow even better and more balanced over time. This may very well be an example of a Whisky where the last drop from the bottle will be the best drop.

Points: 88

The initial score was 86 points, but as I expected, this got only better over time. The bottle is gone now, but the last third scored an easy 88 Points. Again lesson learned. Give it time to breathe…

Amrut Portonova (62.1%, OB, Batch 5, 2014)

Ahhh, another Amrut. Nice. I had the pleasure to try some Amruts in the past and was very nicely surprised by the Intermediate Sherry (which I then bought) a Single PX Sherry Cask #2699 (which I then bought) and the Kadhambam (which I have yet to buy). I also tried the “plain” cask strength version, and although pretty nice, I preferred the former ones. Now this Portonova crosses my path. This time a Port finished Amrut, and yes, I have high hopes for this one too…

Amrut Portonova Batch 5Color: Light orange gold. No typical Port pinkishness.

Nose: Although this has a huge ABV, this doesn’t leap out of the glass. Give it some time and some dust and cinnamon emerges. Wow. Cookie spices, dried plums and raisins. Exotic and Christmas in a bottle. Fresh air after rain. Creamy and soft oak. Hot metal. Barley, but different from barley you get from (young) Scottish Whisky. Sweet milk chocolate and red fruit juice. Apart from this all, it has a sweet and deep feel. Exotic spices, curry, cardamom, but where is the Port? I already missed the pink hue, but I also miss its smell. Complex stuff this because there is even a lot more happening in the nose than what I noted here.

Taste: Condensed red fruits. Thick, but initially simpler than the complex nose promised. Obviously quite hot with this high ABV. The wood tastes more like paper and cardboard, than any kind of wood. Not a lot of the wealth of spices shine through on the palate, and that’s a shame. Its more a fruity Whisky with maybe some faint hints of Port. Vanilla comes next. With time if becomes more outspoken and creamy. Nice evolution though. Hints of banana in the aftertaste. Lovely.

First I have to air a disappointment. This would be a stellar malt if the spices from the nose were noticeable so more in the taste as well, without being overpowering of course. Missing the spices on the palate makes the taste of this Whisky a bit simpler than it could have been. Now that we have that out-of-the-way. The whole is still an utterly good Whisky. Very much recommended. An excellent winter warmer I would say. I will have to get me one of these soon.

Points: 88

Amrut Intermediate Sherry (57.1%, OB)

Amrut (अमृत) means something in between elixir of life and nectar of the gods. Amrut Single Malt Whisky is made by Amrut Distilleries which was founded in 1948, but just as with Paul John, it took them some time (untill 2004) to release their first Single Malt Whisky, with that, they were the first indian distillery to do so. In 2004 Amrut released its first Single Malt Whisky in Glasgow Scotland, (in the lion’s den you might say). Today and that isn’t even a decade later, Amrut already released a lot of different Single Malt Whiskies. Peated and non-peated, matured in Bourbon, Sherry, Brandy, Cognac, Port and all sorts of different casks. Amrut have even released in one bottle, Whisky matured in India and in Europe, or using malts from different continents. Lots of thinking out-of-the-box.

Amrut Intermediate SherryColor: Full ocher gold.

Nose: Sweet, buttery and creamy at first. Hints of malt and yoghurt. Even smaller hints of licorice and tar. Big bold fruity Whisky. Extremely likeable nose. I’m guessing this particular Sherry cask did some good work. But there is more, it also has a flowery element mixed in with the vanilla. Quite sweet and has a little smoky bite. Nice and complex, well balanced nose. Sometimes vegetal and smells of a little piece of lit cedar (to light a cigar with). Pencil shavings. The floral part gives of whiffs of floral soap, which adds to the complexity without making the Whisky soapy. The nose gives away the Indian origin.

Taste: Sweet, sherried, fruity and has a bite given by the high ABV, but I still won’t water this down, far too nice already. Fruity and cookie dough. The sweetness dissipates and gets more drying towards the oak. Sherried and toffee. Cask toast. Good long fruity finish, with a slight hint of bitter wood, which fits perfectly to the initial sweetness this Whisky has. A little bit less balanced, so it could have been even better than it already is!

Again a perfect example of the level the Indians got to. The Paul John Edited is already a great Whisky, and shows how a relative newcomer can make good Whisky. So I’m guessing the still is a lot of room for improvement there. Amrut is at it for a longer time, but as a Single Malt Whisky producer not even 10 years. Amrut are showing with this Sherried Intermediate that they already are giving a lot of Scottish Whiskies a run for their money. I consider this one is a must buy, I already secured myself a bottle. Great Whisky. I’m expecting great things from this distillery (as well as from John Paul). Way to go India!

Points: 87

Thanks Ashok Chokalingham for the sample, unfortunately I only had one sample bottle with me…