Friday, August 26, 2016

A Taste of India with Amrut

The line-up.
We had a muggy, wet August evening for our latest tasting, which about as close as Manchester gets to simulating the climate of Bangalore, origin of the line-up of whiskies from Indian distiller Amrut.

The Amrut Cask Strength.
Stef Holt from Speciality Brands was on hand to guide us through proceedings, and she started us off with Amrut's Cask Strength offering.

Clocking in at 61.8% this seemed like a bold start to the evening, but, while obviously strong, it didn't pack nearly as powerful a punch as might have been expected. In fact, "worryingly drinkable" was one comment as club members got their mouths around the cereal and buttery notes of this one. At a very affordable £54, it may not be the last time some of us try it, either.

Amrut Fusion.
An old club favourite was up next, Amrut Fusion. We last had it during a round-the-world tasting in 2014 and, if memory serves, it ended up with dram of the night.

A flagship drink for the Amrut brand, it's named because it uses a mixture of Indian and Scottish barley, the latter peated for good measure. It's again quite easy to drink considering the ABV (this time 50%), with a nice palate and, according to one club member, a "silky" texture. You can usually get it for under £50, also excellent value.

Amrut Peated.
All of the Amrut whiskies come without an age statement, which Stef explained was to do with the warm climate.

The whiskies are usually only aged for about four years, unavoidable because of the huge annual angel's share of 12-15%, but a figure best kept off the packaging to avoid unfair comparisons with more familiar Scottish whiskies.

The next two whiskies were both Amrut Peated. The first was the standard bottling at 46%, the other its cask strength sibling at 62%. The standard dram was, perhaps surprisingly, a little less complex and actually harsher in a way than the two stronger whiskies already tasted.

Amrut Peated Cask Strength.
Citrus came through almost more strongly than the peat, with orange rather than lemon to the fore. Not bad at all, especially with a £40 price tag, but maybe not the standout whisky from the range.

The cask strength version had a familiar sort of taste, all peat and salty seaside. The surprising thing is that Bangalore is actually nowhere near the sea. Which sort of implies that the distinctive flavour of several well-known island whiskies might have less to do with the exact geographical location of the distilleries than we like to think.

But anyway, that's a bit of a leap. The important aspect is that this one probably shades its little brother for both taste and, at £54, value.

Amrut Portonova.
After the traditional oatcake break, Stef encouraged us to keep a drop of the Cask Strength in our glasses to have before another go at the Fusion. Tasting it after the peated whisky certainly boosted some of the wood and citrus notes, although views were mixed about whether it was actually better or not the second time around!

The evening finished with Amrut's Portonova. Stef described the "sandwich method" used in its production, with the liquid moved from American oak into old-style (and hard to find) port pipes, before going back to American oak to finish.

Stef in full flow.
Again a strong drop at 62%, although this one tasted more like its ABV than the others, at least after the nose which wasn't quite as notable. On the palate some of the fruity and spicy notes which had proved to be a regular feature of the evening were certainly present.

A bit pricier than the others at £80, but the favourite for many of the club members. In fact, it tied in the dram of the night voting with Amrut Fusion, while the very first Cask Strength also picked up a few votes. I suppose we'll just have to try them all again to decide which we really like best.

Thanks to Stef for great evening, and it was particularly good to see so many members both old and new at the tasting. Thanks also once again to everyone at the Briton's Protection for being excellent hosts, as ever.

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