Nothing's Virgin Here

World’s Best Indian Whisky

In the brown spirits space, the past decade has been marked by the rise of whiskies born beyond the boundaries of their stereotypical breeding grounds. We saw it early in the 2010s with the meteoric rise of Japanese malt and grain. Taiwan climbed aboard not long after. As did Australia and New Zealand. The ‘20s ought to be India’s time to roar. In the top international markets, there are currently three imported brands from the country that account for most of the Indian single malt market. They include Amrut, Paul John, and Rampur. Each is adding some compelling statements to the category. But it’s that first producer that was especially recognized earlier in the month at the International Wine and Spirits Competition.

It was there that Amrut netted an impressive 95 out of 100 score for its lightly peated Fusion label. Judges noted the following about this sophisticated sipper: “Complex and attractive nose with vanilla, fudge and hints of peat smoke. Opens up beautifully on palate with flavours of dried apple and apricot, toffee and gingerbread. Waxy mouthfeel and long, spicy finish.”

It only makes sense that Amrut would be leading the charge here. After all, the company did pioneer the country’s use of malted grain whisky back in 1982. Unfortunately a set of laws and labeling circumstances in the nation impedes the progress of the category to this day. By Indian law, molasses-based distillate can be used in domestic whisky production. So the vast majority of bottlings—widely consumed from Kanyakumari to Kargil—is essentially rum-flavored whisky.

To be clear, these are brands that American and European consumers will never get to see, because they can’t be exported as ‘whisky’. The pioneering brands, Amrut and others, are showing just how exceptional actual Indian malt can be. And at prestigious judgings, such as IWSC earlier this month, these export markets are showing just how receptive they are to the nascent category.

Tasting Notes

Nose : Heavy, thickly oaked and complex: some curious barley-sugar notes here shrouded in soft smoke. Big, but seductively gentle, too;

Taste : The delivery, though controlled at first, is massive! Then more like con-fusion as that smoke on the nose turns into warming, full blown peat, but it far from gets its own way as a vague sherry trifle note (curious, seeing how there are no sherry butts involved) – the custard presumably is oaky vanilla – hammers home that barley – fruitiness to make for a bit of a free-for-all; but for extra food measure the flavours develop into a really intense chocolate fudge middle which absolute resonates through the palate;

Finish : A slight struggle here as the mouthfeel gets a bit puffy here with the dry peat and oak; enough molassed sweetness to see the malt through to a satisfying end, though. Above all the spices, rather than lying down and accepting their fate, rise up and usher this extraordinary whisky to its exit;


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