Would you pay $70 for a bottle of single malt whisk(e)y that's five years old, if not younger?
What if it was made in India?
Before drinking Amrut, I was not a believer.
In the 2010 edition of his Whisky Bible, Jim Murray admitted that his top three choice could come as a surprise to some people: "The fact that it is Indian? Irrelevant, from distillation to maturation this is a genius whisky from whichever continent." He added that the whisky has "a lot of attitude" and is "absolutely fascinating because every time you taste it, it does something different on the palate." In short, Amrut's Fusion Single Malt may change skeptical minds.
Fusion gets its name from the fact that it uses two barleys: Indian and peated Scottish. The distillation takes place at an elevation of 3,000 feet in Bangalore. The Scotch barley is also distilled in Bangalore and both are matured there separately. The two whiskies are aged individually for three to five years before their arranged marriage finally takes place in used, American bourbon casks, where they are aged together. After they have reached their peak, the two whiskies are married in the bourbon casks and then bottled at 50% abv.
The intense Indian heat causes whisky to age nearly three times as fast as compared to Scotland and also leads to much greater rates of evaporation - approximately 12% of the whisky each year in India, compared to just 2% in Scotland (this is also called the "angels' share").
The result is a massive and complex whisky. One may chew on it for seemingly hours and never quite get to the bottom of its labyrinthine combination of Indian and Scottish elements. While the whisky clearly contains Scotch ingredients, the folks at Amrut very much want their product to be known as an Indian single malt. When discussing Amrut Fusion, Neelakanta Rao R Jagdale, managing director of Amrut Distilleries, noted that the company "did not want to pass it off as Scotch whisky, [because] it isn't."
On the nose one will smell barley aromas, as if standing in a field of grain, along with scents of vanilla and smoke. The alcohol really comes through; nostrils will burn if one breathes in too deeply! Adding a few drops of water significantly softens the aromatics.
Fusion is a very rugged whisky, much like the Himalayan terrain where it is distilled, and competes well with many Scotch whiskies. The Indian barley subdues the Scottish, making clear this is not a Islay single malt. On the palate one will taste barley, light peat, very spicy cinnamon (think curried cinnamon, if that's even possible), almonds and a light dark chocolate sweetness. The whisky's heat is intense and progressively so. Water does not significantly diminish its LONG, hot and spicy finish.
Amrut Fusion's combination of sweetness and rugged, spicy heat, along with its Indian origins makes for a delightfully interesting addition to your liquor cabinet.