Tag Archives: Amrut

Amrut Portonova Single Malt

Amrut is the biggest name in Indian whiskies. And like Japan and Taiwan before it, they are now garnering all sorts of awards and enthusiast interest. For this review, I am looking at their cask-strength, port-finished single malt – Portonova.

I’m long been a fan of port-finished whiskies. I find it adds a distinctive grape-like fruitiness to most whiskies, that differs from the more common sherry fortified wine-finished ones.

I previously reviewed the Amrut Intermediate Sherry – which is a bit of a misnomer (check out that review for my comments). Let’s see how Portonova compares to it and other recent Amrut whiskies, as well as other port-finished malts, in my Meta-Critic whisky database:

Amrut Bourbon Single Cask: 8.73 ± 0.32 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Fusion: 8.90 ± 0.24 on 23 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Intermediate Sherry: 8.90 ± 0.42 on 15 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Kadhambam: 8.97 ± 0.24 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Naarangi: 8.63 ± 0.39 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Peated Single Malt Cask Strength: 9.13 ± 0.21 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portonova: 8.97 ± 0.30 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portpipe Peated Single Cask: 8.82 ± 0.35 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask: 8.79 ± 0.47 on 8 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Spectrum: 9.15 ± 0.22 on 8 reviews ($$$$$)

Arran Malt Port Cask Finish: 8.58 ± 0.40 on 11 reviews ($$$)
Balvenie 21yo Port Wood: 8.74 ± 0.40 on 13 reviews ($$$$$)
BenRiach 15yo Tawny Port Finish: 8.50 ± 0.21 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
BenRiach 17yo Solstice Peated Port: 8.92 ± 0.28 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask: 8.27 ± 0.55 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2013 Port Wood: 8.82 ± 0.46 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Longrow Red 11yo Port Cask: 8.70 ± 0.37 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Penderyn Portwood: 8.59 ± 0.41 on 5 reviews ($$$)
Talisker Port Ruighe: 8.49 ± 0.41 on 15 reviews ($$$$)
Tomatin 14yo Portwood: 8.56 ± 0.37 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Tyrconnell 10yo Port Cask Finish: 8.55 ± 0.38 on 10 reviews ($$$$)

As you can see, Portonova is one of the more popular Amrut whiskies – and one that out-scores the other port-finished malts in my database. A very impressive start.

My sample came from Redditor Devoz. It is bottled at a very high 62.1% ABV, cask-strength. Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Nose: Very fruity, with grape, raisins and berries. Dark chocolate. Pancake syrup. Toasted coconut. Dry malt. Definite nose-hair burn from the high ABV. Water dulls the nose, best to smell this one neat (carefully).

Palate: Intense flavour rush. Same dark chocolate and dark fruits from the nose, with new flavours like red currants, papaya, kiwi. Very luscious mouthfeel, like a melted Mackintosh toffee bar. Spicy kick, mainly allspice and cinnamon. Alcohol burn from the high ABV.  Unless you want to take ridiculous small sips, water is a definite must here. A tiny bit of water seems to bring up the spicy notes the most, without affecting the other flavours. Further dilution kills the mouthfeel though, and quickly starts to sap the flavours, so go sparingly here.Amrut.Portonova

Finish: Long finish, with creamy toffee throughout. Slow fade-out of the fruity notes, leaving just a touch of bitter coffee at the very end. Too much water oddly enhances the bitterness of the finish, so I again suggest you go easy on the H2O.

Not exactly your every day dram, given its incredibly rich flavour profile and mouthfeel.  It is also a lot spicier than most port-finished whiskies I’ve tried (e.g., the Kavalan Concertmaster is a tame affair, in comparison). And with its high ABV, this one demands a little water – but I find getting the dilution just right is pretty finicky.  Definitely a whisky for slow contemplation, and very careful dilution.

Among the highest reviews I’ve seen for this whisky come from the guys on Reddit (check out their Community Review). My Annoying Opinions and Serge of Whisky Fun are also really big fans. Nathan the ScotchNoob is moderately positive. The guys at Quebec Whisky are mixed on this one though, with high, moderate and low scores.

Amrut Spectrum

Amrut Spectrum is a unique whisky science experiment.

Whisky is aged in wood containers (typically called barrels, casks, or butts), usually made from some type of oak. As I explain in my Source of Whisky Flavour, the complex interaction with wood over time imparts a lot of the main characteristics to the final product.

But there is more than just time involved. The barrels can be made of different types of oak, which affects the final flavour. And they may be virgin wood (with the internal surface potentially charred to varying levels), or used barrels having previously contained other spirits (e.g. various types of fortified wine, other whiskies, etc.). The whisky can be transferred from one type of cask into another during aging, to introduce additional flavours (referred to as “finishing”). In the end, it can be bottled from a single cask – but more commonly, it is from a vatting of multiple casks (often including different cask styles).

Amrut Spectrum is something unique – a true single cask, yet reflecting multiple sources of wood. The base spirit spent 3 years in traditional ex-Bourbon oak barrels before being transferred into a single custom barrel for another 3.5 years.  This unique custom barrel was built using the staves of 5 different kinds of barrels: new American Oak with moderate charring, new French Oak with light toasting, new Spanish Oak with light toasting, ex-Oloroso Sherry staves, and ex-Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry staves.

In case you are wondering about the young age, the hot and humid climate of India results in accelerated aging compared to cool climes (at least for many of the characteristics of wood aging). See my Amrut Fusion review for a discussion.

Diluted to 50% ABV, only 1000 bottles of Amrut Spectrum were produced from this single barrel. I managed to pick one of these up in my travels.

Here is how it compares to other Amruts in my Meta-Critic Whisky Database:

Amrut Bourbon Single Cask: 8.75 ± 0.33 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Fusion: 8.90 ± 0.24 on 22 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Greedy Angels: 9.29 ± 0.30 on 5 reviews ($$$$$+)
Amrut Intermediate Sherry: 8.93 ± 0.42 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Kadhambam: 8.98 ± 0.25 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Naarangi: 8.61 ± 0.38 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Portpipe Peated Single Cask: 8.80 ± 0.37 on 8 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portonova: 8.99 ± 0.30 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask: 8.80 ± 0.51 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Spectrum: 9.12 ± 0.18 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Two Continents: 8.80 ± 0.46 on 12 reviews ($$$$)

As you can see, Spectrum gets the second highest score for an Amrut whisky, second only to Greedy Angels.

Here is how it compares to some other single malts in flavour cluster C (i.e., complex whiskies that are not heavily winey or peaty):

Amrut Spectrum: 9.12 ± 0.18 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Balvenie 17yo Doublewood: 8.72 ± 0.25 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Bunnahabhain 18yo: 8.99 ± 0.16 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve: 8.26 ± 0.66 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Glengoyne 18yo: 8.56 ± 0.41 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo: 8.86 ± 0.19 on 21 reviews ($$$$)
Glenmorangie Companta: 8.85 ± 0.57 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)
Highland Park 18yo: 9.12 ± 0.24 on 22 reviews ($$$$$)
Tomatin 18yo: 8.66 ± 0.22 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Yamazaki 18yo: 9.16 ± 0.21 on 20 reviews ($$$$$)

Spectrum is holding pretty close to the Highland Park 18 yo and Yamazaki 18 yo, which are among the top whiskies in this class.

Let’s see what I found in the glass. To start, the colour is more rosewood than the typical mahogany of sherry cask-aged tropical whiskies.

Nose: Incredibly complex, and a study in contrasts – dry at times, yet also juicy, with a lot going on. On the fruit side, mainly plums, figs, raisins and oranges (plus a few mixed berries, including strawberry). Milk chocolate and cocoa powder. Earthy, with dry tobacco and fresh leather. Woody without being “oaky” – more like polished hardwood. Soft wood spice, coffee and bit of pepper. A faint hint of glue (but this is not objectionable).

Palate: Getting it all here. The sweet sherried fruitness of the nose kicks in first (plus some apple and pear now), but then quickly transitions to a more dry oaky mix. The oak definitely seems more prominent on the palate than the nose. Some sweet tropical fruits show up. Cinnamon sticks and nutmeg add to the spice and cocoa powder. Then on to moist earth and a bit of anise. Finally, and some mixed nuts – and that classic fortified wine rancio taste. What a ride! Thick and rich mouthfeel – luxurious, you just want to hold it in your mouth. No bitterness, but a slight sourness comes in at the end.

Finish: Long and lingering.  A good mix of dried fruit and wood spice, with a bit of chocolate orange. More sourness than bitterness. Slightly drying. A touch of cola comes up at the end. Very nice.

amrut-spectrumThis is genuinely hard to describe – so much is going on here. The closest comparison I can think of is a blend of the various Kavalan Solist single casks – but the Spectrum isn’t as drying, and is a bit sweeter than most. I suppose you could also think of it as a cross between an aged single cask Glendronach and one of their cask-strength vattings (but less sherried overall).

In essence, what you are getting here is the quality of a top-pick single cask AND the wide variety of flavours that can come from multiple types of wood finishing or selected vatting. In my experience, vattings of multiple wood finishes tend to lose some distinctiveness. But the Spectrum keeps each of these individual components, in good measure. The flavours truly come in waves, making this a unique and quality experience.

But don’t take my word for it. Thomas of Whisky Saga and Serge of Whisky Fun are both very positive for this whisky.  There are a couple of good reviews on Reddit, by Devoz and shane_il.  A bit more tempered (but still very positive) are Jason of In Search of Elegance and Oliver of Dramming/PourMeAnotherOne. Hopefully Amrut repeats this experiment so that more can try a bottle.

 

Amrut Intermediate Sherry

Amrut Intermediate Sherry is not particularly well-known – which is a shame, given the quality of this distinctive single malt.

Amrut Distilleries is the first Indian single malt whisky-maker.  A number of their recent expressions have won major International awards. As a result – and like Japan and Taiwan before them – they have now become quite popular with Scotch malt whisky aficionados.

I have previously reviewed one of their more entry level malts, the lightly-peated Amrut Fusion. Please see that review for more background information on Amrut, and on the challenges of maturing whisky in a hot and humid environment.

For Amrut Intermediate Sherry, the distilled spirit starts off in a mix of ex-bourbon and virgin oak casks. It then gets transferred into sherry casks before going back into bourbon casks to complete its final maturation (hence the “intermediate sherry” name). Note that while there is not a lot of information about this distinctive process online, the product label inside my box specifically states that the whisky is transferred into “Spanish ex-Oloroso sherry butts” for one year. I will come back to this point later at the end of my review.

Amrut Intermediate Sherry is bottled at cask-strength, 57.1% ABV in this case. It is obviously not chill-filtered, and I believe no artificial colouring is used. My bottle is from batch 20 (2015).

Here is how it compares to other similar cask-strength single malts in my Meta-Critic Database:

Amrut Fusion: 8.90 ± 0.24 on 22 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Kadhambam: 8.98 ± 0.25 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Intermediate Sherry: 8.93 ± 0.42 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portonova: 8.99 ± 0.30 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask: 8.80 ± 0.51 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
BenRiach Cask Strength: 8.85 ± 0.11 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 4): 8.91 ± 0.31 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 5): 8.87 ± 0.11 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne Cask Strength (all batches): 8.59 ± 0.55 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Cask: 9.02 ± 0.32 on 10 reviews ($$$$$+)
Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask: 9.14 ± 0.35 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique: 8.97 ± 0.34 on 13 reviews ($$$$$)
Macallan Cask Strength: 8.89 ± 0.40 on 12 reviews ($$$$$+)
Yamazaki Sherry Cask (all vintages): 9.07 ± 0.30 on 11 reviews ($$$$$+)

Here is what I find in the glass:

Color: Rich golden/orangey brown. You can see the effect of ex-bourbon and sherry cask aging.

Nose: Rich nose, bringing in both moist earth and dried tobacco. Very sweet, with heavy raisin and grape overtones, along with blueberries and tropical fruits like banana and kiwis. Chocolate fudge and vanilla cake. This is not your typical Oloroso sherry-finished single malt. Surprisingly, not much ethanol singe despite the high ABV.

Palate: The berry notes from the nose are accentuated, with blackberry and red currants joining the strong blueberry presence. I get a definite impression of blueberry-banana pancakes with maple syrup! Surprising kick of rye spices, particularly cinnamon and all-spice, plus a bit of anise (black licorice) and pepper. Very spicy overall – I’m guessing most of this must be coming from the oak casks. Creamy mouthfeel, but with a drying effect over time. This moist earth/syrupy/astringent combo reminds me of some of the Kavalan fortified wine-finished casks. Water brings up the sweeter port-like grape flavours.

Finish:  Medium long. Sweet wood notes, like hickory (but not as smokey). Lingering fruit, like left-over blueberry pie crust. There is a drying astringency, and a bit of bitterness creeps in over time (but it is not excessive, and water helps here too). A touch of that classic nutty rancio aroma from fortified wines shines through.

amrut-intermediate-sherryThe blueberry experience is really wild here – I can’t say I’ve ever come across this much of it before. But this is definitely not your typical dry Oloroso sherry-finished expression.  Indeed, I’d say it tastes more like a mix of various fortified wines – including both sherry and port – went into finishing this one.

Trusting my taste buds, I decided to look into its background a little further. I eventually found this Business Standard article where the Amrut VP of production specified that they used “400-litre sherry ‘butts’ imported from Spain and Portugal” (emphasis mine).  If this quote is accurate, it would suggest that they mean “sherry” in only a very loose sense – and are in fact incorporating some port casks in the intermediate step.  That would certainly help to explain the classic Portuguese port-like flavours that I am getting here, along with the classic Oloroso sherry and ex-bourbon cask finishing.

Personally, I slightly prefer the Amrut Intermediate Sherry over the Amrut Portonova – which is a classic cask-strength, pure port-finished single malt (and one that I plan to review soon). The Intermediate Sherry probably handles water a bit better as well – it helps bring out some additional flavours, without taking anything away.

For other reviews, Serge of Whisky Fun and Jim Murray both really loved this one (how often does that happen?), as did Thomas of Whisky Saga. Ruben of Whisky Notes, John of Whisky Advocate and Nathan the ScotchNoob both gave moderately positive reviews. The boys of Quebec Whisky were very variable on this one, with Patrick giving it quite a low score.

 

Amrut Fusion

Amrut is a very popular single malt whisky maker from India.  Yes, you heard that last part right. As discussed in my earlier Kavalan (Taiwan) reviews, you can actually make excellent malt whisky in hot and humid tropical environments.

Wood barrel aging is a complex thing, with many different processes occurring simultaneously (see my Source of Whisky’s Flavour article for more info). A lot of these can be accelerated by temperature – although not all, and not uniformly. One key difference is that hot and humid environments increase both water and alcohol evaporation (respectively), leading to a greater combined “angel’s share” over time. This differs from traditional malt whisky matured in relatively cold and damp Scotland (which preferentially favours the loss of alcohol over water, and more slowly over time).

The end result is that barrel aging is largely accelerated in hot and humid climates, and thus Indian whiskys (like Taiwanese ones) are typically bottled very young. As such, don’t expect to see age statements on any Amrut malt whisky – it would be very misleading, relative to our typical Scottish age “calibration.”

Fusion is one of Amrut’s most popular entry-level single malts.  Unusually, it is a mixture of 25% peated Scottish barley and 75% unpeated Indian malt (both distilled independently). The combined product was then matured in a combination of new and used American oak barrels at the Amrut distillery in Bangalore. As a result, you can expect a lightly-peated malt whisky – but one with many of the “tropical” fruit flavours common to Indian whisky.

As an aside, my initial exposure to Amrut was their basic Indian Single Malt expression – which is pure Indian barley, matured in a mix of new and old American oak. Personally, I am not a fan of that one – I find it too sweet, almost like a banana liqueur. Let’s see how the Fusion does instead. I obtained a sample through a swap with 89Justin on Reddit.

First, the Meta-Critic scores:

Amrut 100 Peated: 8.91 ± 0.37 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Fusion: 8.90 ± 0.24 on 22 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Peated Single Malt: 8.66 ± 0.35 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Single Malt: 8.37 ± 0.47 on 13 reviews ($$$)

Ardmore Traditional Cask: 8.51 ± 0.23 on 19 reviews ($$$)
Bowmore 12yo: 8.36 ± 0.23 on 16 reviews ($$$)
Highland Park 12yo: 8.65 ± 0.22 on 21 reviews ($$$)
Jura 10yo Origin: 8.01 ± 0.38 on 16 reviews ($$$)
Ledaig 10yo: 8.21 ± 0.35 on 16 reviews ($$$)
Longrow Peated: 8.81 ± 0.19 on 12 reviews ($$$)
Oban 14yo: 8.44 ± 0.40 on 15 reviews ($$$$)
Springbank 10yo: 8.69 ± 0.24 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Talisker 10yo: 8.92 ± 0.19 on 21 reviews ($$$$)

I’ve focused on many of the classic lightly-peated (flavour cluster I) whiskies from my database above. As you can see from the mean scores, Amrut Fusion is extensively reviewed, and does very well in comparison. It’s also typically a good value (~$80-$85 CAD at the LCBO in Ontario, or SAQ in Quebec)

And now my tasting notes:

Nose: Red-skinned fruits, especially currants and plum, followed by tropical banana, pineapple, and guava. Definite smoke, but more campfire-style than peaty. Vanilla and brown sugar. Malty, with a faint yeasty smell.  Also a touch of glue, unfortunately.  Definitely complex and distinctive, a nice mix of aromas.

Palate: Red fruits again, and some citrus now (orange). The caramel and vanilla picks up, as do the classic rye baking spices (especially all spice). Some tongue tingle and a bit of burn (likely due to the 50% ABV). Smoke is still there, and complimented by some dry peat. Slightly oily mouthfeel, with a good substantial weight.

Amrut.FusionFinish: Fairly long. Lingering orange and berry sweetness, plus some artificial sweetness (banana candies?). Otherwise, lots of extinguished smoke on the way out, which makes for a nice finish.

This was a pleasant surprise after the basic Amrut Indian Single Malt.  While I get the same tropical fruit notes here (especially banana), they are not as overwhelming. Given that Fusion is typically only typically ~$10 more, I strongly recommend you skip right over to this one.

In some ways, Fusion reminds me of a tropical fruit version of Highland Park – lightly peated, with loads of fruit flavour. It is probably a bit sweeter up front, and the character of the peat is bit different, but I expect fans of the classic HP style would appreciate this Indian malt as well.

Amrut Fusion is an extensively reviewed whisky, with a fairly consistent above-average ranking from most reviewers.  At the lower end (but still positive) are Serge of Whisky Fun, Oliver of Pour Me Another One, and Ruben of Whisky Notes.  At the high end are Thomas of Whisky Saga, Jim Murray (96 score), and Josh the The Whiskey Jug. More typical are Nathan the Scotch Noob, and the boys at Quebec Whisky.