Review: Amrut Cask Strength

History

Amrut StillsPlease see this post for more Amrut Distillery history. Amrut Cask Strength is a highly decorated single malt whisky. It’s made from Indian barley which is sourced from farmers in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. Barley strains cultivated in Haryana and Punjab produce smaller grains with more flavors than Scotland barley. The water used during the manufacturing process is transported to the distillery by truck from a well 15 miles away. Amrut starts their process by malting barley by steeping it in water. Then they transfer the malted barley to 10,000 liter stainless steel fermenters which are water-cooled to prevent temperatures from rising above 82 °F. Then they add commercial distillers yeast and allow the mixture to ferment. After six days the fermented mixture, now called wort, is pumped into a 5,000 liter Indian-made semi-conical wash still where it undergoes slow distillation for 14 hours. After a second distillation the result is a spirit which is between 68% to 70% ABV. If the spirit is diluted to 62.8%, each run produces enough to fill 20 barrels.

Amrut uses a variety of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks to age their whisky. The maturation time for Amrut’s whiskies are much quicker than Scotland due to India’s hotter climate. Surinder Kumar, the master blender at Amrut, estimates that one year of barrel-aging in India is equivalent to three years of aging in Scotland. The angel’s share, which is the fraction of spirit lost to evaporation during aging, is also much higher in India, at 11-12% per year compared to 2% per year in Scotland. The high evaporation rate makes it expensive to age whisky in India and it’s not cost effective to age beyond four years. According to Kumar, Amrut’s whiskies reach their peak by about four to four and half years at which point it’s tasted regularly. I’d imagine if Amrut aged their whisky past ten years it’d essentially turn into syrup. Amrut Cask Strength is bottled at 61.8% ABV and carries no age statement but is estimated to be between four and five years old.

Tasting Notes

Amrut Cask StrengthNose: cinnamon, molasses, charred oak, camphor, rich barley, peppermint

Mouth: cinnamon, peat, smoky, white pepper, some honeyed sweetness, orange citrus, oily, more delicate with water

Finish: hot, peppery, molasses, long, campfire

Score: 87/100

Verdict: This whisky will put a wallop on your taste buds. It’s a stunning 61.8% ABV so feel free to add water as needed. The nose has great charred oak scents, cinnamon and rich molasses. There’s also a nice rich barley and peppermint-like scent which gives the whisky a fresh feeling. I imagine myself strolling through the woods and inhaling the scents of a recently put out campfire. The whisky hits hard and fast – there is cinnamon, peat, smoke, white pepper which is balanced by orange citrus and honey. It’s a bit more delicate with water added so don’t feel like you have to drink this one neat. The finish is fiery hot and continued down my throat to war my stomach. Quite similar to the effect that some Indian curries have on me. There’s a lingering smokiness, pepper and molasses. It’s a long warming finish which is perfectly welcome during this cold winter in NYC. This whisky is like Agni, the Indian God of Fire, in a bottle. Out of the three Amrut’s I sampled recently, this one is my favorite.

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