The British Raj. For almost 200 years, India was under Great Britain’s colonial banner. Today one can see reflections of its influence in almost every corner. From the monuments, to our constitution to our “Chai-Biscoot” one can credit many habits of the modern Indian to Great Britain. But Tea is but one beverage that we have taken from the Raj. WHISKY, today, to most Indians, the most universally acceptable form of recreation was brought to the subcontinent in the 1820’s by Edward Dyer at Kasauli. His distillery was later shifted to Solan where Mohan Meaken’s eventually acquired it today. During the days of the Raj one could find whisky enjoyed primarily by British Officers or Officials who came to the country, longing for the flavours for the old land. Over time Whisky became almost a ritual for sepoys over the campfire.
Today the military still stands as the major consumer for whisky in the subcontinent. This is also something very close to my heart. Being a son and Grandson of Military Officers, I have spent many an evening observing Whisky Soda or Whisky pani making the rounds of parties. That being said what most Indians call Whisky isn’t whisky to begin with.
No doubt Indian obsession with the beverage today can be attributed to such organisations as Mohan Mekin and The United Breweries group. They have spearheaded the Indian masses craze for whisky with brands like 100 Pipers and Royal Challenger. But one must understand that Whisky by definition is “an aged grain based spirit”. Here lies the problem, all the whisky’s made by the afore mentioned corporations are made from MOLASSES. As seen in the Beyond the Blend Section one simply needs sugar water to make alcohol and ultimately a spirit. To cut costs and make the beverage cheaper, most distilleries have chosen to do away with copper stills and wooden roofs to Industrial sites with little soul.
This is reflected in the final product which for starters IS NOT AGED, moreover artificial Colour is added. This ultimately produces a product that has more in common with Nail Polish Remover than with Whisky, lacking the Maltiness, smoke or general flavour one would come to expect from it.
But India is a nation that has moulded itself through the ages. Times are changing, our culture is changing, becoming more globalised. The modern Indian has become more demanding for the finer pleasures of life. Whisky being such an integral part of our culture, has benefited from this change.
Let me begin by listing its credentials;
- JIM MURRAY (One of the Worlds most Respected Whisky Experts) Rated it 82/100 in his 2010 edition of the WHISKY BIBLE
- 3rd BEST SINGLE MALT IN THE WORLD – JIM MURRAY
- American magazine Whisky Advocate, wrote that “India’s Amrut distillery changed the way many think of Indian Whisky”
It has changed the game to say the least. It is in no way a new distillery, having been founded in 1947 by JN Radhakrishna Rao Jagdale as the Amrut Laboritories ltd. It was only in 1982 however that the company (then under JN Jagdales son, Neelkanta Jagdale) ventured into producing India’s first Malt based whisky. The first batch was ready within 18 months of ageing, a testament to how Amrut had to consider India’s Tropical Climate which caused the whisky to age quicker. Also the amount of Angels Share (Whisky lost to evaporation) was far more than what it would have been in Scotland (a staggering 8% more). Then however it was mixed with an amount of molasses based spirit, as the Indian subcontinent had heard little of Single Malt Whisky, and branded as MaQintosh Premium Whisky.
In 2001 Rakshit Jagdale (Nellkanta’s son) was tasked with seeing the viability of selling the liquor abroad. In Scotland of all countries, blind tasting sessions showed the evaluators comparing their product to Single Malts from Speyside.
So finally in 2004, AMRUT début their single malt whisky Amrut Fusion. This however was met with a lot of hardship as most European countries were unwilling to import whisky from a country that had such a bad global reputation for the product. However almost 10 years later in 2013, the whisky has gone on to become a sensation, even having a Scottish launch for the brand. As Neelakanta Jagdale said, “From a marketing perspective, we thought if our product had to pass the test, why not do so in the toughest location. Scotland is the home of Scotch. If they acknowledge our single malt, then that’s good enough for me”.
And so far it has held up its reputation. using domestically produced barley and Himalayan spring water , it has released a whole range of products to captivate the market from the Amrut Fusion to Amrut Narangi and the Amrut Kadambham, the list goes on and on. Bellow are my notes on the AMRUT FUSION, which I consider to be at par with any bottle of single malt from Scotland iv’e tasted.
- AMRUT FUSION – 50% ABV
PRICE – www.whiskymarketplace.in: Rs 4,987/-
NOSE: light vanilla, oak, hazelnut, slight wood smoke
PALATE: cooked fruit, cacao, lightly smoked
CONCLUSION: well balanced
I recommend any whisky enthusiast to give it a go, I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.
For a full list of products click on the following link : Amrut Catalogue