Amrut Blackadder Raw Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Amrut | Region: India | ABV: 62.3% | Colour: Dark Copper
Nose: 8.8 | Palate: 8.4 | Finish: 8.6 | Overall Score: 8.6

Review
I don’t need to remind anyone of my complete and obvious bias towards Amrut whiskies. Pioneers of fearless whisky making is what they are. They do things to their whiskies that would make the collective Scotch Whisky Association turn in it’s grave. Once it’s dead and buried, of course.

Cask seasoning, multiple flavour staves in one barrel, maturing on different continents – you name it, they’ve done it. They’re the mad scientists of the whisky world except instead of blowing stuff up they make some of the most delicious liquid on the planet.

Aside from their weirdly wonderful experimental expressions are their single cask offerings which are universally quite phenomenal if you ask me. And independent bottler Blackadder seem to think so too. They’ve bottled this sherry cask as part of their Raw Cask series which essentially means that the spirit is drawn straight from the cask without any dilution or filtering. Proof of which you can see in the form of charcoal bits floating in the bottle.

Whisky the way it’s meant to be drunk, I strongly believe.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a scrumptious 62.3%

Nose: Coffee. Lots of it. Tiramisu. Dark chocolate. Burnt caramel. Betel nut. Betel leaf. Starts off sweet then turns savoury. Green cigar leaf. The oak here is solid. Cracking nose this. High-pitched aromas hinting at a young whisky but enough complexity and intensity to keep me entertained. 8.8

Palate: Big. Big. Drying. The oak is the dominant force here. Just about threatens to overwhelm but is pulled back by a late dark chocolate and cinnamon coffee arrival. With water it mellows out a touch. The chocolate is a touch sweeter now and more pronounced. However, overall it remains quite savoury. 8.4

Finish: Huge. Oaky. Drying. Quite spicy. Touch of fruits with a drop of water. 8.6

Overall Comments: Great little whisky this. I don’t expect any less from these guys. My first Blackadder bottle as well and so I’m quite happy to search for new ones. Find it. Drink it.

Overall Score: 8.6

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Amrut Narangi

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Distillery/Brand: Amrut | Region: India | ABV: 50% | Colour: Old Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
Amrut and I have had a love affair ever since I picked up a glass of the Amrut Fusion and wondered Since when did the Indians start making whisky this good?

That was over five years ago and since then I have managed to put every single Amrut release on my shelf. No mean feat given it’s almost complete scarcity weeks after release. But where there’s a will there’s a way.

I like to think of Ashok, their GM of International Sales, Global Brand Ambassador and over all good guy, as a good friend and so it was at a small dinner at a mutual friends’ house that Ashok decided to surprise us all. For he had with him this particular expression (three months before it’s official launch) which he decided to share it with all of us.

At the time he made me promise not to write anything about it and so I refrained from taking any notes and simply sat down to enjoy the whisky. Luckily for me I had the chance to try it again a few days ago at a friends’ place who also managed to secure me a bottle!

In line with Amruts’ increasingly crazy experimental gene this single malt has seen a truly unique maturation. Matured first for three years in bourbon the spirit is transferred to a specially prepared Oloroso Sherry cask.

For three years that barrel had been sitting with Oloroso Sherry that had been mixed with orange peels. Oranges from Madikeri located in the picturesque Western Ghats of India which imparted a truly unique citrus and sherry combination to the oak.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 50% ABV

Nose: Lightly toasted oak. Orange peel (duh). Dry leaves. Rich sherry. Chocolate. Mint leaf. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Jute bag. Vanilla. This is a super rich nose and the orange is quite prominent, though, thankfully it does not overpower. Amrut noses are seldom flawed and neither is this one. 22/25

Palate: Good weight. Nice body. Coats the mouth with chocolate. Cinnamon. There’s that orange again. But more of an orange cake this time. Oak. Black pepper. Ginger. This is a nice twist. Makes me want to bust out my Compass Box Orangerie and conduct a head to head. This ticks just the right amount of unusual for me. 22/25

Finish: Extremely long. Oily. Lip smacking cinnamon. Best of part of the experience. 23/25

Overall comments: I’ll be honest. I walk into an Amrut knowing that I’m going to like it and, quite frankly, am unashamed to be biased. They’ve done a lot of good in a very short space of time. Ashok is a solid gentleman who loves his craft and lives by it. And when you can pull of bizarre experiments like this then what’s not to like?

Rating: 89

Paul John Bold

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Distillery/Brand: Paul John | Region: India | ABV: 46% | Colour: Dirty Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 85

Review
Amrut, after having blazed an Indian trail across the whisky landscape, has in it’s wake a solid single malt offering from Paul John Whisky from Goa.

Their spirit is nice and flavorful with a lot of tropical fruits. They also have a nice mix of peated and unpeated expressions to choose from alongside some rather tasty single cask offerings.

For the last few months or so I’ve been working hard to rub shoulders (read connect on Twitter) with whisky bloggers from around the world to basically increase my knowledge base and learn from the good ones. One of those bloggers is @TheWhiskyWire who routinely holds ‘Tweet Tastings’ for different expressions.

Essentially how this works is that interested bloggers get a 90ml sample from him and then at the exact same time around the world the samples are opened. What follows is a sort of collective global tasting notes on Twitter which allows for different opinions and comments. Needless to say it’s a super fun exercise which lasts for about an hour.

You get to connect with other bloggers and share tasting notes making it a cool way to taste a whisky.

The Bold is fully peated, served at 46% and, as you can guess, my sample is from a 90ml mini.

Nose: Deep peat. Oak. Dates. Bananas. Chocolate. Wild berries. Sandalwood. Warm it up and the flavors come through more. Now more dark honey. Warm citrus. Bourbon. Vanilla. Hint of black pepper. Soft leather. Green tobacco leaf. Cigar box. I really like the nose. It’s multi-layered and you can sit with it for a while. 22/25

Palate: Full bodied. Smoke. Tobaccos. It’s quite savory. I might have wanted it to be just a touch on the sweeter side. All spice. Cinnamon. Oak. Bitter chocolate. Touch of salt. Brine. Aniseed. All enveloped in woodfire. The palate is nice enough but I feel the nose promise more. 21/25

Finish: Medium to long. Oak. All spice. 21/25

Overall Comments: Look, this is not a bad whisky. I like the peat in here. It’s different and nicely layered (especially the nose). I would have liked some of Paul Johns’ signature fruity flavors to come out more but they didn’t. Maybe they were going for a different approach. Does it work? Yes and No. Lovely nose, average palate and finish. Should you buy it? Sure, why not? Or maybe better split with a couple of friends.

Whatever said and done this was my first Tweet Tasting and so the experience was top notch even if the whisky really wasn’t.

Rating: 85

Paul John Peated Select

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Distillery/Brand: Paul John | Region: India | ABV: 55.5% | Color: Gold
Nose: 23 | Palate: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23
Strength: 25 | Variety: 20 | Quality: 24 | Harmony: 22
Final Score: 91.5

Review
I recently hosted a Paul John evening for some close friends. Given the consistently high performing Amrut, the other Indian single malt, hopes were quite high for this too.
I’ve tasted the Paul John Brilliance before and thought it was a decent dram. Though, mind you, I liked it a touch less when I had it the second time around at the tasting. I think maybe the oxidization had intensified the vanilla too much.

Anyway, enough on the Brilliance. Let’s talk about the Peated Select. Given that we all (and by that I mean somewhat seasoned whisky drinkers) gravitate towards peat and cask strength spirits at some point in our journey there was understandable anticipation on what this bottle held.

Using the same base spirit as the other expressions the Peated Select includes spirit distilled from imported Scottish barley. It is also bottled at a reasonable cask strength of 55.5% (compared to the miserly 46% of the Brilliance and Edited – it’s locally available expressions). My sample was from a brand new bottle.

Nose: Peat. Quite sweet. Nuts. Lots of vanilla. Peaches. Oak. Cinnamon. Melon. Musk. Smells quite full bodied. Chocolate. Cherries. Fruit basket. I really like this nose. It doesn’t hold back. Captures, what I now feel is the distillery character, and layers an earthy peatiness on top. 23/25

Palate: Firing on all cylinders. Peat. Mango. Banana. Pineapple. Spices. Oak. Cinnamon. Chocolate. Licorice. Caramel. Quite full bodied. The spices spike and then mellow. The fruits remain consistent through out. It doesn’t give up flavors that easily but that just means you have to spend some time with it. 23/25

Finish: Long. Garam masala. Oak. Peat. 23/25

Balance: 23/25

Strength: Perfectly bottled at 55.5% – I really feel this is a good strength to truly appreciate this spirit. 25/25

Variety: Coaxing flavors from this one is a bit taxing. I would have liked more. And believe me, I tried. 20/25

Quality: Smells and feels top draw. 24/25

Harmony: No off-notes and performs quite consistently over time. 22/25

I would buy another bottle. For sure.

Based on my scores I give this whisky 91.5 points

Amrut Cask Strength – Bottled May 2006

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Distillery/Brand: Amrut | Region: India | ABV: 62.6% | Colour: Deep Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 94

Review

Everyone knows I have a soft spot for Amrut whiskies. It is easily in my Top 3 distilleries of all time. Not because it’s from India (where my wife and so many close friends are from). And not because it’s brand ambassador and Whisky Icon of 2012, Mr Ashok Chokalingam, is a dear friend.

It is actually because they ensure that the local community benefits from gainful employment. They employ scores of women to work in their distillery even though they can quite easily automate the process and save a ton of money.

But they choose not to. And for that they will have my undying respect.

Now add to that extremely lofty work ethic the ability to produce some of the most delicious spirit the planet has ever seen and you will begin to understand my infatuation with this little giant of the whisky industry.

Don’t ask me how but some how I managed to snag the holy grail of Indian whiskies: the first ever cask strength Amrut ever released. A beautifully complex young ‘un that has been first matured in virgin oak and then in first-fill bourbon.

So intense is the transfer of flavor from the bourbon barrels that, before I fact checked with Ashok himself, I was quite convinced that there was some sherry involved in the making. But that’s not the case.

This is a gorgeous cask strength spirit served at 62.6% and bottled in May 2006. My sample is from a brand new bottle.

Nose: Cadbury chocolate. Hint of smoke. Caramel. Oak. Red grapes. Red berries. Clove. Black pepper. Red apple. Demerera sugar. Touch of salt. There is a sweet earthiness to this whisky with the spices in the fore. A few drops of water will make it even more spicy. Tremendous.

Palate: Clove. Chocolate. Fudge. Cinnamon. Garam masala. Red grapes. Caramel. Burn oak. If I didn’t know any better I would think there was some sherry involved. Almost PX like. But now I know it’s the virgin oak. Powerful stuff.

Finish: Long. Oily. Cinnamon. Oak.

As with all Amruts the magnificent oak almost always plays a central role. Such is the case here as well. This is one cracking dram which I’m quite privileged to have gotten my hands on.

And you know the best part? I’m meeting Ashok next week and he has no idea I’m going to serve him this.

Rating: 94

Paul John Brilliance

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Distillery/Brand: Paul John | Region: India | ABV: 46% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 88

Review
Paul John are the newest players to come out of India with some solid single malt offerings (after Amrut of course!). They’ve been in the industry longer than that, though. Since 1992 they have been producing their special style molasses ‘whisky’.

What I didn’t know was that they are the sixth largest producer of whisky in the world (WHAT?) producing over a million cases a month. However, their single malt foray is relatively recent (not more than eight years old).

This was my first Paul John and I can understand what all the commotion is about. Jim Murray thinks very highly of them and I respect that he has made it a point to champion the lone distilleries fighting to carve a niche for them.

Their Master Distiller Michael John (no relation to Paul) started at the distillery in 1995 and is responsible for the distillery’s single malt range. They have also moved from a more traditional Scottish production process to one that is more tailored to their raw ingredients.

Their biggest difference to Scotch is that they use Indian barley in production, Himalayan 6-row grain rather than the more usual 2-row European grain. This gives a lower alcoholic yield than is often found with Scottish production, but gives a more complex wash and thus more potential for flavor in the spirit.

Like Amrut they too have issues of enormous Angels Share (12%-13%) and so their whiskies are quite young.

Paul John Brilliance is part of their standard range and is made solely from unpeated barley and aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%

Nose: Quite delicate. Vanilla. Cucumber. The bourbon influence is quite obvious. Coconut. Mild coffee beans. Nuts. Understated herbs. Milk chocolate. Barley. Oak. Sandalwood. Grist. Honey. Quite pleasant. Reminded me of a typical Speyside whisky.

Palate: Coffee. Chocolate. Star anise. Grist. Ginger. Vanilla. Barley. Natural sugars. Oak. Banana. Tastes like a typical Speysider, too, if you ask me. Quite nice.

Finish: Long. Coffee. Vanilla. Oak. Spices.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this distillery and can’t wait to tuck in to the other expressions.

Rating: 88