The oldest distillery in India started producing whisky circa 19th century. So let's start with the definition of "whisky" for India shall we. The majority of whiskies that are made in India are molasses based so by most countries standards it's really more like a rum BUT this is what India calls whisky. Believe it or not, I quickly found 6 distilleries listed for India: Kasauli, Bharat, Rampur, Sikkim, South Seas, and Amrut, who knew? Some of the brand names are Bagpiper and McDowell's (notice a Scottish envy?) Why don't we see many Indian whiskies on the market: There is only one that meets the definition of whisky because of trade barriers, i.e rule that molasses based spirits are NOT whisky. So, the one we do end up seeing is Amrut.
|Nikam, JN Jagdale & R Jagdale - Amrut Distilleries|
In 1948 a MBA student in Newcastle UK received a challenge from his father to market an Indian Single Malt in the "whisky homeland" of Scotland. Challenge accepted and 56 years later his grandson launched Amrut whisky, the first Indian Single Malt Brand. It was a long and hard road. They had to conform to EU's tough packaging laws and prove their whiskies met all the standards required. I can't speak for the thousands of people that love this stuff, but I can speak for myself. Am I ever glad they didn't give up and continued working toward the goal of this single malt whisky. Jim Murray rated Amrut Fusion third best whisky in 2010 giving it 97 points. This shot it to whisky stardom and it quickly became a MUST have single malt. I didn't even know it existed until last year. I was at at a whisky show and it wasn't "touted" as the 3rd best whisky in the world. I tried it simply because. I bought it, and have several times since then (I keep emptying the bottle!?). I share it with as many people as I can on a regular basis if anything just to watch the look on their face when we tell them it's Indian. Not that I'm keeping track, but I think 17 people have started drinking it since we've bought it. That's got to tell you something. This is good quality whisky!
Now most people know that the Angel's Share is usually about 2%, in Scotland and most other countries. In India however the Angel's Share is 12%. That means the whiskies don't get to age as long and much more product is loss on a yearly basis. As an example let's start with a 250L barrel, after 10 years there would be 70L left... that's 72% of the product evaporated, gone. Will be interesting to see how many, if any age statement whiskies we ever see come out of this distillery. I can't help but wonder if this is why they decided to try and create a whisky that would mature a bit more slowly and in a colder environment so that they would end up with much more product?
So what makes Two Continents so different: They started with Indian barley and created their single malt in Bangalore (A city that sits well above 3000 feet above sea level). Four casks of this whisky were shipped from India to a "secret location" in a colder climate somewhere in Europe where it slept for two years. Unlike the first edition, second fill bourbon casks were used. Only 900 bottles were released to Europe, Canada and the rest of the world. I don't know how many were brought to Canada, but I am thrilled I received a bottle. It may be another 2-3 years before the 3rd release comes out. I will have to force myself not to drink mine so quickly or try to get myself another bottle. Tough decisions...
AMRUT TWO CONTINENTS SINGLE MALT 2ND EDITION, 50% ABV
Color: Light gold color. Nice viscous whisky, really sticks to the glass. Legs are not very plentiful but slow running.
Nose: Such a lovely nose: Citrus custard - very creamy! I also get plenty of golden raisins. There is alot of spice on this one: cardomom, cloves, nutmeg and maybe a bit of anise. Once I added water I was overwhelmed with honey and vanilla, reminded me of a graham cracker crust. Then some dark chocolate appears with a bit of orange. Very lovely nose indeed.
Palate: Unlike alot of whiskies where I find the flavors are so muted once I taste it, not so. Mouthwatering full bodied dram. A nice oak appears, almost as a surprise. With water added, the flavors become mellow. A bit of sugared almonds comes alive and then the oak really comes out. Spice is still there, but again not as strong as the nose.
Finish: So luxurious and fairly long. Silky with a hint of pepper and surprisingly for me, still a bit of fruitiness. I can't think of any other dram where I have had so much fruit on the finish.
Empty glass: Hot buttered rum
Needless to say, this is really a great dram for me. I absolutely love it. I know it's fairly expensive at $100/bottle but for me it's worth every penny. I know many whisky die hards that can't believe I would pay that much money for a No Age Statement (NAS) whisky however I would easily compare this to and in some cases I think it would surpass the following: Arbeg Uigeadail, Macallan Cask Strength or even the Auchentoshan 18. Now I know some will say you can't compare some of these, but I'm talking $$ not necessarily flavor profiles.
So this is available in Canada right now (Kensington Wine Market in Calgary, today's date November 8th it's 10% off) for $90.89. I looked around a few sites in the states and didn't find anything and it looks like it's mostly sold out on UK market too.
It's a very special dram. I would recommend buying it for many reasons. It's a "splurge" whisky for me and I deserve to splurge on myself from time to time.
They say if you go to India it changes you. I doubt I'll ever get there, but if Amrut is any indication, it certainly has changed how I think about whisky. I hope it will for you too.
Enveloping myself with the whisky fabric!