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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Indian Whisky

It’s Indian whisky, my friend

Indian whisky brands sell a staggering amount on their home turf but much of what is sold as ‘whisky’ wouldn’t be recognised as such in the EU or America. But…

Indian whisky brands sell a staggering amount on their home turf but much of what is sold as ‘whisky’ wouldn’t be recognised as such in the EU or America. But now this distilling giant is producing single malts to take on the world. Ian Buxton takes a closer look at the biggest whisky market of all.

What’s the best-selling whisky in the world? You’d probably guess Johnnie Walker, or perhaps Jack Daniel’s. You’d be wrong. In fact, it’s Officer’s Choice, which outsells Walker roughly two to one. Diageo’s global behemoth is also outpaced by a number of other little-known brands such as McDowell’s No. 1, Imperial Blue and Royal Stag.

Of course, ‘little-known’ is quite incorrect.  As befits their staggering sales – Officer’s Choice alone sells over 32 million cases annually – they are very well known indeed in their home market, which just happens to be India, the world’s largest whisky market. Even the tenth biggest seller, Bagpiper, accounts for some 6 million cases which would make it easily the world’s third largest selling Scotch. It’s not as it happens, though you might think the name and packaging just a trifle confusing.

For years, most of us outside India have tended to look down on Indian whisky, if we thought about it at all. Quite a number of the cheaper brands are distilled from molasses, which makes them rum in the eyes of EU and US regulators, hence the fact that they never appear on our shelves. The better Indian whiskies, however, are distilled from grain and frequently blended with a proportion of real Scotch. Scots distillers aren’t above shipping bulk whiskies to India for local bottling with Indian-made spirit, it’s just that they don’t make much noise about it.

The inability of the huge Indian distilling industry to sell most of its products in the EU has long been a source of friction and partly accounts for India’s significant tariff barriers on imported Scotch (up to 150% with additional regulations at individual state level). However, in recent years the more innovative Indian distillers have been producing single malt whiskies that meet EU legislation in full and, from a slow start, have been gaining sales here.

Ashok Chokalingam from Amrut in action

One of the pioneers was Amrut Distilleries, based in Bangalore who first launched in the UK in August 2004 in Glasgow. Since then they have collected both awards and appreciative fans who look to Amrut for both flavour and value.  Because of the rapid maturation of Indian whiskies and their willingness to experiment with finishes there has been a steady stream of releases and there is more to come. “We have released three different versions of Greedy Angels 10 Years Old last year and a single grain (first ever single grain whisky from India and one more first from India),” master distiller and head of international sales, Ashok Chokalingam told me. “In 2020 we are planning to release a number of exciting single casks for a number of countries, mainly for Europe and America. Also one more first of its kind is planned from India by May 2020,” he added intriguingly.

Amrut have progressively moved up-market: the 2019 Greedy Angels release commands a near-£700 price tag, albeit at 55% ABV. Stocks are very limited but such is the demand that a price hitherto unimaginable for whisky from the sub-continent can be sustained. Similarly, the Paul John range from John Distilleries of Goa also includes a number of interesting variants at £100+ prices.

Nor have rivals been idle. Rampur, based in the foothills of the Himalayas and one of India’s oldest distilleries, currently offers its Select single malt expression with a Double Cask and PX sherry finish variant due to follow shortly. Well informed critics tell me that Double Cask is an excellent product. “Rather nice” is how one understated Scots distiller described it; which, take it from me, is praise indeed. But then, this is a serious distilling operation – the company’s 8PM blend is one of India’s top ten whiskies, with annual volumes estimated to exceed 7 million cases.

Rampur Double Cask, “rather nice”

No surprise then, that Rampur has been looking at the lucrative European markets with interest and employing Scottish expertise to provide the essential skills. The legendary Dr Jim Swan was involved in their early single malt production and, more recently, former Diageo master distiller Charlie Smith (once of Talisker and latterly responsible for getting Ballindalloch up and running) has been working to install new distilling plant with a production potential approaching 2 million litres of spirit annually.

The new distillery will be capable of producing two distinct spirit types (think Roseisle) and is to be supported by new warehousing facilities with sophisticated humidity control to combat the estimated 12% angel’s share. These are substantial investments and indicative of the serious long-term thinking behind this project and the company’s commitment to quality.

Perhaps then, it’s time to rethink our attitude to Indian whisky.

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks. A former marketing director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

 

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Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Broaden your horizons and discover something new with this selection of sublime world whiskies! We love the history and tradition of whisky, from the many classic expressions to the legendary…

Broaden your horizons and discover something new with this selection of sublime world whiskies!

We love the history and tradition of whisky, from the many classic expressions to the legendary old distilleries. But whisky is also an ever-expanding category that’s ripe with innovation. It seems like everyday new nations are joining in the fun of distilling the good stuff while adding their own spin on what it is that makes great whisky. We’re deeply fond of this development and are delighted to champion the many wonderful producers that make whisky all across the globe. Which is why we’ve made this handy little list of some of our favourites, so you can indulge in an expression from India, South Africa, Sweden and more!

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Amrut Fusion 

Amrut Fusion is truly a world whisky as it was made from a mix of 75% unpeated Indian barley and 25% peated Scottish barley. These were distilled separately and aged for four years, then ‘fused’ together for a further three months. That’s why it’s called Fusion. See? Anyway, the whisky is delicious.

What does it taste like?:

Rich barley, fruity, citrus, gentle peat, coffee, dark chocolate, marmalade, baking spices and creamy sweetness. 

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Lot 40 Rye Whisky 

Canadian whisky deserves a bigger spotlight, so why not enjoy a legendary expression from Lot 40. A Canadian rye whisky that is produced in a single copper pot still, Lot 40 Rye Whisky was named after the plot of land home to the historic Ontario farm of Canadian pioneer, politician and distiller Joshua Booth, the ancestor of one of Hiram Walker’s distillers.

What does it taste like?:

Earthy rye is backed up by caramel, cardamom pod, peppery coriander, brown sugar, fresh vanilla pod sweetness, fig and flamed orange peel.

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Mackmyra Äppelblom 

Äppelblom, which means apple blossom, is distilled at Mackmyra and matured initially in bourbon and new American oak casks before it was finished in oak casks which previously held Calvados from Christian Drouin, one of the world’s leading Calvados producers. It’s recommended that you serve the fresh and spicy whisky alongside a warm apple dessert or even apple sorbet, which sounds amazing.

What does it taste like?:

Toasted oak, orchard fruits, pear, lemon, delicate floral notes, sweet vanilla, toffee, cedar, aniseed, caramelised almonds, white pepper and ginger spiciness.

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky 

South Africa’s first-ever single grain whisky and the winner of the Best South African Grain at the World Whiskies Awards 2019, Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky was named after the chap who built the first roads in Wellington. It was distilled in column stills at The James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington and matured in first-fill American oak casks previously used for the maturation of bourbon, first for three years before being finished in a fresh set of casks for a further 18 to 30 months.

What does it taste like?:

Grapefruit peels, custard creams, icing sugar, nutmeg, fresh pear, banana, cardamom, meadowsweet and vanilla sugar. 

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Starward Two-Fold 

From the wonderful Starward in Melbourne, Two-Fold takes its name from the production process of this delicious Australian whisky, which combines spirits made from malted barley and wheat before the two are matured entirely in Australian red wine casks. It took home the prize of Best Australian Blend at the World Whiskies Awards 2019, continuing our winning theme.

What does it taste like?:

Banana bread, caramelised dates, nutty malt, soft vanilla fudge, brown sugar, cinnamon, pepper, coffee and walnut cake, summer berries and stewed stone fruit.

 

Explore the world via your tasting glass!

Smooth Ambler Old Scout American Whiskey 107 Proof 

Smooth Ambler Old Scout American Whiskey 107 Proof is a variation of their Old Scout American Whiskey bottled at 107 proof (that’s 53.5% ABV for those of us here in the UK). Expect a full-bodied, spicy and tasty expression from those delightful distillers in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.

What does it taste like?:

Roasted coffee beans, burnt caramel, a good kick of cumin, floral vanilla, fresh ginger, fragrant oak, fiery cinnamon, fudge, mango and sponge cake.

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Celebrate The Holi Festival and Win Great Prizes!

Holi, the spring festival of colours, is almost upon us. You know, it’s the one with all the powder and paint that always looks like loads and loads of fun!…

Holi Festival of Colours Paul John Indian Whisky

Holi, the spring festival of colours, is almost upon us. You know, it’s the one with all the powder and paint that always looks like loads and loads of fun! This year we’ve teamed up with our friends at Paul John to offer you a fantastic opportunity to get involved – one that includes delicious whisky and prizes…

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Whisky Santa’s Whisky Advent Day 13: Paul John Edited

Indian single malt, eh? Something you may or may not have tried before, but as a man of the world I can assure you that top quality whisky is now…

Paul John Edited

Indian single malt, eh? Something you may or may not have tried before, but as a man of the world I can assure you that top quality whisky is now being produced across the globe! The Paul John you’ll find in the Whisky Advent Calendar today is produced in Goa, India by John Distilleries and their master distiller, Michael John (amusingly, no relation).

Their Edited expression is made using whiskies produced from both Indian 6-row barley from the Himalayan foothills and peated barley from Scotland, with the final single malt containing 15% of the peated spirit. It’s matured in bourbon casks for probably around 3-5 years but, as with fellow Indian whisky Amrut, the tropical climate causes greater evaporation (around 12-13% a year compared to ‘only’ 2% or so in Scotland). This in turn means they effectively mature faster and even if there’s no real substitute for time, the results are darned impressive!

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Ask #WhiskySanta… He’ll grant one wish per day!

Greetings, chums. It’s your favourite festive, omniscient, supernatural, heavily-bearded being here, Whisky Santa! Around this time of year, I always start feeling particularly generous. Usually I just give the reindeer…

Whisky Santa Pug

Greetings, chums. It’s your favourite festive, omniscient, supernatural, heavily-bearded being here, Whisky Santa! Around this time of year, I always start feeling particularly generous. Usually I just give the reindeer some extra carrots and be done with it, but this year, I’m going all out with the presents for drinks fans. I’ve already upgraded 1 in 10 Whisky Advent Calendars to Premium Whisky Advent Calendars, and now, I’m going to grant one wish per day for you lucky people!

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Amrut Fusion – East Meets West

At Master of Malt, we’ve loved Amrut’s releases over the years, especially the awesome cask strength bottlings! Now Jim Murray has declared Amrut Fusion to be the Third Finest Whisky…

At Master of Malt, we’ve loved Amrut’s releases over the years, especially the awesome cask strength bottlings! Now Jim Murray has declared Amrut Fusion to be the Third Finest Whisky in the World with a whopping 97 points, we thought we’d have to offer our thoughts…

A little about the distillery…

The Amrut distillery was founded in Bangalore (or Bengaḷūru as it’s known in India), an area known as India’s Silicon Valley. Originally producing dark rums and brandy, it wasn’t until the ‘80s that Amrut began to distil single malt.

Interestingly, Indian whisky is bottled after only a few years of ageing. The reason for this is the intense climate which speeds maturation to the extent that 12% of each barrel is lost every year to the angels’ share (more than 6 times that of Scotland!).

To create something completely original Amrut distilled Fusion from both Indian and Scottish barley and before tasting we’re already expecting Amrut’s trademark fruity, malty house style, so here goes…

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