Single Malt Whisky Of India

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By Shreekanth Iyer on 11 Jul 2012 |
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Single Malt Whisky Of India

THE ANGELS SHARE…. this is what Mr. Neelakanta Rao R Jagdale, managing director of Amrut Distilleries calls that part of the whisky which evaporates and is lost, when being matured. What a beautiful thought. The IWSC (International Wine & Spirit Competition) 2012, gave a bronze to his brand, ‘Amrut Fusion’ putting it on the world map of single malt whiskies and making it India’s most famous single malt whisky.

This is really a surprise, for in India where whisky is drunk more for its affect than its taste, and the fact that it’s always been the Scottish mountain stream waters and the back wood creeks of the US which were supposed to give the flavors much appreciated in whisky.

Cut to the year 2000 when a few casks of whisky were reserved in Amrut Distilleries as a forerunner by the prodigal son of the MD, Rakshit Jagdale who then had done his MBA in marketing and had studied the Single Malt market as a part of his thesis, launched their entry into the Single Malt market in England with the brand name ‘Amrut Indian Single Malt, with 40 per cent alcohol.

The ‘Amrut’ (Elexir) name was retained and they have not looked back since. For a period whisky drinking had lost its charm in the US, with other white spirits taking the lead, as they were more suited to the making of cocktails and were more adaptable and did not need a cultivated taste as a requirement for their enjoyment.

The trends in the US are followed in India and the world over and there was a slump in whisky consumption, the TV series ‘Mad Men’ rekindled the whisky drinking trend in the US and India and the world followed suit. Single malt whiskies are made only with malted barley the singleness is in the type of grain used.

Barley is soaked in water and allowed to germinate for 4-5 days, after which its ground to a rough flour or grist which is then fermented and distilled. The alcohol so obtained is diluted and matured. The oak casks used in the process of maturation differ to give varying color and taste. Casks in which Sherry or bourbon had been matured are used or Port pipes are used to impart the desired flavor. They may or may not be blended again as the master blender sees fit.

A new single malt brand in the world of single malts but Amrut already has nine different whiskies from its original one, and while sniffing a maturing whisky Mr. Surrinder Kumar (Vice President) says, “Peat, a fossil fuel traditionally used in Scotland to dry malted barley before distillation, imparts a distinct smoky flavor to the whisky.

The peat flavor hides between the flavors of sherry and the barley. This has 64 per cent alcohol and it will soon be ready for a single-barrel release. Barley strains, cultivated chiefly in Punjab and Haryana, produce smaller grains with more flavors. But the peat has to be imported from Scotland.

In Scotland the whisky takes 12 years to mature, but in India the maturation is reached in about 4 years, because of the higher temperatures, but the evaporation of the whisky during the maturation process is more, whereas it is about 2% in Scotland. In India it is as high as 10-11% leaving only about half the original quantity left for maturation.

This makes the whisky even more expensive than premium scotch whiskies, in spite of which the two brands sold in India and that too only in Bangalore, ‘Amrut Fusion’ and ‘Amrut Indian Single Malt’ are doing very well. May the ‘Angels Share’ bring them greater success and bring better quality.

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Shreekanth Iyer

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