Up for a side-by-side glance, nose, and taste, is a duo of single malts from Bangalore, India, distilled by Amrut. This is the very first single malt whisky to be made in India, officially launched outside of the country in 2004, and its name translates from Sanskrit to something akin to “nectar of gods” or, as the company calls it, “Elixir of Life“. There are many other distilleries in India, but only another single malt, Paul John. Meanwhile, Amrut continues to expand its range and limited edition releases [including a single malt seasoned with the orange peel!], but today I am comparing the two offerings from their core range, the Amrut Fusion and the Amrut Peated. So let’s get right into it, shall we? But first, we need music! Now playing: Kuedo – Severant.
Both bottlings are of No Age Statement (NAS), so it’s unclear how old the whisky is in each batch [the internet says it’s about 4 years old]. But due to the climate, the whisky ‘ages faster’. The good news is that the bottles state that the spirit is un-chill filtered and non-coloured, so that’s a great thing for us, offering “the connoisseur the rare opportunity to sample the treasure of India,” as the label proclaims. Besides the obvious fact that the Peated will be smoky in flavour, the most significant difference between the two bottles is the ABV. Surprisingly, the Fusion is bottled at a whopping 50% – something that I find to be somewhat rare in the “standard” and “consumer” bottlings – usually, we’re somewhere around the 43-46% mark. To prove my point, the Peated is at a nice and round 46% ABV, so every time I sip the Fusion, I do a double take on how the alcohol comes across. There is also a version of Amrut Peated Cask Strength bottled at 62.8% ABV, but that’s not what I’m sipping on tonight. Maybe next time. The Fusion gets its name from combing two barleys: 75% from India and 25% from Scotland (the latter is peated), while the Peated does not disclose its barley make-up, though it definitely ups the ante with a 24ppm phenol content (parts per million). Just for comparison, this lies somewhere between Talisker and Jura on the peat content (Ardbeg 10 is somewhere around 55-65ppm). So don’t expect a heavy punch, but do expect more than a bit of smoke here. The Peated is a darker single malt, again more like the Jura colour, while the Fusion is a golden yellow, closer to that of Lagavulin or so.
On the nose, the Fusion is a lovely intake, and I don’t sense that high 50% ABV at all (this is why I am a little surprised). On the nose, it’s got the oak, slight notes of caramel and faint bananas. Let’s see what the Peated now brings to the table, besides, of course, the peat. You know, it’s not so overwhelming with the smoke here, and actually a sense a bit of waxiness behind. It’s almost “darker” on the nose – a promise of complexity like that in leather and toasted walnuts, rather than some fresher fruit that I sensed in the Fusion. OK, let’s finally go in and have a taste! The Fusion comes in smooth but slightly thinner than I’d have expected. It’s got that sweetness of ex-bourbon cask, some spice, and distant peaches. The alcohol is once again not sharp for a 50% ABV. I’ll add a drop or two of water to see if it improves and opens up. The finish’s relatively short and quickly disappears, although there’s still a little sweetness lingering behind. The Peated, as proclaimed, is smokey. The peat is very much like Islay here, not overly medicinal and robust. The internet says that this is Indian barley peated in Scotland at Baird (in Inverness). Not sure why they would ship the barley back and forth, but at least it’s Scottish peat. It’s definitely thicker on the palate than the Fusion, with bits of chewy umami, leathery spices, and a lovely burn of butterscotch. Back to the Fusion now. With water, it has gained a little more aroma, and now ripe mangos, sweet plantains and other juicy fruit stand out on the nose. It’s also better on the palate and goes down easy – the finish is lengthened now a bit but thinner in viscosity. I could just knock this down, I’m afraid, and ask forgiveness later. A bit more water to each dram, and let’s go for that final sip. Yes, Fusion benefited, turning rounder and fuller – I could just drink this in the summer over ice. The Peated kept its punch, but I preferred the “thicker” version – it kind of lost the follow-through with which it has delivered on the smoke.
So, there you have it, folks, two drams from a fantastic distillery. If you see Amrut on the menu, I recommend you order up a double (or, as I do, just order two at once). That being said, I’m partial to the Peated version. I think I can drink this on its own or side by side with other Islay whiskies. I’d love to see how it compares side-by-side with Bowmore, Jura, and maybe even Ledaig. It won’t stand up against the Lagavulin, Ardbeg or Laphroaig in peatiness, so I won’t even bother. At the time of this writing, both bottles are priced somewhere around £60, and if I had to choose, I’d reach out for the Peated while leaving Fusion for a cocktail or on ice. So with that said, I will proclaim the Amrut Peated as the winner and see you next time for another dram or two.