I usually enjoy Amrut. A lot. For me, Kadhambam is just a great whisky, definitely on my top-twenty list of personal favourites; Fusion is a good one; and I really enjoyed naarangi; some of their single casks are really nice, too. I have an affinity with their style, it seems. But what happens when I try an Amrut and I don’t even know that that is what I’m drinking? The tasting notes below were written for an online blind tasting. They are coloured by me trying to guess what whisky I was drinking; I could edit those parts out, but then again, I think that would be less fun for you to read. And hey, at least I got the distillery right, at the very end!
On the nose: the absolute first impression goes out to Hazelburn 10 year old: mineral, sherried, and a weak hint of peat. This has definitely been matured in sherry casks, or a mix of sherry casks and some bourbon casks. There is an ”edge” of alcohol, but I don’t believe this is stronger than 46% [hahaha, how wrong I was!]. I don’t find dried fruits as much as fresh fruits; it is a sort of grand sherried whisky without it becoming a somewhat one-sided sherry bomb (like say the GlenDronach 12 YO); there is a whole pebble sea beach here, giving off loads of mineral notes. Apart from the very strong mineral tones, I find christmas cake; those kinds of kind of wet cakes the English make, with some booze in them, is it sponge cake they are called? Fresh apricots; some spices I just can not seem to be able to pinpoint. Ginger powder, perhaps? With water: the whisky deepens, the oak comes forth, ”darker” fruits emerge; there is a slightly stronger hint of peat, too. The development with water added is wonderful. A touch of burnt sugar. (I actually find this nose to be very much like an Amrut, I don’t know why; there is something about this blend of something rather heavy and un-nuanced and a certain touch of youth which leads to me thinking this might be Amrut. Given the somewhat astringent bitterness, this might be the Amrut Portonova.)
On the palate: as expected, this is not cask strength, and not complex enough for a (slightly older, say 12 YO) Hazelburn. A nice sherried dram with a certain peppery quality to it, lots of banana, while coffee and cocoa are also at the forefront. It’s a screamer of a whisky! With water: more peppery, more herbal, and almost… prickly, if that is the right English word for when the alcohol kind of attacks your mouth a little. The fruits from the nose don’t really follow, again implying a slighly younger dram.
Finish: oh, but where did you go, my friend? It just vanishes! After a brief while though, lots of things happen. There’s that slightly astringent bitterness which many have a hard time with in whiskies which have been matured or finished in port casks, but which I enjoy so much. Also, lots of fruit, both citrus fruits and something drawing towards the direction of apricots, and even mangoes. Some burnt oak. A slight touch of ashes. With water: again pricklier, more herbal; if there have been bourbon casks involved, they really reveal themselves here. The nose really improved with water, but on the palate and in the finish, less so. Or perhaps I failed to succeed in how much or little I watered it? However, there is a nice connection between the mineral tones on the nose and the same mineral tones returning here at the very end of the finish.
Comments: I believe this whisky is fairly young, definitely younger than 12 years; I usually enjoy my peated whiskies at a young age, while when it comes to sherried drams, I prefer them slightly older. I would like for this one to age a little more, but it shows great potential. A good dram, definitely, but not an amazing one. My guess is that this whisky is at 43 rather than 46% [again, how wrong I was!!], and my bet is still on Hazelburn. Let’s say Hazelburn Octarine, their 8 YO. But wait, no – I’m more and more beginning to lean towards the Amrut Portonova as my main guess. And these two are very different whiskies, too! No, I’ll change my guess and say that this is Amrut Portonova.
Here, my blind tasting notes for that evening a while back end. As you already know from the heading of this blog post, the answer to the riddle was Amrut intermediate sherry. It is called intermediate since it has been matured in three steps: first in bourbon cask, then sherry casks, and then back to bourbon casks. (The cask policies of Amrut, with creative exploration and innovation at the very heart of their business, is something I admire deeply. Whenever they release a new whisky, it seems like they have invented something new, every time.) This link to whiskybase is for the first batch, released back in 2008; the one I tried was from batch 15, bottled in August of 2014.
Normally, the easiest part of any blind tasting is guessing the alcohol level. In this blind tasting, carried out together with some really experienced whisky drinkers, most thought the whisky was at 46%. It is, in fact, bottled at a staggering 57,1%. That you can drink it neat and think it’s 46 and even, as I thought, at 43, is as good a tribute as any to this powerful and well-made whisky.