Dec 132013
 

Amrut Single Cask #3436 (Bourbon Cask)Single Cask - Bourbon (425x640)

60% abv

Score:  92/100

 

The last, and quite frankly the best (at least in my humble opinion), of Amrut’s lastest spate of single cask releases bound for the European market.  This is a four year old malt matured in an ex-bourbon barrel.

With bourbon barrels only being a couple hundred litres in capacity, and Amrut’s incredibly high angel’s share, what the distillery was left with at the time of decanting was a mere 174 bottles at a massive bottling strength of 60% abv.  The sad reality is that this whisky is simply too damn good to be released in a batch so small.

Here’s hoping Amrut either a) floods the global market with scores of blindingly brilliant single cask releases (like this one), or b) opts to send all of these limited expressions to Calgary.  

I jest.  Sort of. 

Amrut’s single malt whisky is one which has shown itself to be highly malleable.  We’ve seen beautiful symbiosis between the spirit and peat, port, sherry, rum and combinations thereof.  But the true austere beauty of the malt is best shown in all its naked glory when it’s simply left to slumber in an ex-bourbon barrel.  The singular character of Amrut coming of age in the tight-grained spicy ex-bourbon barrels from the US results in an end product so beautifully balanced and clean, I’m left humbled and awed.   

There’s not a lot more to say really.  The whisky does the talking for me, and I’m just glad to have tasted it. 

Nose:  Creamy chocolate.  Almond and nutmeg.  A little bit of orange.  A fine dusting of cinnamon.  Very high quality hardwood (like you’d smell in a great wood-working shop).  Toasted marshmallow and vanilla.  Quite creamy and ‘doughy’.  Very much in the vein of the Herald or Two Continents.  Beautifully balanced nose.

Palate:  A huge delivery of pure Amrut familiarity.  By now, this is an unmistakable profile.  Warm melting Swiss chocolate.  Cinnamon-spiced cocoa.  Orange zest, mint and ginger.  Nice blend of dried spices.  Stunningly vibrant and tangy on the tongue.

In short:  Absolutely beautiful.  I adore Amrut matured in ex-bourbon.  You can see the purity of the exotic spirit shining through.  While I am a sucker for all of Amrut’s innovative and quirky limited releases, this simplicity is Amrut at its best.

(Thanks to Ashok Chokalingam, Amrut Brand Ambassador, for the opportunity to try these single casks)

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo: 

 Posted by at 10:12 am
Dec 132013
 

Amrut Single Cask #2712 (Port Pipe – Peated)Single Cask- Port Pipe (425x640)

59% abv

Score:  90/100

 

Next up from the recent three malt run of single casks Amrut has just released for the European market…a peated variant matured in a port pipe. 

This isn’t exactly a new idea, but nor is it one that has been executed very often.  Amrut’s take on ‘peat and port’ should be rather interesting, simply due to the spicy and exotic character of their spirit.  There’s a luciousness of fruit that collides with a smoky, ashy character in marriages of this sort.  Something I, personally, find quite appealing, but I concede it can be a bit of a shock to the system for the unprepared. 

Before getting to tasting notes however, just a few thoughts on this release…

Port pipes are large vessels.  Give or take 500 litres, I believe.  The numbers on the packaging (bottle and box) tell the whole story regarding the incredibly unforgiving environmental conditions Amrut is maturing under.  43% of the racked spirit has been lost to evaporation during its four years in the barrel, leaving behind a mere 357 bottles.  This evaporation loss is often referred to as the ‘angel’s share’, as most of you will already know, so it’s not hard to see why Amrut has a malt in their stables called ‘Greedy Angels’, huh? 

I’ve already lauded Amrut’s attempts at transparency in a previous review of their new PX cask, but I want to reiterate…the clarity of information on these releases is well nigh unprecented.  They’re not hiding anything to do with provenance, the youthfulness of their whiskies or the implications of their finances from us.  Check out the images of these three bottles (on each of these reviews here on ATW).  The labels tell tales of the barley being Indian or Scottish; of  the strength of character not to hide behind the shield of an ‘NAS’ brand; and by showing us the loss rate, it’s a little easier to understand Amrut’s pricing tiers (which are entirely reasonable, I would – and have – argue(d).)

All of that aside, this is a really fine single malt.  Unmistakeably unique and absolutely worth hunting down.  The playful interaction between salty iodine notes and big plummy grape notes are a mouthwatering combination, and leave me lamenting the fact that this dram won’t be making the seafaring voyage to our foreign and exotic shores.  Le sigh.

Nose:  A lot of really lovely chocolate.  A fair bit of peat that manages to stand rather independent of the smoke.  Damp ash meets dark earthy soil (very cool nuances here!).  Iodine and grape.  Fresh orange juice.  There’s a dark smokiness, but it’s very juicy, not dry.  I can still pick up on that typical Amrut spicy cereal note even through all of the peat and port.  Surprisingly creamy with a bit of a vanilla skeleton.

Palate:  This is salty dram.  One that has a great meaty/sour mix (in an absolutely pleasant tingling sensory way).  I love it.  Smoked fruits…weird but awesome.  A lot of juicy grape and a bit of citrus.  This carries a similar profile to the BenRiach Solstice (which I also loved, incidentally), but do note…the Solstice was a fifteen year old whisky…while this is only four!

This is single malt for the forward-thinking.  It’s a little outside the norm, and definitely a whisky that will be hard to forget.  Hopefully Amrut will consider adding something like this as a part of the core range, or at least something to be released in small batches in an ongoing basis.

(Thanks to Ashok Chokalingam, Amrut Brand Ambassador, for the opportunity to try these single casks)

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:

 Posted by at 8:15 am
Dec 132013
 

Amrut Single Cask #2703 (PX Sherry)Single Cask- PX (425x640)

56.5% abv

Score:  88/100

 

One of three new European exclusive releases from Amrut.  While I was hoping to nab at least one of each, I guess it wasn’t meant to be.  I s’pose I’ll have to drown my innumerable sorrows in drams of Intermediate Sherry and Portonova.  ‘It’s a hard knock life’, and all that.

In a nifty move that I think others in the industry should follow, Amrut has put a clear and concise little ‘info table’ front and center on their packaging here.  Many single cask releases share several of these details (albeit often spread out all over the label/packaging), but Amrut have gone a step further in a very forthright approach.  Also…again in a step of innovation…they’ve offered up the stats on their maturation loss.  Whisky nerds: delight!  One more bit of trivia for us to engage in endless forum debate over.  Honestly…I love this.  It would be (and will be) a great point of discussion comparing these stats across ages, warehouses and continents.

In the case of this young (4 years, 2 months) Pedro Ximenez-matured Amrut, the total volume loss was 39% of the initial casking.  Wow.  Incredible that a sherry butt (give or take 500 litres) only nets 345 bottles a mere four years after hitting wood.  While the loss of volume by the time of bottling is comparable to a well-matured Scotch whisky, fortunately for us so is the state of maturation.  As is typical of Amrut, this is a whisky aged beyond its years.

Details aside, for those of you who just want to know if it’s good…the short answer is ‘yes’.  Not my favorite Amrut, but a tasty addition to their expansive range.  To be completely honest, however, this one feels just slightly ‘over’ to me.  Like maybe it should have been bottled a few months earlier.  Imagine…a whisky that is merely a toddler in terms of human years as being at the cusp of over-matured.  Having said that…this one still stands tall enough to see over the heads of many others out there.  A solid offering again.

Nose:  Surprisingly, there is a little bit of tart red apple right up front.  I’ve never picked that up on an Amrut before.  Good strong cigar leaf and well-oiled leather.  Sharp chocolate notes.  It’s still easy to pick up malted barley here.  A lot of spices, complexly married into a neat whole.  Sort of reminds of an older Dalmore on the nose.

Palate:  There is almost a meatiness here, met with malt.  Coffee and over-roasted nuts.  Dark toffee and even darker dried fruits.  Burnt orange peelings.  Very tannic.  Very thick.  Apple skins on the finish.  This is heavy and oppressive sherry.  Great late evening drink.

I’m not usually a water in whisky kinda guy, but this one swims very well.  I’d actually recommend a few drops of water to cushion the more overt sherry notes and bring out more of those sublime sweet notes that PX is known for.  A couple drops of water adds even more harmony and balance.  A very different Amrut from what I’m used to.  Neat to see another side.

(Thanks to Ashok Chokalingam, Amrut Brand Ambassador, for the opportunity to try these single casks)

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo: 

 Posted by at 7:08 am
Dec 022013
 

Master Of Malt – That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Late last year (2012), the good folk at Master of Malt launched a new line of independent bottlings.  Perhaps it was a retaliatory gesture aimed at the creative geniuses behind the Dali-esque naming conventions and abstract tasting notes of the SMWS.  Or maybe it was a shot at Edradour in the way of ‘Aha!  We too can dupe the public into spending much on wee 50cl (500ml) bottles!’  Or maybe, just maybe…it was simply because they had access to some really good whisky and wanted to provide another alternative in the ever expansive market of independent bottling.   

Either way, all three scenarios are met head on with the new brand ‘That Boutique-y Whisky Company’.  The niche here is how utterly ridiculous these bottles look nestled amidst the shelves of austere single malt Scotch whisky packaging.  Each label is adorned with comic book-esque drawings artistically reminiscent of a cross between ‘Where’s Waldo’, ‘Tintin’ and ‘Beavis And Butthead’.  The images are not random bits of artistic tomfoolery, however.  They are rather cleverly reflective of the distilleries captured within the glass, and depict some subtle secrets and whisky geekery, sure to have the whiskily-inclined salivating at unraveling all of the hidden meanings.

Now…much like the old adage ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’, it would be a big mistake to dismiss these releases as novelty items.  I mean really big mistake.  As much as the purists may prefer a more…ummm…elegant outward appearance for our snooty tipple’s daily wardrobe, the simple fact of the matter is as mentioned above:  there is some damn good whisky in these bottles.  As soon as these are naked in the glass, all doubt disappears.  We’ll come to some actual tasting notes and details in just a moment.

A little on the bottings themselves…

Each release is wax-sealed, cask strength and non chill-filtered.  Further, in a rather interesting move…they are also non age statement (NAS) whiskies.  If I understand correctly though, these are not single cask releases.  Rather they are built in small ‘parcels’ to a specific desired quality.  *(If I’m wrong here, please correct me).  Either way…the NAS approach will allow Master Of Malt much greater future flexibility in regard to batch variance.  Rest assured, friends…if any of you are naturally cynical about the whole NAS concept (and I know many of you are, especially in light of the whole 1824 deal) …these are not young whiskies.  You can tell just by nosing.

One other point to note:  While other independent bottlers seem to be struggling for some variety in their portfolios, MofM have managed releases from Port Ellen, Brora, Ardbeg, Macallan, Caperdonich, etc.  Neat stuff. 

At this point I am won over.  Can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Forgive the quality of photos (or lack thereof).  They were thrown together rather quickly in the  shop.

 

Secret Distillery (Batch 1)045

55.4% abv     486 bottles

Score:  89/100

Nose:  Tobacco and raisins.  Cinnamon and fresh scones.  Some floral notes.  Baking spices.  Fudge and caramel macchiato.  Honey.  Creamy caramel with fruit.  Rich, rich, rich.

Palate:  Surprisingly tart up front.  Followed by big, dark intimidating fruitcake notes.  Then some apple.  Think a’bunadh meets amaretto with a wee splash of Southern comfort.

Thoughts:  A neat one.  Both in character and out of character at the same time.  Like seeing this distillery in another dimension.

*Secret Distillery’s real name rhymes with Ben Schmarclas.

 

Macallan (Batch 3)048

43.4% abv     245 bottles

Score:  86.5/100

Nose:  Bread dough.  Nice spices..and lots of ’em.  Some apple pie, heavy on the cinnamon.  Some old library notes.  Buttery sauce.  A little atypical of Macallan.

Palate:  Creamy and spicy.  A fair bit of dry oak.  Over-toasted marshmallow.  Grape skins.  Bitter chocolate.  Fairly tannic.  Zippy with spice and very pleasing apple notes.

Thoughts:  Not a bad whisky, but the low, low abv makes me think this one cooked in the warehouse for a while.  If this is indeed and older dram…I’m a tad underwhelmed.

 

Clynelish (Batch 2)042

50.6% abv     319 bottles

Score:  92/100

Nose:  Lavender and perfume.  Some pepper.  Nougat and honey.  Lemon poppyseed muffins.  A little orange juice.

Palate:  Wow!!  Old wax and dunnage warehouse.  Just extinguished candle.  Oil lamp.  Charred oak.  Some smoke.  Sooooo old school.  Cinnamon.  Apple juice and skins at the back end.  One of the all time great palates.  Loved it.

Thoughts:  Some disconnect between nose and palate, but they are at least complimentary.  The palate though…gad!…extra points for sure.  Just wow!

 

Springbank (Batch 2)053

53.1% abv     450 bottles

Score:  88.5/100

Nose:  Pickle.  Dust and pine.  A bit of peat, yeah.  Flinty.  Winter wood fire.  Clove and pepper.  Pine sap.  So odd…so unique…so intriguing.

Palate:  Now there’s the smoke.  Kinda oily.  Notes that should only be found in older whisky (wonder how old this actually is).  Some great sweetness meets the machine smoke.  Some figgy notes with honey.  Smoked fruit skins.  Pear, apple and currant.

Thoughts:  Very different for a Springbank.  The pine and pickle notes really threw me off, but surprisingly…worked out just fine in this one.  I liked it.

 

Highland Park (Batch 1)047

44.7% abv     241 bottles

Score:  88/100

Nose:  Sweet nose with a great composition.  Tangy jam note.  Peach, orange and lemon.  Warm leather and a very inviting salty note (makes the mouth water just inhaling it).  A touch of oil.

Palate:  Smoke and earthy notes.  Hay.  A mix of green and purple grapes.  Walnut.  Old school heft and some moderately subtle sherry-like tang.  Tart marmalade.

Thoughts:  Balance, balance, balance.  Again…a little out of character, but not too far off the path.  Not bad at all.

 

Bowmore (Batch 2)038

49% abv     292 bottles

Score:  89.5/100

Nose:  Farmy and iodione-heavy.  Rubber, smoke and other such.  Lemon zest.  Damp soil.  Smoky fruits.  Gravel dust.  Dry ash.  Sultanas.  Develops a bit of orange and some creaminess, surprisingly…but only if you give it a bit of time.

Palate:  Oh yeah!  Oily..smoky…earthy, and rich in dark red and purple fruits.  Think Laimrig meets motor oil.  Plum and purple grape.

Thoughts:  A well-earned 89.5.  Maybe even closer to a 90.  This is a neat Bowmore.  These recent profiles that combine jammy fruit notes and industrial oiliness…win.  Just win.

 

Caol Ila (Batch 1)039

45.8% abv     732 bottles

Score:  88/100

Nose:  Prickly and briny.  Peat and smoke.  Sweet and citric at the same time.  Orange oil.  Olives.  Candy sweetness.  A dusting of salt and pepper.

Palate:  Very Caol Ila.  Some melon with citrus.  Toffee and smoke.  Oyster with salt, pepper and lemon.  Wet rock.  Ocean shoreline.  oil.  There are some notes that make me think of Kilchoman (if that distillery’s malt were a little more mature).

Thoughts:  Damn decent Caol Ila, but definitely not the best of the indies I’ve tried.  Particularly liked the oceanic notes and oily saltiness.

 

Look forward to future releases.

Thanks to our mate, Andrew Ferguson at Kensington Wine Market, for the chance to try these. 

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 1:19 pm