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Blackadder Raw Cask Amrut

Ah, India.

It’s a country packed full of, well… everything. People, mostly. But also sensations: sights, sounds, aromas, and flavors.

If you’ve been, you know what I mean. If you haven’t: imagine all your senses being overwhelmed simultaneously by an onslaught of stimulation from every angle. There’s so much to see, so many things happening at once. Did I mention the smell?

See, there’s two types of people in the world: Munich people and Mumbai people. The former likes things neat, tidy, orderly, predictable. And that’s fine. I suspect, at heart, that I’m one of them.

But then there are the others. As Kerouac put it: “the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’” For people of this persuasion, India is like Hemingway’s Paris; it stays with them and nourishes them forever.

That is my preamble to this remarkable whisky, which manages to channel the manic, multifaceted, enveloping, evolving aspects of the subcontinent. More on that in a moment.

Amrut has met with mixed success here at MALT. Adam lavished praise on the Spectrum 004 and Mark seemed charmed by the Fusion mix of Indian and Scottish barley (refer to that piece for a succinct history of the enterprise). However, Adam also appended a comparatively poor review of the Raj Igala to a rant about terroir. As this is my first exposure to Amrut, I’m hoping for more of the former and less of the latter.

Before considering the whisky, though, let’s consider the source.

This was bottled by Blackadder, an independent bottler which – remarkably – has yet to garner any coverage here on MALT. Blackadder was started in 1995 by Robin Tucek, co-author of “The Whisky File” and founder of the Master of Malt. The company remains family owned, with Robin’s kids Michael and Hannah helping to run the business.

Blackadder produces whisky under a number of labels, including Black Snake (a vatted single malt) and Red Snake (a single cask single malt). Of most interest to us is the Raw Cask range. These are bottled at cask strength, without added color or chill filtration, and containing cask sediment. The company’s stated goal is to present these whiskies in their natural state, with no loss of texture or flavor. Sounds like my bag, baby.

I reached out to Blackadder to get more details about this cask (particularly age, which would be fascinating to know given the quality of this), but they declined to provide additional information. They did note that this release was very popular and sold out quickly.

All that aside: this is Indian single malt whisky from cask #BA26-2017, bottled at 61.3%. Retail price is $160, but I was able to pick up this bottle for $120 as part of an end-of-bin sale.

Blackadder Raw Cask Amrut – Review

Color: Dirty Dekopon

On the nose: Exotic, almost indescribably so. Underripe bananas, incense, mukhwas. Smoky, meaty note of summer sausage. Some earthily-fruity scents of stewed prunes, a nip of cocoa powder, and the enveloping humid, leafy greenness of the jungle.

In the mouth: Overwhelming and all-encompassing. Smoothly and sweetly creamy to start, perhaps the most obvious influence of the bourbon cask. This perks up with a bit of fenugreek at midpalate, before lapsing into a densely perfumed woodiness and alcoholic burn that coats the mouth entirely. The heat recedes, leaving echoes of the intensely herbal flavors and the bittersweet flavors of cocoa and fresh coffee beans. Lingers on and on for several minutes with persistent re-emergence of bay leaves and curry spice.

Conclusions

I have never smelled or tasted any whisky like this in my life. Like India, it contains multitudes. There’s so many indigenous flavors here, I almost want to take a crash course in Indian cooking so that I might be able to identify more of them.

Those of us venturing into new whisky regions (essentially, anywhere outside of Scotland or Kentucky) hope for an experience like this. Rather than a second-rate Scotch or bourbon copycat, we’re looking for something with unique local character. In that regard, this Amrut exceeds all hopes and expectations. This has expanded my ideas about what whisky can or should taste like. It’s my first bottle of Amrut and certainly won’t be my last.

Score 9/10

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Taylor
Taylor

Taylor's a native of Chicago. After heading to university in Scotland, he graduated from drinking Whyte & Mackay and Coke to neat single malts. He's also a keen fan of Japanese whisky, having visited the country regularly over the last several years, where he was able to assemble a decent collection before prices went batty.

    1. Taylor
      Taylor says:

      Josef, thanks for the compliment. I haven’t tried that one, but maybe my colleagues have? I appreciate the recommendation and will certainly keep an eye out. Cheers!

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    Nikkhil says:

    Loved the piece Taylor and yes I’m a Mumbaikar and that has nothing to do with it. I would have liked the piece even if I was from Boston! And thats because I love Amrut and I feel they’ve been doing a remarkable job in producing quality whiskies. Something that I’m extremely proud of. What I do dearly lament is that all of it is produced in my neighbouring (Karnataka) state and I have no access to the good stuff except a few standard expressions. It’s the equivalent of you having to buy Four Roses Single Barrel only in Helsinki. But I don’t fault them. India has one of the most regressive tax regimes as far as spirits are concerned. It’s a lot easier and much cheaper to launch in New York than New Delhi. Little wonder why bulk of the good stuff is all destined for export.

    Ok, my rant aside, I’m glad you guys have access to Amrut and the fact that more often than not it is usually impressive. I would highly recommend their Intermediate Sherry cask strength expression as well as the Peated Port Pipe for LMDW. Steller stuff. Cheers!

    1. Taylor
      Taylor says:

      Nikkhil, appreciate the kind words. I’m sorry to hear about your difficulty in sourcing interesting expressions in Amrut’s homeland. Sad, and ironic. I appreciate the recommendations and will be on the lookout for the two you mentioned. Cheers!

        1. Taylor
          Taylor says:

          Ha, thanks! I went to India once, a long time ago. Did Mumbai, Delhi, and Jamnagar. The photo is from Mumbai, I think? It was an eye-opening trip.

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    PBMichiganWolverine says:

    Being of Indian heritage (born and raised in NJ though…hopefully that can be overlooked ☺️), I can relate to Mumbai’s overpowering of all senses. Either you hate it or you love it, no middle ground. I feel you’re spot on comparing that to Amruts—-it’s also an assault on senses. For some reason, I don’t get this assault from Paul John (the Goan distillery), which isn’t a good thing or bad thing…just interesting.

    If there’s one Amrut you have to try, it’s their Greedy Angels 10 yr old. Their original Spectrum was also amazing.

    Anyway—-great review as always

    1. Taylor
      Taylor says:

      PB, appreciated as always. The recommendations are pouring in and I love it- seems everyone has their favorite! GO BLUE- or should I say “Jai Ho?”

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    Justin says:

    I wonder about tasting notes of Indian whiskies, Japanese whiskies which include local spices, templewood scents, mangos, etc. I’d like to see if we get the same notes on a blind taste or if those scents are subconsciously suggested by the known origin of the whisky?

    1. Taylor
      Taylor says:

      Justin, I have wondered the same. At least with Japanese whisky, we can point to a specific source (mizunara oak), though I often find myself picking up miso broth and other local qualities that wouldn’t be accounted for thus. Perhaps I’m more suggestible than I’d like to think? Anyway, I’ll get one-off notes of curry spice and garama masala in Scotch sometimes, but this is definitely Indian whisky- it’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Appreciate the comment.

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    Welsh Toro says:

    Jesus, quite a lot of comments already. Buy some Amrut Taylor. They just discontinued the excellent Intermediate Sherry so do your best to get a bottle before it’s impossible – it’s worth it. Portonova is excelent too. I think my favourite value dram is the Fusion. It’s a tad easy to ascribe ‘Indian’ tasting notes so I’m so pleased you resisted mentioning the c word (many have not). This is a very interesting whisky though. A single cask Amrut and a good one by the sounds of it. I’m not surprised. I think this distillery has the potential to offer spectacular single barrel whisky. Cheers. WT

    1. Taylor
      Taylor says:

      I’ll have to! There’s still some Intermediate Sherry knocking around near me for $120. Portonova is about $130. They’ve both been added to the shopping list.

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    Gav says:

    I concur with the ‘Intermediate Sherry’ Taylor! Also the ‘Spectrum 004’ and the ‘Greedy Angels Chairman’s Reserve 8 year old’ are both fantastic whiskies. I’ve personally not had a bad Amrut yet!

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