Rampur, a new name for many of you out there, but one that we’ve covered once previously in 2016 with their single malt whisky.
It’s ok, we forgive you. Last time I checked, Malt played host to around 2400 articles, which means at a guess, nearly 3000 sets of tasting notes, if not more. There’s a labyrinth that sits beneath the site, where some intrepid explorers have ventured into, only to be never seen again. So, it is good that we have this opportunity to re-engage with Rampur and their latest offering.
After all, I expect many of us to have a preconception that Indian whisky is all about Paul John and Amrut, which reflects their exposure. Assisted by convenient availability and widespread deployment of brand ambassadors – and is there a more welcoming representative than Shilton Almeida of Paul John? Answers on a postcard, or in the comments.
So, class is in for Rampur. Please keep your social distance and pull up a chair for some insight into this relatively unknown Indian producer, which is owned by Radico Khaitan, formerly Rampur Distillery & Chemical Company Limited. The old name is an indication of its origins and business, like so many Indian producers that started initially producing volume industrial alcohol and fertiliser. This parent company is one of India’s largest alcohol producers and was founded in 1943, but whisky is relatively more recent arrival as the firm have only been distilling it for 25 years.
Rampur falls into its premium drinks category alongside Jaisalmer, which is an Indian craft gin and a Rampur Sherry PX finish. The company also produces brandy, rum and vodka, while offering a range of whiskies. These include After Dark, a premium grain whisky and the 8 pm brand, that also is 100% grain and offers liqueur additions with honey and cinnamon. Thankfully, it’s not all grain with the Whytehall range offering a more blended portfolio and featuring Scotch whiskies. Just how much Scotch is the question though isn’t it?
Situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, the state of Uttar Pradesh plays host to 3 of its distilleries. This is the epicentre of the whisky operation with distillation, maturation and bottling. And it was here we expect, that we caught up with Master Distiller, Anup Barik, to kindly answer a few of our questions and shed a little light on the whisky.
Malt: Firstly, can you tell us a little about your career and how you became a Master Distiller for Rampur?
Ans: I am working with Rampur Distillery since 1994. I come from a family of Master Blenders. Early days in my career started as a Blender and till date continuing with Blending. However, I was fascinated towards Malt Whisky production and was responsible for quality in terms organoleptic characteristic vis a vis Gas Chromatography profile of new make whiskies. As an integral part of my job profile, started actively involved in distilling and imparted training internally. During the distillation process, I used to spend a lot of time in the distillery and at times monitoring & evaluating the new whisky distillates from Fore-shots to Heart to Feints in every 30 minutes to observe the behaviour of plant and how the new whisky changes its aromatic profile and congener profile for the entire run of a batch. As a Master Whisky Maker, my role is to understand my whisky at each stage of its production process. That’s also included the monitoring of transformation of a new whisky inside a cask to become a Single Malt Whisky. Not to forget we emphasize a lot on cask/barrel selection. Me and my team nurture the new whiskies and used to take care of each Cask/Barrel by evaluating at certain interval of time.
Malt: It’s been a few years since the Rampur single malt reached our shores in 2016, what have you been up to since?
Ans: You know we used to reserve a large proportion of Malt whisky for domestic blending. Realising the excellent quality, we started slowly building up the stocks in the warehouse and started the Single Malt business, when we have a consistent supply of stocks and allocation.
Malt: Was the Double Cask your own project and has it been specifically designed for the international market and taste preferences?
Ans: Any new product development is a teamwork. Yes, we decided to come up with a new expression. Since Oloroso Cask was part of our experiment, we took no time deciding about it. Though we are only exporting our Double Cask to the international market, however, we are launching this particular expression in domestic soon.
Malt: What struck me about the Double Cask was that it was unlike the other Indian whiskies I’ve had previously, less wood-forward and some characterful tropical notes. Is this representative of what you want Rampur to symbolise?
Ans: Yes, we at Rampur always believe in quality and always strive to give our customer the core profile of Rampur Single Malt Whisky with a twist in every expression. For me this whisky is a well-balanced whisky with tropical fruits, vanilla, honey, cocoa & dark dried fruit notes.
Malt: Rampur features traditional copper pot stills, can you talk a little about the design and shape of these stills? Are there any unique features or influences?
Ans: At every stage of whisky making, you need to be very skilful and the distillation part is one of the most important aspect of whisky making for every distiller. Here you can impart your signature characteristics to your whisky. And Rampur is no exception. Yes, we of course have two traditional pot stills. Unlike others we have a smaller Wash Still of 8.5 KL capacity and a Spirit Still of 12 KL. What we do is take two batches of Wash Still distillation and one batch of Spirit Still distillation to balance out the distillation process.
In regard to shape and design of the Pot still, the Wash Still is a simple neck with slightly ascending lyne-arm, whereas the Spirit Still has a boil ball and the lyne-arm is descending.
Malt: What are the maturation conditions like for whisky in the state of Uttar Pradesh?
Ans: OMG! Another interesting and the most important aspect of Whisky making. At the distillery, the new whisky was born. However, this is the place where we nurture and groom our whiskies.
The climatic condition at Rampur warehouse facilities vary from 1⁰ C in winter to 46⁰ C in peak summer. The good thing is the humidity remains at around 75% – 80% except few months in winter & summer. This unique condition accelerates the maturation process. By saying that one needs to be very careful, no individual appreciates overly woody whisky. Here the role of a Master Whisky Maker and his team’s role is very important.
Malt: I understand you have 3 distilleries in Uttar Pradesh, are these individually named and do they have specific roles for each type of distillate, or does only one product malt for Rampur?
Ans: In fact, we have 4 distilleries in one place. Grain Neutral Spirit for Vodka, Molasses Spirit for Rum, a small Gin Distillery and of course the Malt Whisky Distillery. All the Distilleries comes under one umbrella, i.e., Radico.
Malt: Our readers love production details and information. Can you humour us with a little detail around the type of barley you are using, your fermentation times and roughly how old the Double Cask is?
Ans: It’s my pleasure to provide you the information:
1. Barley Type: North Indian 6 rows Barley.
2. Fermentation Time: 52 Hours to 60 Hours.
3. In regard to the age of Double Cask, we always maintain all of our expressions as NAS. I apologise for the inconvenience.
Malt: You’ve chosen to bottle at 45% strength and non chill filtered. Decisions we welcome here and are these reflective of a growing appreciation in India for such qualities?
Ans: We never wanted to strip out the congeners from our whiskies by doing chilled filtration, which was painstakingly kept during each stage of Whisky making process and further developed during contact with Oak wood inside a Barrel for quite long time.
Malt: Finally, what’s next for Rampur?
Ans: At the moment, we are experimenting with many expressions & styles and we will unveil them at appropriate time. We have a new launch for The Whisky Show.
This Double Cask release is available via Master of Malt for £58.95, or the Whisky Exchange for £64.95. It is bottled at 45% strength and is non chill-filtered, with the whisky starting out in ex-bourbon casks for 2 thirds of its maturation, before moving into European oak sherry casks for the remainder.
Rampur Double Cask Indian Single Malt Whisky – review
Colour: a runny honey.
On the nose: an unexpected arrival with delicate tropical fruits, encouraging with waxy elements. Polished oak, vanilla, wine gums and ripe mango. Butterscotch, guava, green peppercorn, banana and vanilla ice cream.
In the mouth: gentle, less fruity, a hint of smoke with toffee and almost a chewy texture in parts. Malty, cardamon, a vanilla caramel, juicy oak and shavings of dark chocolate. A very enjoyable finish with the fruits coming through, alongside cloves and that hint of wax again.
A pleasant surprise. There’s more distillate presence here and therefore fruitiness in comparison to many of the Indian malts I’ve had before, which are more rugged and wood-driven. I note Mark didn’t quite enjoy the debut Rampur with its tropical notes, but he is more into young Irish whisky truth be told. This Rampur is a refreshing change and quite stylish in places, with a solid foundation and balanced. Very drinkable, reviving memories of Benromach. The palate isn’t quite a match for the nose itself, but it does have just enough to say with an enjoyable finish.
Price-wise, Indian whiskies aren’t cheap and this one is being marketed as super premium, whatever that is? And for around £60, I’d be happy to pay this compared to the overpriced English and Irish whiskies we’re seeing nowadays and some tired Scottish equivalents. The bonus is a good presentation with the 45% strength and lack of filtration, even if the fabric sack isn’t to your taste. All in all, this Rampur Double Cask warrants your attention.
Sample and images kindly provided by Rampur and our thanks to . There are commission links within this article if you wish to check out the whisky in person.