It’s that most wonderful time of the year for Malt, when we start to consider our end of year summary – no top 10 clickbait lists – and plan ahead to what themes we’d like to pursue in 2021. Summarising 2020 for many, would involve some profanity, but here we’ve upped our output and tried to bring you a daily escape from the harsh reality of the real world.
A theme I’d like to pick up ongoing into the new year is Indian whisky. We do have a healthy assortment, but as always in life; we could do much more besides. There’s a kicker in the fact that India is one of the most popular markets for Malt as you can see, normally in 3rd place with a titanic ongoing tussle with Canada. I suppose in summary, 2021 will just be more Malt. Whether its Scotch, English, Irish, European, American, Canadian or even Maltalternatives. The momentum is with us and a good headwind to bring you a daily slice of honest opinion.
Such popularity was highlighted by our Rampur Double Cask review that proved to be very voguish online. Personally, it is so easy just throw out some tasting notes, a score on the 100 point scale and leave it at that. All in pursuit of those initial clicks. The thing being, we like to take our time and put together something more worthwhile. Offer a little more insight into what it is we’re trying, and in doing so, enable you to make a more informed choice regardless of what’s in front of us.
So, soon after the aforementioned Double Cask article, I don’t have too much more to add right now. Please go read it if you haven’t already, for an interview with Anup Barik, Master Distiller that sheds some light on what is a new arrival in the whisky scene. Mark has already reviewed the Rampur Vintage Select back in 2016, so we’re holding all the cards going into this virtual tasting.
Virtual tastings look set to stay for some time to come. We can all see the positives and minuses of the format which enables distilleries to connect with the media and enthusiasts on a different level. I’m sure some writers, or whisky consultants, miss being wined, dined and having the VIP treatment. As a young man from Duluth, Minnesota once sang; then you better start swimmin’, or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin.
Whisky, and in particular Scotch Whisky, has been a little slow to change and embrace new possibilities. For smaller distilleries such as Smögen, or those from other territories like Rampur today, it is a wonderful opportunity to reach out on a worldwide basis, with the only cost being shipping samples out to attendees. On this note, we were invited to this tasting live from India with Anup Barik. Showcasing the Rampur range and also in celebration of Diwali (the Festival of Light), which took place on 14th November. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend due to parental responsibilities, but caught up with the broadcast thanks to the wonders of modern technology. However, you’re here for the whiskies, so let’s begin…
Rampur Asava Indian Single Malt Whisky – review
An unique proposition with the initial whisky matured in American bourbon barrels, before being finished in Cabernet Sauvignon casks from a winery in Western India. Bottled at 45% ABV, this will retail for circa £68.95.
On the nose: big on sweetness with rhubarb, red apples and memories of red kola! Not had that in a long, long time. There’s also stewed plums and some rubber. Pink peppercorn, crayons and a brassiness with some tobacco. Adding water brings out orange.
In the mouth: bitter, wood driven and it feels young. More red apples, joined by cranberry juice, cherry and a peppery oakiness. Not much beyond these core flavours. Walnuts and it feels unbalanced and a little uncouth in places. Water tones things down, bringing out ginger, glazed cherries and drying quality with a touch of hotness.
Rampur Double Cask Indian Single Malt Whisky – review
Matured in American bourbon barrels for two-thirds of its existence, this is then finished in European Sherry casks for up to 9 months. Bottled at 45% ABV, this is available via Master of Malt for £58.95, or The Whisky Exchange for £64.95.
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.
Rampur PX Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky – review
Initially residing in American Oak, a selection of casks were transferred to PX Sherry Butts from Jerez for the finish. This release is bottled at 45% ABV and is available from The Whisky Exchange for £68.95.
Colour: golden caramel.
On the nose: those delicate fruits again with a bias towards redberries, especially strawberries and red apples. So, a nice first impression, but there isn’t much behind the facade. Buttery, a gentle floral aspect and a bilious quality in places with green mangoes as well.
In the mouth: gentle and a little non-descript overall. Some tannins with black pepper, lemon peel and grapes on the finish. Marzipan, lemon posset, ginger and some spice on the finish with frankincense as well.
Rampur Select Indian Single Malt Whisky – review
Few details here but seems to be the entry level whisky to the range. Bottled at 43% ABV, this is available from The Whisky Exchange for £44.95.
Colour: bashed gold.
On the nose: very soft and inoffensive with apples and apricot. Marzipan, fruit sugar, golden syrup, caramel and popcorn. Water brings out more soft fruit.
In the mouth: again, all gentle and restrained. Soft apples, vanilla cream, apricot, mustard and an old lemon followed by wood spice. Water wasn’t beneficial here.
For our thoughts on the Rampur Double Cask Indian Single Malt, check out our previous review. If you’ve made it this far, then you’ll know that it is the class act in the core range.
The PX finish just feels like a box-ticking exercise. The finish is very gentle and delicate, which I can appreciate, but it is all about balance. I’m not a fan of thudding heavy and relentless cask finishes that overpower the whisky, which some out there seem to appreciate; nor those that don’t really bring much else to the experience. This PX is ok, hence my score, although I’m left questioning its purpose and whether it really showcases Rampur as effectively as it could have?
The Select is the entry-level offering and is very inoffensive and just doesn’t go anywhere. One of those whiskies that’s hard to dislike but also not drum up any excitement over. Sadly, we’re seeing many such whiskies nowadays and as such, a difficult one to recommend.
Indian Cabernet Sauvignon casks? That’s a first for me and always welcoming of a new whisky experience. I actually tasted this one not knowing it was wine cask related. However, with the redness and flavours, it became clear as to its origins. And as with most red wine cask whiskies, it’s all about depth and balance of flavour; both of which don’t marry well enough here.
Overall, quite a mixed selection. It’s good to try different finishes and cask types, but there’s the sense that some of these don’t quite work, or as well as they should. The Double Cask shows what can be done and the rest need more work.
Our thanks to Rampur for the invitation, samples and lead photograph, with the PX coming via The Whisky Exchange. We do have some convenient commission links within this article. Such things don’t influence our opinion and only offer you the ability to make a purchase and in doing so, help fund Malt. And it goes without saying, check your local whisky stockists as well.