A Saturday noon well spent!! After many attempts to visit the Distillery, finally on24th November I was able to visit Amrut. Famed for the “Amrut Fusion” single malt, which has put India on the list of quality single malt whisky producing nations, the distillery was an enlightening experience.
For those who rely on the internet and Google for the location of the distillery, when you do a search of Amrut Distillery in Google maps you get the address and location as listed below:Amrut Distilleries Private Limited , 36, Sampige Tank Road, Sampige Tank Road, Bangalore, Karnataka 560027 080 2350 3860
Amrut Distilleries Private Limited , 36, Sampige Tank Road, Sampige Tank Road, Bangalore, Karnataka
Well, the above location is the now defunct distillery, which was used previously by the group. The distillery where the “Uisge Beatha” is produced is located on the Bangalore-Mysore highway close to the Rajarejeswari Dental and Engineering College. These coordinates should be more than adequate for you to get to the distillery without much of a hassle, but the full address is:Amrut Distilleries Ltd. Mysore Road, Kambipura, Bangalore, Karnataka State, India Postal Pin code - 560074.
The Vice President of production, Mr. Surrinder, and Mr. Pramod, the Business Development Manager for the group’s luxury brands in India, hosted us at the distillery.
The distillery itself seems relatively small and cosy in comparison to the only other distillery that I have visited which United Breweries in Bangalore central, this distillery has been knocked down and there is sprawling mail called UB city in its place,
A range of bottles from the famed Amrut Single Malt production list was arranged on a table in the guest lounge. To date, there are 12 expressions of single malt produced by the distillery.
|Amrut Indian Single Malt||Amrut Peated Indian Single Malt||Amrut Kadambham||Amrut Intermediate Sherry|
|Amrut Indian Single Malt Cask Strength||Amrut Peated Indian Single Malt Cask Strength||Amrut Single Cask||Amrut 100|
|Amrut Fusion Single Malt||Amrut Portonova||Amrut Herald||Amrut Two Continents Single Malt|
Unfortunately, for most of the readers from the subcontinent only three expressions are available for the local market while the others are exclusively for export. Another point noteworthy of mention is that there are additional variations of “Fusion” and “Single Malt”, one with an alcoholic strength of 50% for export, and the other at 46% for the Indian market. In fact most of the variants from Amrut are unavailable for sale in India. Mr. Surrinder, who has been a part of the group for more than 26 years, laments that these variants are due to the rules from “The Food Standards and Safety Authority in India” (FSSAI). Current license standards allow 45.5% maximum alcohol content in distilled spirits such as Whisky, Vodka, Rum, or Gin, 12% for Wine and 8% for Beer. He states that maintaining these varieties through different inventories is an expensive and cumbersome affair.
Moving on to the tour, the distillery produces spirits such as blended Whisky, Brandy, and Vodka in addition to their single malts. For the other spirits, the distillery procures 'ENA' (Extra Neutral Alcohol) which is pre-distilled neutral alcohol and then blends/flavours them with required ingredients after another round of distillation.
Copper Still at Amrut Distillery
Washbacks at Amrut used for Single Malt
The single malt production is located at one dedicated section of the distillery, easily identifiable by the huge copper stills, which are a definite give away. From Malting to Maturation, the process is mostly completed on-site at this plant for most of the single malts. However, Mr. Surrinder explained to us that since peat is unavailable in India, peated malt is procured from Europe for some of their expressions. In addition, the ‘Two Continents’ is bottled in Europe where half of the maturation takes place.
Specially cooled chambers, to help maximise quality and yield, house six washbacks producing the 'wash' for distillation in the copper stills. Since the identification of ‘Foreshots’ (sometimes called 'Heads'), ‘Heart’ and ‘Feints’ is pretty much a matter of skill and experience, the production expert has devised a timing based method for this. In a country like India where distillation happens under the supervision of a stillman whose only source of knowledge may be his experience, the timing based method works amazingly well! If all the variables such as the quantity of malt, yeast, temperature and water is kept constant then the time taken for the extraction of ‘Heart’ from the ‘low wines also will be pretty much the same.
The faux pas that I committed at the distillery was trying to nose the “Heart” of the extracted alcohol for vanilla!! Mr. Surrinder was kind enough not to laugh at my attempts!! Nevertheless, I did feel a trace…maybe remnants of flavours in the glass? Normally the distilled alcohol would not get such flavours, only peat perhaps if the malt used is peated malt.
The most interesting part for me was the maturation warehouses. They have four such units on the plant and some at other locations. Pretty much like any other maturation house, it was cool and dark inside, but appeared a tad small. One of the factors revealed was that the angels share was recorded close to 11%, which is considerably higher than the norm of 2-5% for the maturation at any Scottish distillery. Greedy angels I would call it! The climatic conditions would be the culprit here while the temperature I am told is pretty similar to the Scottish conditions except for the summer where the humidity and temperatures get close to 38 to 40 degrees centigrade. The tropical climate too I am sure has its share of exploits. Just imagine half of your cherished cask vanishing into thin air in a span of 4 years! I was able to see some sherry butts, bourbon oak and virgin oak casks at the warehouse. The filtration process is strictly non-chill filtered which would remove some of the fatty acids and Proteins, which are In fact, some of the most reputed single malts produced here have been bottled with very basic methods of filtration, which is using a specially procured cloth!
Little titbit of information for Amrut lovers is that a limited edition of the oldest cask of the distillery (aged around seven and a half years) was bottled shortly. Amrut Mystery Malt is estimated to be a release of approximately 132 bottles only. Going by the maturity most of the malts from Amrut have shown as a ‘young whisky’, this one promises to be a treat!
A heady combination! Just imagine: peated malt imported to India, fermented with slightly cooled water, distilled and matured in temperatures that are slightly higher and in greater humidity than that experienced at the Scottish locales - does this environment help in creating the complexity and maturity that Fusion showcases? I am sure that there is a lot more method in the “malt-madness” that the distillery follows to produce this fine spirit… but a concept worth a lot of mental maths!
V.P Operations at Amrut Distillery Bangalore, India
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