Only the 'big' whisky producing countries have their own page on this website while
the minor countries (and/or the countries from which I've only tried a few drams) are
collected on the 'world' whiskies page. But while 'more minor' countries like Belgium,
Czechoslovakia, Holland, Latvia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, Sweden,
Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and Wales are huddled together on a single page, India
gets a page all to itself. Why would that be? All because of just one distillery and the
strength of its products. I've tried at least a dozen official & independent bottlings
of the Amrut Indian single malt whisky and many scored comfortably in the 80s.
The Amrut distillery was founded in 1948 by the Jagdale family. They initially
produced IML (Indian Made Liquor), but in recent years they have also began to
make proper malt whisky. And they did so with a vengeance. When the very first
bottles of Amrut arrived in Europe they made quite an impression and Amrut has
built a solid reputation since then. For a long time Amrut was the only brand of
Indian malt whisky, but I was recently informed about Paul John - a brand new
Indian single malt whisky. Krishna Nukala told me that the distillery of producer
'John Distilleries' is located in Goa, with headquarters in Bangalore. It seems to
be impossible to find in India - but after a glowing review by David Broom it is
now slowly becoming available in Europe via retailers like The Whisky Exchange.
But the single malts are only a very small fraction of all the 'whiskies' that are
produced in India. The vast majority of these so-called whiskies are actually
'Indian Made Foreign Liquor' (IMFL). These whiskies don't have to comply
with the rules that Scotch whisky has to comply with. This doesn't only mean
that there is no minimum age requirement, but also that grains can simply be
replaced with molasses as a basis for the product whenever market prices for
these commodities fluctuate. Molasses is a very popular alternative for grains
because sugar cane is one of the main crops of India - and molasses is just a
by-product of the sugar industry. So that makes ecological and business sense.
But it also means that the composition and quality of IMFL's can be inconsistent.
Some of these IMFL brands are Aristocrat, Antiquity, Bagpiper, Blender's Pride,
Director Special, Imperial Blue, McDowell's, Mougal Monarch, Officer's Choice,
Old Tavern, Peter Scot, Prestige Club, Royal Challenge, Royal Circle, Royal
Special, Royal Stag and Signature Whisky. Wow, looking at some of these
brand names, the Indians must really be an 'upwardly mobile' people... ;-)
Amrut NAS Portonova
(62.1%, OB, Multiple cask maturation, India, Bottled +/- 2011)
Nose: Very sherried - rich and fruity with a tangerine prickle. Not terribly complex perhaps, but the profile is right up my alley.
Clove? With a dash of water some gentler, lighter fruits emerge. Apricot? Strawberry? What an enjoyable whisky this is!
Taste: An overload of wood, mellowed out by very sweet overtones and bitter undertones. Dark chocolate. Mon Cherie?
Plenty of tannins with more coffee notes emerging over time. Grape skins. Something slightly sulphury? A tad sharp, perhaps.
Score: 86 points - hugely enjoyable with loads of wood and sherry. Matches some batches of the Aberlour A'bunadh.
I was leaning towards 85 points for a long time because it's not exactly smooth on the palate - some extra time might help?
Amrut NAS ????/2010
(62.7%, Blackadder, BA12/2010, Bottled Oct. 2010, 195 Bts.)
Nose: Starts off sharp and grassy. Chalky perhaps? Vanilla and maybe a whiff of banana. Not a lot of development.
Taste: Smooth and quite sweet - with a quick afterburn at cask strength. Becomes grittier after a while. Young, harsh wood.
Score: 71 points - In this case the cask didn't do a very good job. Perhaps they should have re-casked or finished it?
(52%, OB for Huis Crombé Kortrijk, Bourbon C#2930, 221 Bts., India)
Nose: Round and dark with hints of roasted coffee beans. Not a great deal of depth initially, but an amazing profile. Rubber?
Taste: Sweet and salty start; and amazing burn. Fudge. Glue? Smoky finish with an unexpected whiff of salt liquorice.
Score: 88 points - nice development too - if all was better integrated it might have approached the 90's.
Sikkim Old Gold Single Malt
(40%, OB, India, Bottled +/- 2002)
Nose: Grainy start, growing fruitier and maltier quickly. Sweet and creamy. A little more alcoholic with time.
Fruits remain dominant. Quite pleasant, although there's something 'chemical' about it.
De bouquet drifts around the different corners of the fruity spectrum. Bubblegum?
Taste: Ouch! Bitter and a little bit herbal in the start. Sweeter in the centre. Gritty.
Dry and chalky. Something reminds me of French 'genepy' liqueur. Could this be a gin?
Woody and a tad winey in the flat finish. With time the 'wine' impression grows stronger.
After 10 minutes the palate grew drier and saltier - maybe even smoke? Soap. Bubblegum.
Score: 54 points - The nose is pretty excellent, but with this taste I can't go much higher.
Like an old grain whisky or gin. Unusually grainy and fruity for a malt whisky.
Although these brands are produced under Indian laws (which vary from state to state), the producers are
expected to deliver a product that meets 'international' standards. So, it's not unreasonable for international
travellers to expect their glass of Black & White or VAT 69 to taste a lot like one they would order at home.
However, an above average percentage of international travellers are of the adventurous type. They might be
easily persuaded to try a whisky with a name that sounds as awesome as 'Mougal Monarch' or 'Prestige Club'.
Thanks to the flexible Indian laws and definitions, they will never know how their whisky was made exactly...
When asked about the amazing flexibility of the definition of IMFL, Indian malt maniac Krishna Nukala replied:
"India is hugely agrarian and one of the main crops is Sugar cane. It is a natural outcome that the main by-product of
sugar industry which is molasses forms the basis of spirits in India. But many a time the prices of molasses shoot up and
the distilleries resort to grain based alcohol for the same brand. Another drawback of Indian whisky is that whisky is hardly
aged and there are no statutory laws in India defining how whisky is to be produced to protect consumer's interest. As
result of changes in source materials, inferior cask & ageing policies, there is huge inconsistency in taste of same brands."
Wow, Krishna - now I understand even better why you became so passionate about Scotch single malts... ;-)
That being said, things seem to be slowly changing in India. Due to an increase in disposable income for a
new generation of young professionals, the demand for higher quality whisky and spirits is increasing in India.
Importing 'foreign' whisky into India is incredibly complex and expensive, so international liquor companies like
Diageo and Pernod Ricard have set up shop in India. They now have their own local offices - and they either
own or have contracts with local liquor companies and production facilities to produce their brand products.
These are IBBII's - International Brands Bottled In India - who are perceived as a 'better' class of whiskies.
They are (often international) brands like 100 Pipers, Black & White, Black Dog, Teachers and VAT 69.
Another phenomenon in the world of Indian whisky that I should mention is the
entrepreneur/politician Vijay Mallya - owner of companies like United Breweries,
Kingfisher Beer and Kingfisher Airlines, not to mention a Formula 1 racing team.
Around 2012, United Breweries had a market share of around 50% in India with
brands like Black Dog whisky, a bunch of IMFL's (including Antiquity, Bagpiper,
McDowell's, Royal Challenge and Signature) and Kingfisher beer. Apart from IMFL
like McDowell's No.1, United Breweries also produces brandy (McDowell's VSOP)
and rum (McDowell's Celebration). That old McDowell was an enterprising type...
In 2007, Vijay Mallya surprised the international whisky world. United Spirits Ltd.
(a subsidiary of United Breweries) bought the Scottish company Whyte & Mackay.
This put the Scottish distilleries Dalmore, Fettercairn, Isle of Jura and Tamnavulin
under 'Asian' control. They were not the first Scotch malt whisky distilleries to be
acquired by Asian companies though; ownership of distilleries like Auchentoshan,
Ben Nevis, Bowmore, Glen Garioch and Tomatin has been Asian since the 1990's.
This 'Deviant Drams' section is a mere diversion from the main focus of the Malt Madness website: single malt (Scotch) whisky.
My knowledge of and experience with world whiskies and other alcoholic beverages is relatively limited, but I have plenty to say
about single malt Scotch whisky. For example, there's a Beginner's Guide to Single Malts with 10 pages filled with lots of useful
information for (relative) beginners and the 'Distillery Data' section has profiles for over a hundred malt whisky distilleries.
Clicking on one of the links below will take you directly to the distillery profile of that particular whisky distillery in Scotland.
Aberfeldy - Aberlour - Ailsa Bay - Allt A' Bhainne - Ardbeg - Ardmore - Arran - Auchentoshan - Auchroisk - Aultmore
Balblair - Balmenach - Balvenie - Banff - Ben Nevis - Benriach - Benrinnes - Benromach - Ben Wyvis - Bladnoch
Blair Athol - Bowmore - Brackla - Braeval - Brora - Bruichladdich - Bunnahabhain - Caol Ila - Caperdonich - Cardhu
Clynelish - Coleburn - Convalmore - Cragganmore - Craigellachie - Daftmill - Dailuaine - Dallas Dhu - Dalmore
Dalwhinnie - Deanston - Dufftown - Edradour - Fettercairn - Glen Albyn - Glenallachie - Glenburgie - Glencadam
Glencraig - Glen Deveron - Glendronach - Glendullan - Glen Elgin - Glenfarclas - Glenfiddich - Glen Flagler
Glen Garioch - Glenglassaugh - Glengoyne - Glen Grant - Glengyle - Glen Keith - Glenkinchie - Glenlivet - Glenlochy
Glenlossie - Glen Mhor - Glenmorangie - Glen Moray - Glen Ord - Glenrothes - Glen Scotia - Glen Spey - Glentauchers
Glenturret - Glenugie - Glenury Royal - Highland Park - Imperial - Inchgower - Inverleven - Isle of Jura - Kilchoman
Killyloch - Kinclaith - Kininvie - Knockando - Knockdhu - Ladyburn - Lagavulin - Laphroaig - Ledaig - Linkwood
Linlithgow - Littlemill - Loch Lomond - Lochnagar - Lochside - Longmorn - Macallan - MacDuff - Mannochmore - Millburn
Miltonduff - Mortlach - Mosstowie - North Port / Brechin - Oban - Old Pulteney - Pittyvaich - Port Ellen - Pulteney
Rosebank - Royal Brackla - Royal Lochnagar - Saint Magdalene - Scapa - Speyburn - Speyside - Springbank - Strathisla
Strathmill - Talisker - Tamdhu - Tamnavulin - Teaninich - Tobermory - Tomatin - Tomintoul - Tormore - Tullibardine