Amrut - world whisky from India

Malt Madness is mostly about single malt Scotch whisky - but that's only a fraction
of the alcoholic spirits and beverages that are produced all around the world.
The mere fact that so many different alcoholic drinks were invented in
relatively recent history proves that alcohol stimulates the creativity.
The list of categories at the left contains 3 other groups of drinks;
(1) four other types of Scotch whisky (all produced in Scotland),
(2) various types of world whiskies produced in other countries,
(3) other alcoholic beverages (far more than what's listed here).

As far as the second group of 'world whiskies' is concerned, I've
now sampled whiskies from almost two dozen different countries;

World whiskies: Holland

Distilled Old Maltky (35%, blend of real malt distillate & neutral spirit, Bottled +/- 2000, Holland)
Nose: This has very little to offer besides the prickle of alcohol.
Taste: Surprisingly dull and watery at first, quickly growing  bitter.
The finish is surprisingly long. Normally, that  would be reason for joy - but not with this one.
Score: 10 points - classifying this as a 'benchmark' which rates 'just short of horrible'.

Frysk Hynder NAS (40%, OB, red wine cask, Bottled 2005, Holland)
Nose: Pungent and extremely winey. The sour notes dominate the spectrum, little else.
Taste: Like the nose, the wine influence overpowers everything else. Chalky & gritty.
Score: 36 points - it's only 3 years old, but already the cask completely overpowers the whisky.

Millstone Dutch single malt whisky (40%, Zuidam Distillery, Bottled +/- 2010, Holland)
Nose: Clean and malty. Some butterscotch and Caramac. Nice, but not overly expressive.
Taste: Smooth and sweetish with a touch of tangerines. Toffeeish. Quite a long finish too.
Score: 67 points - which is quite a bit higher than I originally expected.

For many years, Holland was
only involved in the production
of whisky as a tax haven for
large corporations like Diageo.
However, a few years ago two
small Dutch distilleries started
producing real Dutch whisky;
Zuidam and Frysk Hynder.
Like many European 'world
whiskies', the Dutch whiskies
are produced in relatively small
quantities. They are mostly
novelty products for the local
market which do not compare
favourably to Scotch whisky.

World whiskies: New Zealand

Lammerlaw 10yo (48.2%, Cadenhead's World Whiskies, Bourbon barrel, Bottled June 2003, 240 blt.)
Nose: Grainy and quite sweet. Fruits and organics. Great development over time.
Taste: Quite smooth for a malt at this strength. Lively and fruity. Pretty good.
Score: 74 points - the best Lammerlaw bottling I've tried so far; it beats the official bottlings.

Lammerlaw 10yo (43%, OB, Wilson Distillers, New Zealand, Bottled +/- 1999)
Nose: Interesting and surprising bouquet. Oily, yet perfumy. Some peat, too.
Grapes? Bananas! Very light and a bit sour.
Taste: Rather harsh and rough, with a bitter aftertaste. Peaty later on.
This one seems to improve after a few months of breathing in the bottle.
Score: 70 points - the first 'antipodean' malt I've tasted, and not at all bad for a non-scotch.

Milford 12yo 1990 (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002, New Zealand)
Nose: A little bit oily and greasy at first, growing grainier. Nutty later on. Fairly restrained.
Shoe polish? It really needs a minute or ten before it grows more interesting.
Taste: Ouch... Flat and boring. Like beer that has been left in the sun for a few days.
Oily overtones as well. Growing strangely sour and fruity towards the gritty finish.
Score: 61 points - it definitely showed some improvement over time - just not quite enough for me...

As world whiskies go, the stuff
they make in New Zealand is
not bad at all. I've only tried
a few different bottlings, but
based on these few experiences
it would seem that the whisky
made in New Zealand are just
as good as those from Australia
and Tasmania.
Well, I guess that makes
sense because I imagine that
the 'traditions' are similar.
After all, most immigrants
came from (Western) Europe
in roughly the same period.
Climates on the islands of New
Zealand and Tasmania could
be relatively similar too.


World whiskies: Wales

And that's the list of assorted tasting notes so far. The list of whisky producing countries at the top of this
page is by no means complete. In fact, not even half of all the countries where whisky is produced are on
the list. Many brands are only available locally or in a small number of markets. For example, I've sampled
Flat Country (40%) from Hungary and Jack & Jill (40%) from Slovenia, but these are not available outside
the country of origin. All these products are labelled as 'whisky', but the differences from Scotch whisky can
be huge. With that in mind, the synonym 'Scotch' doesn't really apply to all these local distillates...

Penderyn NAS Madeira Finish (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004, single malt, Wales, +/- 3 years old)
Nose: Started out with lots of glue and paint thinner, but after just a few seconds it blossomed.
it grew more 'organic' and interesting. Not comparable with most Scotch single malts though.
Malty with a hint of marzipan. Rice crackers? The nose is nice enough but lacks some complexity.
Taste: A real surprise; big, sweet and fruity. Very pleasant indeed, an easily accessible profile.
Score: 64 points - given its tender age it puts some of the 12yo Schotch single malts to shame.

I've sampled other samples
from the Penderyn distillery
in Wales, but I haven't been
able to locate any other
tasting notes so far - sorry...

When it comes to 'world whisky', the Scotch laws don't apply. This means that producers in other
countries can make up their own rules as they go along. For example, distillers can use any grain
they like or even other produce like molasses (often used in India) or potatoes (sometimes used in
Eastern Europe). Although these are all 'brown spirits' (matured in oak casks like whisky, cognac,
armagnac, rum, etc.), they can be very different in character and style style from Scotch whisky.
'Different' doesn't mean they are 'worse', mind you - I've sampled some excellent whiskies from
Japan, Ireland, India, Australia, Sweden, France, the USA, New Zealand, Taiwan and South-Africa.

So, it's safe to look beyond the borders of Scotland when you're looking for new experiences.
And why limit yourself to whisky or whiskey if you're looking for some alcohol to (responsibly) enjoy?
There are plenty of other beverages & spirits that could be used as a suitable alternative for whisky.
I actually used to enjoy cognacs and armagnacs a lot before I discovered single malt whisky - and I
still know how to mix a mean cocktail if I may say so myself...
However, that's a completely different story...

World whiskies: Switzerland

Swissky NAS Single Malt (42%, OB, Switzerland, Bottled + 2002)
Nose: Sweet with a whiff of paint thinner. Sour grapes or vinegar in the back of my nose.
Alcoholic. Odd fruits. Not a lot of complexity. Grappa? After 10 minutes the character changes.
Apple pie. Now it resembles whisky a little bit more - blended or grain, not malt.
Taste: This has a very flat and tired start - like old lukewarm beer. Fruitier, sweeter centre. Watery.
becomes very fruity with time. I found many things that reminded me of wine or Belgian fruit beer.
Score: 37 points - I liked the nose better than the palate. It feels quite young and unrefined.
A failed foreign attempt at making whisky. It scores in the same region as Drumguish.
Highly avoidable. What a load of crap this is compared to most Scottish malt whiskies.

I think that I only ever tried
one measly sample of Swiss
whisky - a.k.a Swissky. I like
the fact that somebody that
really wants to can now buy a
bottle of Swiss whisky - but
why would you really want to?
It's not like it's any good... ;-)

World whiskies: Taiwan

Kavalan Solist (59%, OB, C#B070604002, Taiwan, +/- 2011, 209 Bts.)
Nose: Fresh and quite grainy. A beer-like prickle over a slightly sweet undercurrent.
Some 'veggy' notes emerge after a minute. Grows a little maltier and sweeter over time.
Perhaps a hint of chloride after a few minutes. Peanuts? Not a lot of development over time.
Taste: Malty and sweet start. A solid start, but it grows a little insubstantial in the centre.
A fairly hot and slightly thin finish which suggests that this whisky hasn't matured for very long.
Score: 61 points - not a bad whisky at all, but it feels a little thin and 'pressure-cooked' to me.

I've sampled other samples
from the Kavalan distillery in
Taiwan, but I haven't been
able to locate any other
tasting notes so far - sorry...

World whiskies: Turkey

Ankara 5yo Malt Viski (43%, OB, Turkey, Bottled +/- 2002)
Nose: Spirity and alcoholic. Sweetish. Malty. Smells more like a blend than a single malt.
Liquorice all sorts. Chemical fruity notes. Candy cane? Paint thinner elements grow stronger.
Coconut. Something nutty? Hint of hops? Really opens up after ten minutes.
Taste: Sweet and bitter. Mocha? Pleasant hot, peppery burn. Not a lot of depth.
Score: 69 points - not nearly as bad as I expected. And priced around 5 Euro's a bottle! If they had
sold this stuff here in Holland ten years ago I might have never bothered to check out Scottish malts!

I've sampled other samples
from the Ankara distillery in
Turkey, but I haven't been
able to locate any other
tasting notes so far - sorry...

spirit categories

Scotch Whiskies:
Blended whiskies
Grain whiskies
Single malts
Bastard malts
Vatted malts
World Whiskies:
New Zealand
Other Beverages:
Gin & Jenever

People have also asked me what my favourite whisky countries are. Well, my purely personal opinion
is based on a statistically unsound number of samples, but at the moment my Top 5 list looks like this;

World whiskies: Belgium

Belgium is known for its beer
and its fries, but since a few
years they also have their own
whisky: Goldlys. It is produced
by gin producers Filliers who
have been distilling gin since
the late 19th century. Filliers
uses malted barley, rye and
maize for the unique recipe.

Goldlys 3yo (40%, OB, Bottled 2007, Belgium)
Nose: Sharp and grainy, cattle feed, rotting grass. Glue. Very much like a gin without the juniper.
Taste: Fairly flat start. A little buttery  and oily. Reminds me of grappa or gin again. Not my cup of tea.
Score: 29 points - too many rough edges for me, and not nearly enough character of its own.

Goldlys 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled 2007, Belgium)
Nose: Wet newspapers. cardboard. Rather dull & stuffy, but a lot friendlier than the 3yo.
Taste: Very slick with a touch of smoke. Heavy tannins in the finish. Like blue grape skins.
Score: 62 points - much, much better than the 3yo, but dragged down by Campari bitterness.

World whiskies: Pakistan

Murree 8yo 'Malt Whisky Classic' (43%, OB, Pakistan, Bottled +/- 2006)
Nose: Mostly paint thinner at first. Later sweeter notes emerge, but more 'molasses' than 'grains'.
Nutty, oily, buttery. I have a sweet tooth, so I don't mind sweetness - but there's little complexity.
Hey, wait... After 15 minutes there IS some development and it opens up a bit. I kind of like it...
Taste: Weak start, then a long prickling centre. Depressing finish that takes a bitter turn in the end.
Score: 43 points - the nose isn't that unpleasant actually, but there's no fun to be had on the palate.

Murree 12yo 'Millennium Reserve' (43%, OB, Pakistan, Bottled +/- 2006)
Nose: Nutty start. More complex than the 8yo with more fruity notes. Passion fruits. Hint of dust.
Fruits take over from nuts and passion fruit remains the dominant element. Slightly metallic?
Hey, and unlike the 8yo, this one shows quite some development. Still, the passion fruit remains.
Taste: A little perfumy in the start. More fruits later on - passion fruits again. Dusty finish.
Score: 62 points - but once again the finish pulls it down. The nose alone reaches the upper 60's.

Because the majority of the
population of Pakistan is of
the muslim persuasion, it may
seem weird that they have their
own brewery/distillery there.
Export of their alcoholic products
is illegal and in 1977 complete
prohibition was introduced for
the whole country. Fortunately,
some of the restrictions were
lifted again afterwards. Murree
now produces beer and spirits
for restaurants, clubs and bars.

World whiskies: Latvia

LB (40%, Bottled +/- 2003, Latvia)
Nose: Starts out sharp and alcoholic. Glue. Cardboard. String beans? Sorrel. Rhubarb. Veggy.
I have to admit that the nose is expressive - but it's also fairly unpleasant to my sensibilities.
Taste: Ever so slightly fruity. Salmiak? Speculaas? 'Veggy' as well and quite similar to wodka.
Score: 21 points - it's no fun on the palate; all in all it's a fairly pitiful attempt at making whisky.

Aleksandrs (40%, Bottled +/- 2003, Latvia)
Nose: Even less character than the LB, but with such a disaster drink that's to be applauded.
Very 'veggy' in the nose after some breathing - raw rhubarb? A little grassy, leaning towards perfumy.
Taste: Grassy on the palate as well. Nothing else noteworthy. Even further from the beaten track.
Score: 15 points - these Latvians seem utterly inept when it comes to producing a proper whisky.

I've tried a few fairly decent
Eastern European whiskies,
but the whiskies from Latvia
were not among them.
However, please notes that
I've only tried two different
Latvian whiskies and both were
bottled around 2003. Thing
may have improved quite
a bit since then. 

World whiskies: Czech Republic (part of former Czechoslovakia)

Gold Cock 12yo (43%, Bottled +/- 2003, Czech Republic / former Czechoslovakia)
Nose: Quite odd, but impossible to describe. It needs some ten minutes to open up a little.
Some vaguely pleasant fruity notes, then more and more organics emerging.
Taste: It's very dull but not entirely unpleasant on the palate. It feels a little weak.
Score: 39 points - hard to believe it matured on wood for 12 years - maybe they kept it in steel oilcans?

King Barley 6yo (43%, Bottled +/- 2003, Czech Republic / former Czechoslovakia)
Nose: Malty, spicy and a little fruity. Then organics emerge. A developing, fairly 'Scotchy' profile.
There's a hint of glue, but it's quite pleasant - and rather similar to the bouquet of the Printer's.
Taste: Unfortunately, it's very flat, bitter (grape skins?) and watery on the palate.
Score: 45 points - the nose isn't bad, but the score is dragged down to 45 points by the palate.

Printer's (40%, no age statement, Bottled +/- 2003, Czech Republic / former Czechoslovakia)
Nose: Hey, that's considerably better than the Gold Cock and King Barley. Big, fruity and a little malty.
Over time some spices and organics emerge in the nose at first - this is actually enjoyable.
Taste: Not terribly complex, but nice enough. It loses points on the gritty palate and the short finish.
Score: 49 points - almost likeable and not too bad at all, to tell you the truth.

Countries in Eastern Europe
have a long and proud history
of distilling spirits, although
these were usually made from
local fruits and vegetables. With
the rising popularity of whisky
in recent years, many distilleries
are now experimenting with the
production of whisky.
Based on my research so far,
I'd have to say that whiskies
from the Czech Republic grow
worse with age, not better. But
then again, I've only sampled
three different expressions so
far. This makes my 'research'
hardly statistically significant.

  1. Japan - even though they only have whisky distillation experience since the early 1900s.
  2. Ireland - no surprise with a whiskey industry that might even be older than that of the Scots.
  3. India - I've tasted some FANTASTIC whiskies from Amrut, but there's a lot of Indian swill too.
  4. Australia / Tasmania - quite a few Australian whiskies scored above average, especially Lark.
  5. Sweden - this 5th position is a little shaky because there is just 1 Swedish distillery: Mackmyra.

World whiskies: Poland

Dark Whisky 3yo (40%, OB, Poland, Bottled +/- 2002)
Nose: Really freaky stuff that reminded me a lot of Japanese sake and rice crackers.
Taste: Not as awful as I'd expected. Interesting stuff, although it's hard to pinpoint specifics.
Score: 49 points - just one point short of being enjoyable.

Old Family Whisky NAS (40%, OB, Zielona Góra distillery, Poland, Bottled +/- 2002)
Nose: Paint thinner and salmiak in the flat nose. Opens up in five minutes with more spices.
After a minute the 'rice crackers & sake' character I found in the 'Dark Whisky' emerges.
Taste: Quite boring on the palate, although it does have an endearing candy fruitiness.
Something metallic as well. This beats your average bottom shelf blend from Scotland.
Score: 48 points - I had to stop myself from actively liking this Polish whisky.

I'm sure that they are making
some great vodka's in Poland,
but I haven't tried a Polish
whisky yet that I liked.
That puts it at the lower end
of my purely personal list of
'good-to-bad' whisky countries.
It's in the company of Latvia,
Czechoslovakia and Switzerland.
But it's a 'n=1' situation...

World whiskies: South-Africa

Three Ships 10yo (40%, James Sedgwick Distillery, Bottled +/- 2001, 6000 bottles, South Africa)
Nose: Surprisingly big and sherried. An unusual amount of character. A bit like Macallan 10yo C/S.
Taste: It performs very well on the palate as well; very sherried with a fair amount of smoke.
Score: 74 points - it's just a tad too extreme and uneven to make it into the upper 70's.
This puts some Scotch malt whiskies to shame. Very, very entertaining for a 'world whisky'.

I have sampled a few more
versions of Three Ships whisky,
but didn't make detailed notes.

World whiskies: Sweden

Mackmyra Preludium 04 (53.3%, OB, Bottled 11/04/2007, 9096 Bts., Sweden)
Nose: Light, sweet, fruity and polished; quite pleasant actually. Ready to play with the Scotch boys.
Very fruity - but at the same time this is much lighter & more 'transparent' than most world whiskies.
Taste: Oy, quite harsh at first. But then the sweet fruits take over. Grows oily towards the finish.
After an oily episode the finish desintegrates, leaving a rough 'plywood' aftertaste. Coffee?
Score: 77 points - although I was initially inclined to go for 79 or 80 points based on the nose.
Surprisingly good - they just have to smoothen out the harsh, 'spirity' tail end of the finish.

Mackmyra NAS (46.1%, OB, Batch 2008-02, Bottled 2008, Sweden)
Nose: Clean, prickly start with soft fruity and malty notes. Polished and quite complex. Mash.
Something metallic. More 'grain whisky' smells after a few seconds. Faint vanilla notes?
Whiff of sulphur and organics after a while. Oilier later on. It drifts in and out of focus.
It seems unsure which direction it wants to take, but at least there's plenty of development.
Taste: Malty, sharp start. Cardboard. Could be a little sweeter.
Just like the nose, it shines for a few seconds before quietly signing off.
Quite bold in the start, although I'm not crazy about the heavy finish that hangs around.
Score: 77 points - not quite recommendable yet in my book, but up to recent Scottish standards.

I have sampled a few more
versions of Mackmyra whisky,
but didn't make detailed notes.
Unless the world has changed
since I last updated this text
Sweden is still at #5 on my
Top 5 of whisky countries. That
is not easy to achieve for a
country that has just one very
young distillery.
Breathing down Sweden's neck
(figuratively) are France, the
USA, New Zealand, Taiwan and
South-Africa. They might enter
my Top 5 at some point.

Laphroaig 1974
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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.
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