On occasion of World Whisky Day this Sunday, here’s a list by The Single Malt Amateur Club of the top Indian single malts and why you should try them. Hemanth Rao, Founder of Single Malt Amateur Club shares the list of top Indian single malts. Instead of sharing new entrants here is a list of lesser-known whiskies that are available locally and one should grab a bottle when presented with an opportunity. 

If you have a feeling that the whisky world dates are returning too often, you may not be the only one. International whisky day is different to the World Whisky Day which is marked on the 3rd Saturday of May every year. While the latter is an organization that has been associated with the whisky world, International whisky day was established in 2009 to commemorate the birthday anniversary of a great English writer Michael Jackson. (Not the pop singer) Being one of the most revered & influential authors on the subject, the Whisky Day Festival was organized in the Netherlands in the presence of several whisky writers. The book “The Whiskies of Scotland” for an overview of the Scottish whisky world is thoroughly recommended. 

Here's the list

Amrut Fusion

Where it comes from: Amrut Distillery, Bengaluru – India, Casks: Ex-Bourbon

Specialty: This whisky needs no introduction. The whisky that created a category of Indian single malt whisky and took the world by storm. A whisky which is a fusion of Indian and Scottish barley, launched in 2009 and was awarded the 3rd best whisky in the world in 2014. This whisky is a balance, a tango of peat and unpeated whiskies fighting for domination on your palate, and it is a marvelous performance!

Tasting notes (From the distillery):

Amrut Fusion

 

Nose: Heavy, thickly oaked, and complex: some curious barley-sugar notes here shrouded in soft smoke. Big, but seductively gentle, too.

Taste: The delivery, though controlled at first, is massive! Then more like con-fusion as that smoke on the nose turns into a warming, full-blown peat, but it far from gets its way as a vague sherry trifle note (curious, seeing how there are no sherry butts involved) - the custard presumably is oaky vanilla - hammers home that barley - fruitiness to make for a bit of a free-for-all, but for extra food measure the flavors develop into an intense chocolate fudge middle which absolute resonates through the palate.

Finish: A slight struggle here as the mouthfeel gets a bit puffy with the dry peat and oak; enough molasses sweetness to see the malt through to a satisfying end, though. Above all, rather than lying down and accepting their fate, the spices rise and usher this extraordinary whisky to its exit.

Kamet

Where it comes from: Piccadily Distillery (A joint venture between Peak Spirits & Piccadily)

Casks: Triple Cask (Ex-Bourbon, Wine casks & Sherry)

Specialty: A collaboration between Nancy Fraley (Still Austin Whiskey Co.'s master blender) & Surrinder Kumar (do you need an introduction? 😉) Kamet is a new age single malt whisky. Right from the label, the brand and the whisky reflect Indian styles. A distillery located close to the historical town of Kurukshetra, this whisky is quite different in its characteristics compared to other Indian productions.

Tasting notes (From the distillery):

Nose: Kamet has a fruity aroma profile with oaky spice forward notes, complemented with vanilla, caramel, and subtle raisins with nutty and sweet dark chocolate on top notes.

Palate: It exhibits a melted concoction of fresh and dried fruit notes with subtle hints of oaky vanilla, spice, and dark chocolate.

Finish: Kamet has a long, warm, complex nutty finish with a balanced dry and sherried sweetness.

Paul John Brilliance

Where it comes from: Amrut Distillery, Bengaluru – India

Casks: Ex-Bourbon

Specialty: While Amrut created a flutter with the Fusion, the whiskies from Paul John proved to the world that this category was not a flash in the pan. It is a whisky that will be lapped up by those who prefer a rich & luxurious dram.

Tasting notes (From the distillery):

Nose: The Demerara sugars give off a whiff of sweet fragrances, with a hint of cinnamon, a dash of honey, and faint spices.

Palate: The delivery, though controlled at first, is massive! Then more like con-fusion as that smoke on the nose turns into a warming, full-blown peat, but it far from gets its way as a vague sherry trifle note (curious, seeing how there are no sherry butts involved) - the custard presumably is oaky vanilla - hammers home that barley - fruitiness to make for a bit of a free-for-all, but for extra food measure the flavors develop into an intense chocolate fudge middle which absolute resonates through the palate.

Finish: Brilliance has a smooth and beautifully relaxed finish, with a hint of mild spices and deep intense vanilla.

Rampur Double Cask

Where it comes from: Rampur Distillery (Radico Khaitan) 

ABV: 45%

Casks: Double Cask (Ex Bourbon, European Oak Sherry)

Specialty: A distillery that mostly exports its single malt whisky, this is a variant available in a few markets of India (Delhi). While there is not too much detail about the distillery itself and its maturation methods, this whisky provides a unique experience of ‘Lichee’ notes on the nose and palate. A light and delicate whisky, which is quite preferred by those who prefer their malts easygoing

Tasting notes (From the distillery):

Pic- https://www.whiskymonster.com/

 

Nose: Full-bodied aroma of tropical fruits, smooth malty tones, and oaky notes from double oak-wood barrels create an aurora of flavors.

Palate: Lustful elegance of sweet fruits; riding on rich sherry for a blissful nirvana.

Finish: Tantalisingly long, lingering, and generous.

Name: Solan Gold

Where it comes from: Mohan Meakin Distillery

Casks: No details on the label/bottle

Specialty: If you have been reading stories from distilleries in India about using ‘water from Himalayas’, ‘Matured in foothills of the Himalayas’ etc., this may be the only distillery that will ring true in those statements. Coming from the brand that makes the very popular Old Monk rum, this distillery is the true pioneer in India. A distillery with a rich history and a wonderful story - if you have not heard about this, it’s time to brush up the facts.

Tasting notes (From the distillery):

When we said that this organization does not believe in marketing we were not joking! Try scrounging the net for official notes from this whisky and you will find none from the manufacturers. They trust you to create your own.

Name: Paul John Edited

Where it comes from: Paul John Distillery, Goa

Casks: Ex Bourbon

Specialty A very artisanal single malt whisky from the distillery. Created by a vatting of peated and unpeated whiskies in ex bourbon casks. The whisky maintains the hallmark of the distillery with rich honeyed and sweet notes, but is bolstered with gentle clean peat. This whisky is made from 6 row Indian barley.

Tasting notes (From the distillery):

Nose: Honey and cocoa are laced with a hint of smokiness and a shot of espresso. A deeper whiff reveals fruity fragrances.

Palate: The grassy flavours of barley show up first, but gently make way for subtle peat notes. They slowly dissolve and pave the way for a rush of mint and mocha.

Finish: The finish is long and drawn out. You can sense a hint of spice and chocolate mint as it ends on gentle peat notes.

 Amrut Peated Single Malt Whisky 

Where it comes from: Amrut Distilleries

Casks: Triple Cask (Ex-Bourbon, Wine casks & Sherry)

Specialty: A collaboration between Nancy Fraley (Still Austin Whiskey Co.'s master blender) & Surrinder Kumar (do you need an introduction? 😉) Kamet is a new age single malt whisky. Right from the label, the brand and the whisky reflect Indian styles. A distillery located close to the historical town of Kurukshetra, this whisky is quite different in its characteristics compared to other Indian productions.

Tasting notes (From the distillery):

Nose: Unusually dry peat; not dissimilar to peat reek absorbed by an old leather armchair; a hint of citrus, too

Taste: Despite the nose, the immediate sensation is one of being caressed by molassed sugar and then a ratching up of the peat notes. As they get more forceful, so the experience becomes that little bit drier and spicier, though not without the molasses refusing to give way.

Finish: You can tell the quality of the distillate and the barrels it has been matured in by the crystalline depth to the finish. Everything is clear on the palate and the butterscotch vanillas wrap the phenols for a comfortable and clean finale

Name: Bold

Paul John Distilleries, Goa

Casks: Ex Bourbon

Specialty: Now that we are clearly in the peat territory, the duo of Paul John & Amrut are likely to be trading spots! The Bold from Paul John is a progression from the Edited - from mildly peated to a full blown peated whisky. Significantly different, this whisky offers a spicy & heady mix with peat. Still not boggy or dirty peat, this whisky tangoes with spice and smoke, a feisty one.

Tasting notes (From the distillery):

Nose: After the slightest whiff of smoke, a dizzying array of Manuka honey, prickly spice and bourboneque red liquorice takes over.

Palate: This melt-in-the-mouth malt has the most profound flavours crashing in like waves. At first, the delivery feels sublimely silky and studded with oak-like honey. And just when you think you’ve savoured it all, you are surprised by a hefty second wave of spice. This is followed by a cloudy, smoky feel that coats the roof of the mouth and leaves a tidal wave of dry molasses, peaty soot and a degree of copper in its wake.

Finish: Bold has a light finish with a tinge of copper slowly making its presence known. You can also sense a gorgeous smoked mocha shaped by delicate and intricate spices.

Intermediate Sherry

Where it comes from: Amrut Distilleries, Bengaluru.

Casks: Ex Bourbon, Sherry, and back to Ex Bourbon

Specialty: An innovative winner from the distillery. This whisky is produced by sandwiching the maturation process in sherry casks for a period in between the bourbon casks. In many ways this is a great introduction to the nuances of a sherry cask matured whisky at the same time not being an overwhelmed by a sherry bomb.

Tasting notes (From the distillery):

Nose: Instead of the usual biscuit aroma, we now get moist cake. And my word: is it fruity and spicy!! Love the freshly waxed oak floor, too. Brain-explodingly complex and multi-layered with one of the most intriguing sherry-style-bourbon-style marriages on the market

Taste: Cracking delivery and entirely unique in form. The structure is decidedly oak-based, but acts as no more than a skeleton from which the juicy sultana and spices drape. Salivating, too, as the barley kicks in powerfully. But the liquorice-orangey-honeycomb bourbon theme quietly shapes the flavour profile; the spices pulse and glow

Finish: Quite a chunk of natural caramel quietens the more exuberant characteristics; long and elegant.

Name: Oloroso Select Cask

Where it comes from: Paul John Distilleries, Goa.

Casks: Ex-Bourbon finished in Oloroso wine casks

Specialty: A sherry bomb! While the technicalities of nomenclature (Sherry – a wine made in Jerez) refrains from it being placed in the sherry category of whiskies, we believe this will get you as close to a Sherry bomb in India. A style that will make you wonder right from the color if this is whisky indeed?

Tasting notes (From the distillery):

Nose: Peach, apricot, and light notes of molasses and blood orange.

Taste: Soft and sweet, with nutty chocolate and Melton Hunt cake.

Finish: Long, intense, and sweet with delicious heavy spices imbibed from the Oloroso casks, a dash of coffee mocha, and sumptuous dark chocolate.

Amrut Triparva

Where it comes from: Amrut Distilleries, Bengaluru.

Casks: Virgin oak finished in Ex Bourbon

Specialty: India’s first triple distilled whisky provides a dimensional change to the distillery character. A whisky for contemplation, this whisky is a showcase on the bouquet.

Tasting notes (From the distillery)

Nose: Salted Caramel and coconut-vanilla custard work in tandem and there is a whisper of peach and melon. That whisper become a shout of plantain and sweet oranges complemented by subtle oak notes.

Taste: Fruit cocktail, creamy peach and melon, in syrup followed by plantain, orangey citrus and vanilla custard. The whole experience is a kind of sweet soup with a rich texture shouldered by honey and sherbet.

Finish: That honey and plantain refusing to go away and joined by a mild spice dust.

Mithuna

Where it comes from: Paul John Distilleries, Goa

Casks: Ex Bourbon finished in Virgin Oak

Specialty: The innovation bug seems to have caught on and it’s done in style! The second release of the constellation series from PJ is an exceptional dram matured in an unusual manner of finishing in Virgin Oak. With dollops of sweetness and ooph in this whisky this will jolt ones consciousness with poise and confidence that Indian craft whiskies have truly arrived.

Pic/ https://www.drinkhacker.com/

 

Tasting notes (From the distillery):

Nose : Aromas of liquorice, gentle beeswax with ulmo honey on crisp toast and tender notes of vanilla.

Palate: Coffee mocha, orange peel, delicate spice on active tannins with gentle oils and dark cocoa notes.

Finish: Long and complex with multi-toned sugars and delicate honey.

The complexity on this whisky will astound you. Not something that we would usually say but a bit of palate experience is needed to truly enjoy this whisky.

Indri

Where it comes from: Indri single malt is distilled in Indri, Haryana, at the Himalayan foothills, near the Yamuna basin. 

Casks: It is produced in three different wooden barrels:  Ex-bourbon, ex-wine, and PX sherry casks.

Specialty: This remarkable single malt is made from indigenous six-row barley grown for hundreds of years in Rajasthan and is one of the few triple cask matured whisky in India. 

Tasting notes: 

Nose - Hints of black tea, caramelized pineapple with a whiff of oak, followed by vanilla and honey from the bourbon oak and traces of spiced tannins from the European oak, finally topped up with vinous raisin and sweet sherry notes.

Taste - Elegant richness, smooth and warm on the sides of the mouth. Gentle spice and wood characters, followed by nutty flavours and hints of burnt pineapple, citrus and raisins.

Finish - A subtle and balanced finish where each flavour compliments one another without dominating. A smooth and long aftertaste with sweet fruity flavours coming up from the warmth of the throat, lingering long after.