Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Amrut. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Founded in 1948 in Bengaluru (Bengalore), India by Shri. Radhakrishna N Jagdale, Amrut Distilleries has pioneered Indian whiskey. As the first to produce Indian Single Malt, the distillery has carefully studied the local climate’s impact on aging. Over the decades, the distillery has received worldwide acclaim for their single malts, which are widely available in the United States. Not to rest on their laurels, they’ve literally and figuratively put together a new technique for cask finishing.
In 2016, Amrut Distilleries launched a unique cask-finished whiskey, the Amrut Spectrum 005. This single malt whiskey was finished in a cask assembled with staves from five different barrels, (the name is a reference to the spectrum of staves). The distillery claims to have invented the mixed stave cask finishing and it does not sound like an easy task. Keep in mind that these staves varied significantly in terms of grain, age, thickness, and size. All of these factors had to be carefully managed to produce a liquid-tight barrel that would allow for equal exposure to the different wood types.
The Amrut Spectrum 004 Single Malt Whisky followed up the 005. The third release of Amrut Spectrum 004 Single Malt Whisky occurred in late 2021 and is the release reviewed here. The base single malt whiskey was aged in ex-bourbon casks before finishing in a custom-made cask. For this whiskey, hand selected staves from four types were fitted together in equal proportion. The four types were: New American oak staves with a char level of three, French limousin oak, ex-Oloroso sherry cask staves, and ex-PX sherry cask staves.
Given the intense impact on the whiskey, I think it’s important to discuss these two sherries. Oloroso Sherry is a type of fully oxidized sherry typically bottled dry. Though the base wine is quite neutral, much like whiskey, its aging process gives it its unique flavors. These flavors can range from dried fruits, toasted nuts and seeds, to more chemical and umami flavors such as shoe polish and mushrooms. PX sherry is a dessert style of sherry made from the Pedro Ximenez grape that is often sun-dried before fermentation to concentrate its flavors and sugars. The resulting wine typically resembles molasses for its syrupy consistencies and dark and opaque color. It often shows aromas of raisins, dark chocolate, or dried fruits.
Tasting Notes: Amrut Spectrum 004 Single Malt Whisky
Vital Stats: Aged in ex-bourbon cask and finished in a cask assembled from staves from new American oak, new French oak, ex-Oloroso sherry casks, and ex-PX sherry casks. 50% ABV, SRP $195/ 750ml bottle.
Appearance: The color is dark amber-brown.
Nose: There’s a lot going on with the nose. It opens with spice notes like caraway, musk, star anise, and toast. There’s a suggestion of shoe polish, roasted sweet potato, and burnt vanilla. The influence of the four stave types in the finishing cask is prominent! There are notes of candy corn, caramel, and dried mango. The mélange of so many aromatics does seem a touch disjointed. The entire experience is a bit like smelling a bottle of fine perfume: a suggestion is nice, but it becomes overwhelming.
Palate: The taste is of sweet perfume and spices with a strong toasted vanilla note. It shows hints of sandalwood, pond water, matchsticks, and seaweed. There’s a cereal note to the finish like breakfast porridge sprinkled with caraway. The evaporation on the finish is pleasant with a mild tannic feel on the tongue.
I found the aromatics to be a bit over the top for my palate, but subtlety doesn’t seem to be the goal. It’s an interesting decision to mix staves from multiple barrels, but I’m left looking for more harmony in the finished product. It would make a beautiful if price-prohibitive mixer with cola, with ginger ale, or in richly flavored cocktails. For better or worse, the four cask types are apparent when tasting. It is a heavy, full-throttle experience that benefited greatly from several hours of air. Those seeking an amped up barrel-forward whiskey experience will find plenty to enjoy. This will be loved and adored, just not by all. But isn’t that how one achieves greatness?
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Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...