Vita Dulcis 1 – India’s Amrut Fusion 50%

What a way to kick things off! With a dram from my much missed home – India!!

Over the years, I’ve sampled many an Amrut Fusion… however it has been some time since I ‘properly’ sat down with one – particularly the international version that helped catapult Amrut to global attention.

My first taste was in 2010? (I think!) at a spirits exhibition in Mumbai with father and son Neelakanta Rao Jagdale and Rakshit Jagdale. I was impressed by their passion and commitment to bring Indian whisky to the world – by establishing their credibility outside India. At the time, I found the concept of “Fusion” interesting but was personally more drawn to their “Two Continents” – yep that was the 1st edition.

After that, I had a mixed experience with the Fusion version which became available in India – with a very clear caveat that the conditions under which these bottles are stored likely varied considerably.

The most memorable was an evening in 2015 with N R Jagdale and Jim Murray.

I next properly sampled Fusion 50% at Singapore airport and went – huh?! This was NOT the same Fusion available in India. True – the alcohol percentage is different as Amrut must abide by the state regulations on strength for domestically produced alcohol. But it was more than that…

So what did I find with the Vita Dulcis 2020 Advent Calendar mini?

India – Amrut Fusion 50%

  • Nose – Hmm… is that a hint of bacon? Shifts into toffee apples, oatmeal, cream and honey with a light peat chaser
  • Palate – Full warming spice, some oak, tannins, definitely more spice, chocolate
  • Finish – A nice cinnamon spice, slightly bitter
  • Water? Nope! Not a drop…

Well? Thumbs up or down?

This version, this day… its a yes. Particularly the way the cinnamon spice interplayed with the sweet subtle peat.

And Amrut’s official tasting notes?

  • 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 warming, full blown peat, but it far from gets its own 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 flavours develop into a really intense chocolate fudge middle which absolute resonates through the palate
  • Finish : A slight struggle here as the mouthfeel gets a bit puffy here with the dry peat and oak; enough molassed sweetness to see the malt through to a satisfying end, though. Above all the spices, rather than lying down and accepting their fate, rise up and usher this extraordinary whisky to its exit

What about some of my other encounters with Amrut?

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Chorlton – Mackmyra 12 years 50.2%

I don’t know why, but I struggled to prepare this post… My tasting notes from a virtual tasting evening with our European chapter of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai were weak. So it took sitting down for a solo tasting to tease out a bit more. If some of the impressions seem contradictory, this would be why!

First off – we are no strangers to Sweden’s Mackmyra distillery offerings.We’ve quite enjoyed a few over the years… and been disappointed too.

And now, without further ado… here is what we discovered!

Mackmyra 12 years 50.2% 278 bottles

  • Nose – Clean and fresh, cherry wood, sweet honey, one dimensional, caraway seed
  • Palate – Cork or wood, juniper?
  • Finish – Bitter cinnamon bark
  • Water – We had a bit of a debate on this – some thought it nicer with water, others thought it killed its character
  • Return – We set it aside and returned after some time… it opened up to reveal some lightly floral notes and balsam wood

Well this was a curious one… certainly not complex or flamboyant. Above all, it needed time to open up.

Did we like it? Let’s say there was a mixed response. In particular our Swedish lady was… underwhelmed by this Mackmyra.

And yet, when I came back to it a few weeks later, I found there was an inviting ‘freshness’ to its approach – clean, straight forward and quite pleasant. I found a subtle citrus fruitiness – more grapefruit than orange. With water, I also discovered tasty baked goods – more like lemon curd wickeltorte or poppyseed grapefruit gugelhupf.

It is distinctly different and while it wouldn’t be the 1st dram I would gravitate to relax and unwind, it was utterly delightful one evening when I came in from a brisk chilly walk. Clearly that is the right context for quite a cheerful dram.

What does David have to say?

My first foray into the world of whisky outside of Scotland is a rare chance to try a non-finished single cask from Sweden’s Mackmyra distillery.

The nose is super-clean and foresty (very Scandi!), with rye, caraway, lemon sponge and hints of apricot. The palate continues the theme with gingerbread, spiced cookies, juniper and a zingy orange/grapefruit fruitiness in the finish. Really interesting stuff, and a profile quite unlike any Scotch.

This bourbon barrel was fully matured in an abandoned mine under the Swedish forest.

I purchased this whisky directly from the Chorlton website for £70 plus shipping.

Here is are the other two in this Chorlton trio:

As for other brushes with Mackmyra? There have been many! With nearly all sampled together with our Swedish Whisky Lady:

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North Star Series 8 – Glenturret 8 year 58.3%

The last North Star we sampled was from the Highlands – Glenturret to be precise.

I will admit when I selected this bottle, I was hugely influenced by how spectucular the LMdW Artist Glenturret 30 year was! This impression was further re-inforced by a positive experience with a port matured Glenturret 14 year mini.

When I first opened it went – woah!? This was no lucious peach confection. It was peat.  I paused… and then it clicked! I also had this style of Glenturret – better known as Ruadh Mhor – courtesy of a fabulous evening of Chorlton’s whiskies.

In the past, most Glenturret would go into Famous Grouse. You might come across the occasional independent bottles, however in 2018 it was sold to Glenturret Holding – a joint venture between Lalique Group and Swiss entrepreneur Hansjörg Wyss, from 2020 a new range of official bottling are now available.

I went back to filling up our sample bottles to send to Whisky ladies in Europe.

What about the Glenturret Distillery

Glenturret 8 year (Dec 2010 / Mar 2019) Refill Hogshead 58.3% (North Star 008), 1 of 330 bottles. Price Price with shipping/tax £65.49

  • Colour – Golden hay
  • Nose – Well hello peat! Barbecue pringles, salted cashew nuts, cured meats, burnt bacon drizzled in maple syrup, a bit of charcoal wood chips.
  • Palate – Mmmmm maple bacon… baked apples, chocolate… a nice ‘grown up’ complex sweet peat, oily, think caramelized onions and apple sauce with a nice light spice
  • Finish – Long… a subtle smoked bacon tail with a lingering sweetness
  • Water – Initially it seemed to dampen it too much, losing the lovely balance between spice, sweet and peat… however it did add another citrusy element – grapefruit.

While the aromas swirled about with cured smoked meats, the peat was more nuanced on the palate… a kind of civilized rounded peat. Just the kind of maple bacon that is hard to resist!

Talk turned to peat. One of our whisky ladies has a clear peat preference. Whereas I have to admit,  I have veered away from peat of the last few years. Until now. And I realized it is clearly linked to environment. Living in India in perpetual summer is entirely different than a chilly Germany in November! Whereas this kind of sweet smokey dram is perfection on a cold miserable rainy day.

And what does Ian have to say?

  • Nose – Sweet & salted monkey nuts
  • Palate – Fine virginia tobacco
  • Finish – Medicinal, lemon and burnt orange

What else was part of my North Star latest score?

As for other Glenturret experiences? By far the most outstanding was the LMdW, however the Chorlton was also a worthy whisky!

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North Star Series 8 – Auchroisk 13 year 51.2%

Next up in our meander through a few North Stars‘ is a cask strength dram from Auchroisk Distillery.

While we tasted blind, with the reveal, our ex-Diageo lady shared how once upon a time it was bottled as Singleton as it was felt Auchroisk (Oth-rusk) would be too difficult to pronounce. This was back in the mid-1980s which also happened to be an early example of finishing as their approach was to decant a 10 year old ex-Bourbon matured whisky into ex-Sherry casks for a further 2 years, before this became a hallmark technique of Glenmorangie.

Was it successful? As a single malt brand, not entirely. And by 2001, bottling under this label stopped with the name changed back to Auchroisk with release of a ‘Flora & Fauna’ official bottling. Followed later in 2008 with release of “The Singleton of Auchroisk.”

In the meantime, the name Singleton was revived as the Diageo ‘brand’ –  The Singleton – which has three distinctly different avatars (and distilleries) depending on the market –  The Singleton of Glen Ord for Asia (fruity), followed by Glendullan for North America (touted as smooth and approachable), and Dufftown for Europe (nutty marmalade).

Confused much?

Auchroisk 13 year (Feb 2006 / June 2019) Oloroso Sherry Hogshead 51.2% (North Star 008)

  • Nose – Wow! Fresh bubblegum, apples – quite a summery greeting. Flower, all sorts of jams, Victoria sponge cake, strawberries and cream, pavlova, marshmallows, cantaloupe… shifting into a touch of port or prunes or something in the darker sherry aromas, perhaps even a hint of sweet tobacco leaf? As it continued to open, just became more and more fabulous in the shifting range of fruity baked deserts with a touch of sweet spices
  • Palate – What a contrast! We hadn’t expected such character – spice, licorice, cheese rinds greeted us with the first sip. By the 2nd sip, the sherry influence was clear. Lots of blackberries, strawberries. Creamy, coating the palate.
  • Finish – Relatively short but satisfying.
  • Water – Definitely has an impact. On the aromas, adding water brought back the floral quality, added mandarin oranges. On the palate it was initially spicier – a lot spicier – with cinnamon, allspice. As it settled down, we thought of old fashioned Christmas oranges with cloves, with a nice dollop of vanilla infused cream!

Overall we were impressed. There was a pleasant complexity to this one.

We returned after sampling the peaty Glenturret 8 year… Sometimes having a sherry dram follow peat, can lead to disappointment. Absolutely not in this case! If anything, we appreciated this Auchroisk even more.

  • Revisit – Gorgeous! Vanilla, tobacco, sweet liquorice, lovely christmasy character without being too intensely sherry. Also had a nice nuttiness. And sipping? Simply delicious. In short – Yum! A delightful dessert-y whisky.

No doubt – we thoroughly enjoyed this dram! And would be interested in exploring more…

This Auchroisk was matured in a Oloroso sherry hogshead which produced 280 bottles. I paid approx GBP 67, ordered directly from the fabulous folks at North Star Spirits.

As for Iain Croucher‘s tasting notes? Here is what he had to say about this Auchroisk:

  • Nose – An oil-burning Rayburn baking an orange sponge pudding
  • Palate – Orangeade Spangles & freshly plundered brambles
  • Finish – Nutty caramel with a plum & vanilla compote

We admit, we had to look up “spangles” to discover they are a British sweet. Just like an oil-burning Rayburn! Once we had a better sense of the references, would agree!

What else was part of my North Star latest score?

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North Star European Chapter – Royal Brackla, Fettercairn, Ichgower

Twas the night before Diwali… also Friday the 13th November… and as dusk fell in Europe, we cracked open a trio of North Star drams.

Our bottles had traversed quite some distance before we could sip together!  Originally from Scotland, they first made their way to me in Nurnberg, Germany… Then re-packaged into small samples, the whiskies continued their journey to Paris, Bretagne and rural Sweden… For one, it was then back to the UK – London to be more precise. For another, it was an even further adventure, flying to Mumbai for quarantine consumption.

So what did we try virtually together?

I had previously sampled all three, but was curious to see how they evolved and the impressions of my merry malty tasting companions!

Royal Brackla 11 year (2018) 55.2%

I will openly admit to being partial about this one! And wasn’t surprised when it was pronounced a ‘yummy’ whisky.

  • Nose – Apples, pears, all those lovely orchard fruits which shifted into spiced pineapple, toffee, nuts, then candied apple, cider, a herbal grassy quality, brioche
  • Palate – Again – quite tasty. A nice spice – think chilli chocolate, some salty caramel
  • Finish – Long and pleasant, a hint of anise

There was a debate on whether to add water or not… those who did were rewarded with maple syrup aromas with the palate rounding out with oils coming forward. The herbal quality took on a vegetal dimension – one mentioned brussle sprouts!

Without water, with water and even after airing for some time, what we appreciated most is how the base notes remained consistent. An enjoyable dram and terrific start to our evening.

Fettercairn 12 year (2019) 57.4% 

Quite a contrast to the earlier dram!

  • Nose – We were greeted by an inviting cognac, then clear shift into grapes, some mint and moss, lots of lovely dark berries – like black current or a blackberry jam, bit of nuts, over time it opened up further rewarding with a lightly floral perfume… after even more time, the caramel of coca cola came out too
  • Palate – Full strength, it packs a punch! From the fruity aromas, the spice initially came on strong! But then as it settled in, juicy grapes with a bit camomile and dandelion tea
  • Finish – Salty spice

And with water?

There were a few different comments – from soap to flowers to almond paste on the nose…. the real change was the palate. Early spring by the seaside.

We had a laugh at Ian’s tasting notes and quipped – less Disco & Funk, more Jazz & Blues in character.

Inchgower 11 year (2019) 52.5%

Our last brought a delicious Speyside peat to the mix.

  • Nose – Petrol and peat, sweet and salty, then also a bit peppery with a hint of licorice, increasingly caramel sweet as it opened up further
  • Palate – Shortbread biscuit, lemon zest, incredibly silky, black forrest
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice

Our peaty lady pronounced this a sweat hairy mechanic… who rises horses! And yet that was only the initial whiff… it mellowed and shifted to something infinitely more complex and subtle. This was clearly no Islay peat.

The kind of dram you would love to have in your hand to sip in a jazz club or coming back from skiing.

Remarkably, one lady was able to guess the exact distillery – long before the reveal – from her days with Diageo.

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TBWC – Auchroisk 12 year 47.9% (CNY Tasting Set)

Auchroisk is the last mini in our That Boutique-y Whisky Company Chinese New Year tasting set. Auchroisk isn’t one of those “we have history stretching back hundreds of years” kind of distillery. Nope. It is a more modern entry into the whisky fabric, built in 1974 for blending – think J&B Rare.

What did we discover with this particular cask strength single malt?

Auchroisk 12 year 47.9%, Batch 7 with 2,400 bottles. GBP 23.95

  • Nose – Dried leaves, herbal sweet, sweet grass, lemon, sweet spice, caramel, malty, wet cloth, all sweet smoke, think chestnuts roasting
  • Palate – Sweet then smoke, restrained yet spicy, herbal – think Underberg
  • Finish – Very dry, more of that nutty slightly sweet element

I honestly wasn’t sure I would like this one… nothing against the distillery but with the lovely summer weather I wasn’t keen on even a lightly smoky dram. Whereas this one so gently curled that element into the mix and was so smooth and easy to sip that any misgiving dissipated! Instead, it became more and more enjoyable… it was completely lip smacking in a delightfully autumnal way.

What do the folks over at Master of Malt have to say?

The zombie apocalypse has returned in the form of the seventh batch of this delicious indie Auchroisk! This one was matured for 12 wonderful years before the folks at That Boutique-y Whisky Company bottled it up at 47.9% ABV. If you look very carefully at the blood-curdling label, you’ll see that, amidst the chaos of finding people to recruit to the undead, one of the zombies has found the time to get his hair dyed. Self care, and all that.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Through dry smoke there’s fresh malt, lemon peel and dark berry syrup, with plenty of toffee, coconut husk and brittle.
  • Palate: Warming baking spice adds an initial burst of spice. Lime peel, caramel and orchard fruit bring sweetness. A little salinity and smoke develop underneath.
  • Finish: Delicately sweet with some prickles from ginger root.

TBWC – Linkwood 10 year 48.2% (CNY Tasting Set)

I really enjoy the fun graphic art labels that That Boutique-y Whisky Company create – often with a quirky story to go with it!

In the case of Linkwood, their choice of a fellow fixing a broom is quite apt… and here is why:

The Linkwood distillery was founded in 1821 in Speyside. It distilled tasty single malts and top whiskies for blends until 1971, which is where it gets a little confusing. In 1971, Linkwood was expanded with two more stills, although these stills actually belonged to a new distillery, which would be called Linkwood B. In 1985, Linkwood A (the original Linkwood) was closed down, making Linkwood B just Linkwood. It’s a different distillery, but it’s still Linkwood. Right? It’s a bit like that chap with the ship and had all its wood replaced. It’s the same ship, even though everything has been replaced. Right? The chap on the label is fixing a broom – the owner has had the same broom 20 years just with different heads and handles. It’s still the same broom, though. Right?

And so we dove into the Linkwood B.. I mean Linkwood distillery… you get the picture! What did we think?

Linkwood 10 year 48.2%, Batch 7 

  • Nose – Mmm… lemon grass, a dash of pink Himalayan salt, green peppers, wax, lots of character, lemony spice
  • Palate – Fresh green chillies, black peppercorns, touch of garam masala, dry red chillies… yes this sounds spicy but actually an interesting yet light melange of different peppers, peaking out from underneath these was a lovely fruit bouquet, a bit thin on the palate but quite tasty
  • Finish – Bitter almond, light liquorice root

While not the most amazing Linkwood I’ve ever had, it was interesting. The citrus, spice and light salt made for a curious combo that somehow worked quite well.

What do the folks over at Master of Malt have to say?

  • Nose: Saline, lemony nose, with spicy black pepper and lemongrass
  • Palate: More spice; black pepper and chilli, then citrus fruits, oranges, limes and lemon rind
  • Finish: Even more peppery spice and some hazelnut

TBWC – Speyside #3 8 year 50.7% (CNY Tasting Set)

The weather in London while we’ve been here has been absolutely stunning – glorious sunshine, warm breeze… in short it feels like full blown summer instead of being mid September.

So it is somehow fitting that our Chinese New Year tasting set had a few more summery drams – with this Speyside clearly very much in keeping with our environment.

Speyside #3 8 year 50.7%, Batch 1 

  • Nose – Started with a bit of resin, restrained orchard fruits – mostly pears, hint of ginger… in short delicious! Fresh and juicy, then stewed fruits… light liquorice, then shifting back into fresh pear then stewed apricot – wonderful!
  • Palate – Peppercorns, fruity with a lovely nice mouthfeel, pears and apple crumble then shifting into melons, then a lightly bitter edge
  • Finish – Lovely long finish – fantastic! Imagine apricot leather – yum!

Like all the whiskies in this particular tasting set, we didn’t even think of adding water. However I did wonder later if that might bright out even more juicy fruits. This was my favourite of the evening, followed by the Glenburgie.

And here are the tasting notes included with our Drinks by the Dram package:

  • Nose – Lots of new make character, fruity cherry and peach notes with grassy vegetal flavours
  • Palate – Fiery alcohol, very peppery, but tempered by some sweet notes, green banana, and a creamy texture
  • Finish – More spice, lingering taste of Thai green curry

We didn’t find it was so ‘fiery’ and also didn’t discover any Thai green curry, however the apricot leather finish could also be described as green mango. Interesting.

TBWC – Glenburgie 8 year 55.2% (CNY Tasting Set)

The minis are back!! And even better – this is no solo session but instead reunited with my regular minis tasting companion – the only difference is that we met in London rather than Mumbai…

I must admit, seeing a Glenburgie in the list was part of why this tasting set made the cut! I’m quite open about being partial towards this distillery since my first encounter where I dubbed it the “Downtown Abbey” of drams. I’ve had many a lovely whisky from them – tending to find elegant, fruity summery sipping malts – sunshine in a bottle.

So what did we discover in this one?

Glenburgie 8 year 55.2%, Batch 5 with 1,891 bottles. GBP 33.95.

  • Nose – Peaches and cream, sunshine and summer breeze, peach pit, caramel, light pecan… after some time sweet cream, lemon curd or rasagola, a touch of floral
  • Palate – Peach cobler, flat white peach, toffee, peach eau de vivre, light spice
  • Finish – Light spice, almond slivers, hint of thyme, slightly bitter

Joyful summer dram… and yes various versions of peach featured quite prominently in our impression… we simply couldn’t help ourselves as it was the best way to explain various summery elements that we encountered.

My friend is often amused at my sometimes prosaic descriptions and so came up with this: “This whisky is like a girl in a field with flowers in her hair and a smile on her face.”

Fanciful? Yes… but enjoyable all the same!

What do the folks over at Master of Malt have to say?

A big hello to the fifth batch of Glenburgie single malt bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company! This one is 8 years old, and the label still features a forgetful giant searching for his giant’s helmet. Probably needs it to protect his noggin because he keeps bashing it on door frames. Because he is very tall. Because he is a giant.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Melon and strawberry, with a hint of vanilla-y grist underneath.
  • Palate: Slightly peppery as it opens, but soon enough you’re treated to notes of orange flesh, green apple, buttered bread and fresh flowers.
  • Finish: Lasting fruit sweetness and a hint of thyme.

TBWC – Teaninich 11 year 47.9% (CNY Tasting Set)

Teaninich isn’t a distillery you readily find single malts at your corner whisky shop or travel retail. While part of the Diageo stable, it finds its way mainly into Johnnie Walker with limited official bottling – just part of the Flora and Fauna series.

Like many distilleries, it had a checkered past – founded in 1817 – even having an India connection with its original owner. It was sold several times and mothballed a few too, getting a complete revamp in 2013 with 16 new stills beside the old distillery which was demolished in 1999. It also is distinctive for using a filter press rather than mash tun to extract sugars.

As with everything… proof is in the pudding… or tasting in this case! What did we discover?

Teaninich 11 year 47.9%, Batch 2 with 1,987 bottles. GBP 32.95.

  • Nose – Yeasty, lemon, grassy, soda bread, dough, a bit sour in the fermenting vein,
  • Palate – Stone or chalk, yoghurt, floral, a bit sour
  • Finish – Limited with a hint of citrus and oak

Not exactly my favourite style and not sure this is the best example of the distillery either… it was a tricky style that for me at least didn’t quite work.

What do the folks over at Master of Malt have to say?

It’s the second batch of indie Teaninich from That Boutique-y Whisky Compnay! This single malt was matured for 11 years, until it was independently bottled at 47.9% ABV. The label recounts the saga of Teaninich founder Captain Hugh Munro, who lost his eye and consequently wasn’t allowed to marry the woman who he was betrothed to. Sounds like something out of a movie, doesn’t it?

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: There’s a lovely ripe grain element here that moves into fresh soda bread. Supple lemon citrus notes then develop among dry grass and vanilla.
  • Palate: Candied fruit and baking spice initially, before sugared almond, green apple and golden syrup emerge.
  • Finish: Toffee and lingering citrus notes.