Paris Whisky Live – Exploring India’s Rampur Jugalbandi, Asava and Double Cask

We were first introduced to Rampur Single Malt in 2017 when we tried an early release of Rampur “Select” (06/2016) 43%. We found it quite promising and so I was delighted to see the folks from Rampur had a booth at Paris Whisky Live – and even better, they were releasing new expressions that weekend!

As this was a festival environment, I’ve only jotted down a few impressions – enough to get a ‘feel’ for the whisky but nothing that can be relied on as a proper sense of what each expression brings to the table.

In classical Indian music, a “jugalbandi” is a playful duet of two solo musicians – one plays and the other responds with a further variation – a kind of musical “one upmanship” that delights the audience with its flourishes and embellishes leading to a fabulous crescendo as both the instrumentalists combine their solos into a resounding duo finish!

We were delighted to discover that these Rampur “Jugalbandi” expressions were released just that Sept 2022 weekend of Paris Whisky Live – what fun!

Rampur Jugalbandi #1 56.1% (approx Eur 120) Red ie left in the above photo

Our whisky guide shared this whisky came from casks matured first in Bourbon, then in Portuguese Muscatel casks – a combination that, in this case, worked together rather well.

We found that it was intense, heavy, and tropical on the nose (particularly ripe mango!), whereas on the palate we found “gulab” (rose) syrup, coming across more like a dessert wine than whisky, then it shifted to spicier notes. We also tried this one with a small splash of water which we found opened it up nicely.

Rampur Jugalbandi #2 56.3% (approx Eur 120) Green ie left in the above photo

Then it was on to the 2nd in this “jugalbandi“. Again our guide shared that this whisky was the product of both 1st fill ex-bourbon and ex-Calvados casks from Normandy, France – interesting!

Much like the 1st, we found this was an un-whisky-like whisky! Our 1st impression of the aroma was that it was more like a liqueur, with simply loads of tropical fruit – in this case lychee was more prominent than mango! On the palate it was intense and a bit all over the place. Here is where we could first sense the Calvados influence with roasted apples and it closed with a dash of spice.

Our conclusion was this was a rather interesting duo – with a complete contrast between 1 and 2.

Rampur Asava 45% (approx Eur 75)

The next “duo” we sampled was Asava and Double Cask. With Asava, we were told it was matured in ex-Bourbon casks and then finished in Indian ex-Cabernet Sauvignon casks.

The nose rewarded us with luscious berries. The palate was soft with more juicy berries and then some tropical fruit notes. We found the finish was at 1st a citrus twist and then it returned to the berries.

Rampur Double Cask 45% (approx Eur 70)

By contrast, the Double Cask was much more balanced and for us, in some ways quite interesting. A “marriage” of American ex-Bourbon casks and European ex-Sherry casks, we found it the most accessible of the four whiskies sampled. The aroma had tropical fruits and honey, with sweetness and spice perfectly balanced on the palate with a nice long finish.

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Exploring Aged Grain Whiskies – Girvan, Strathclyde + Invergordon

Once upon a time if you had asked me to characterize our Bombay Malt & Cigar club, I would have said it was a set of gentlemen in pursuit of the finer things in life. In terms of their preferences – quality older Scottish single malts would be the ONLY whiskies to make the cut.

Fast forward to find we’ve come a long way… we’ve explored a Westland trio from the US, undisclosed distilleries, blends, bar night fare, proving these gents aren’t so stuffy after all!

So when our August 2017 session featured a trio of single grains followed by a duo of Indian whiskies… we knew we may not be in for the BEST whiskies but we were game to try some DIFFERENT drams.

Single Grain Trio:

Indian whiskies duo:

Would any of these whiskies be ones any of us would want to run out and buy? No. But was it worth spending a bit of time trying? Absolutely!

For our tasting notes, read on over the next few days…

This session also happened to be our annual partner’s night… A chance for our better halves to enjoy an evening, jointly socializing after the ‘serious business’ of whisky tasting concludes and desultory puffing on cigars with conversation commenced.

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Another Indian single malt – Rampur 43%

It is one of those strange ironies that being able to BUY in India an Indian single malt produced in India is actually difficult.

Rampur Single Malt is from Radico Khaitan distillery in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, India. The distillery itself dates back to the 1940s, however this is their first single malt. Touted as the ‘Kohinoor of Single Malts’.

This particular bottle was purchased in the US. We sampled it blind – freshly opened.

Rampur (06/2016) Batch 383 43%

  • Nose – Banana, spice, sweet lemon, peaches, nectarines, jackfruit, summer fresh with juicy fruits, cashew fruit, mandarin orange canned segments, honey sugar drops… if covered for a bit lost some of the fruitiness and took on a young wood quality, then as aired more… melon toffee, light perfume, cashew feni
  • Palate – Green capsicum, a bit of spice, not at all bitter yet also no body, no complaints per se but nothing wonderful either
  • Finish – Spice, bitter, a sense of being quite green or young
  • Water – Just makes it sweeter with a bit of spice – adds nothing

Our speculation ran rife – the nose was initially quite lovely but by contrast the palate disappointing. Discussion turned to how this is characteristic of some young whiskies that are bursting with fruit aromas but haven’t yet spent enough time in the cask for it to shift to more complex notes or have any staying power. We all felt this whisky had promise but just needed to spend more time maturing.

We also speculated that this may be one of those whiskies that do not keep well… some more powerful peaty and even sherry bombs seem to mellow out with a little oxidation, revealing more nuanced characters. Others, again tending to be younger or more delicate drams can lose the very quality that makes them interesting if spend too much time oxidation in a bottle.

We could not specifically identify its origin – just that it was neither Scottish nor Japanese and not typically American either.

With the reveal, we were terribly impressed out host managed to track down a bottle as we’d been coveting an opportunity to try it since launch.

In all we pronounced it a “Good early attempt.” 

At the end of the evening, we returned to see how it fared with an hour or so open… there was a lovely toasted coconut on the nose, a coffee bitter on the palate yet overall it was a ‘mono-dimensional’ whisky… lacking the nuanced complexity we ideally seek in a dram.

Who knows, perhaps future editions with a bit more patience will reveal further characteristics. And certainly this is an entirely respectable early effort and nothing to dent desi pride in yet another home grown single malt.

PS Our ever so kind host donated the remainder, so it was re-sampled Aug 2017 as part of a Single Grain Trio and Desi Duo. What did the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents think?

  • Nose – Saffron, sweet, full ripe oranges, that Middle Eastern orange water, nuts, baklava, very sugary and back to a sweetened orange reduction
  • Palate – Cherries, mixed fruits, stewed plums and grapes. Overall quite accessible
  • Finish – Limited finish but quite bitter, in an oddly artificial way, with the bitter aftertaste staying… not entirely pleasantly

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