Monday, May 28, 2012

Amrut Cask Strength Peated is a volcanic hot mess of fierce heat, tropic sweet, and reeky peat.

 Some Amrut is made with Scottish malt, some with Indian malt, and some with both.  According to the label, this version is made with "the finest imported peated Scottish barley".  Mashed, distilled, and matured 3000 feet up in the hills of Bangalore, Amrut Peated Cask Strength is a mix of East and West.  As a man who loves big peated whiskies, and having loved the Amrut Single Malt Cask Strength last night, I was pretty sure I was going to love this right off the bat.  Funny, it didn't turn out that way, at least at first...

Amrut Single Malt Cask Strength Peated 62.8% abv Batch No. 4 Jan. 2010
Light amber with olive tints

(50ml miniature from Ledger's Liquor in Berkeley, CA)

Color:  Light Amber with olive tints

Nose: iodine, putty, seaweed, salt air and solvent clashes with bitter citrus, vanilla sweetness, and rich damp loam.  It's rich and sweet at the same time it's industrial and maritime.  This is an unfamiliar combination and it's both off-putting (at least initially), but also fascinating; growing on me more and more with each glass.

Entry is honeyed rich with toffee.  But phenol and peat reek kick in at the turn to the mid-palate and explode with spicy heat and tangy citrus bite.  As the mid-palate expands burning earthy peat, redolent of soil joins the lush sweetness and evolves into dense tar and ash.  As this fades into the finish astringency develops, merging with the ashy bitterness of the peat.  It's like richly honeyed lemon tea hovering above burning earth with road tar, cigar ash, and complicated tropical herbs and spices.  At the end oak and peat combine into a burnt sandalwood perfumed bittersweet complexity.

My first reaction was close to revulsion.  The rich and fruity sweetness combined in an unfamiliar way with the fierce intensity of the peat and I found the combination odd and unpleasant.  However, sip after sip as I worked my way into the glass it gradually won me over.  The complexity and richness are nothing to be afraid of.  The sweetness - the honey combine with the rich wood tannins into tea flavors.  The earthy peat into tar, smoke and ash in much the way of peated Scotches (yet this combination of rich tropical sweet and rich peat is unlike any Scotch).  The combination is beguiling once you allow yourself to be seduced, like slipping into an initially too hot tub, first pain, then blissful submission.

This is a big, fierce dram.  It needs extensive air to fully open up.  I found close to an hour was necessary.  It likes a few drops of water, and can tolerate more than a few drops.  The heat is intensified.  Spicy mid-palate heat become fierce cayenne level heat - but the sweetness and floral qualities are amplified too and the peat is rendered better integrated into the sweet.  I honestly can't tell which I prefer (with water or without).  Citrus, earth, floral aromas, harsh industrial peaty garage aromas, seaweed, salt and sea airs, sweet tea, sandalwood incense, on and on different facets unfold and vie for dominance.  What a donnybrook!  What a wild mess of a dram.  People are going to love or hate this one with violent passions.  Where will you fall?  I don't know, I straddled both sides of the fence, initially hating it and then ending up loving it.  What a wild ride!


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