MG an Air Warrior a prolific writer with over 60 published short stories and two novels. He is also globe trotter and observer of human life
The first question a conscientious drinker would like to know is what is single malt whiskey. Single malt whiskey is distilled at a single distillery using a pot still distillation process. A pot still is a hefty copper kettle used to distill the wash. Historically, each distillery has its own still shapes, and the shape influences the flavor. There are three basic shapes of pot stills: the onion, the lantern, and the pear.
The whiskey is made from a mash of malted barley. In Scotland which is generally considered the home of Single Malt whiskey, a single malt Scotch must be distilled and matured in oak casks for at least three years.
Single Malt scotch whiskey is famous all over the world. Times are changing and India is fast catching up to this exclusive preserve.
The Raj and IMFL
Whiskey was introduced in India during the days of the Raj. The British introduced as well as encouraged its manufacture. This was given the term Indian Made Foreign Liquor( IMFL). This nomenclature distinguished it from the local brands. Distilleries were set up at a number of places in Murree( now in Pakistan), Kasauli, Rampur, and Mysore.
The Amrut Single Malt
India became free in 1947 and many independent entrepreneurs entered the field of manufacture of IMFL. One of the first after independence was Shri JN Radhakrishnan who in 1948 founded Amrut Laboratories.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Amrut launched products for the Indian armed forces. These products were marketed through the military supply chain CSD( Canteen Stores Department). The products of Amrut found ready buyers in the military. Later the company started marketing its products for the open market. They began by marketing spirits like the dark rum Amrut XXX and Silver Cup Brandy. During the 1970s, Amrut began marketing a grape brandy called Bejois, made from Bangalore blue grapes.
From Rum manufacture, the company graduated to manufacture of whiskey. From about the eighties the company began producing malt whiskey. The guidelines for what constitutes a whiskey are decidedly lax in India and there is no stipulation of a three year incubation period like in Scotland. 90% of whiskey consumed in India is made from molasses and blended malt whiskey can contain as little as 4% malt whiskey.
Amrut wished to market world products to rival Scotch. To meet this requirement whiskey experts from Scotland were brought in for a large fee. As recommended by experts, to perfect the processes the barley is specially grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and the whiskey is matured at 3,000ft at Bangalore. Due to the tropical conditions, the whisky matures extremely quickly. As much as fifteen percent abv is lost every year to the angel’s share.
The Amrut product launched in the 21st century is Single Malt Whiskey. Its the costliest brand from India and generally connaisseurs have opined that the whiskey is good. Its characteristics are as follows.
Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Sweet cure bacon, smoke, malt, sweet peat, a touch of caramel.
Palate: Soooo fruity! Peat doesn't even get a look-in. Lots of malt, tart.
Finish: Medium, peat emerges as the end, fruit teas.
Overall: An excellent nose.
The second whiskey on the global list is Paul John. The distillery was set up in Bangalore, while the maturing was done in Goa. The manufacturer of this whiskey is the John distilleries and the product was introduced on fourth October 2012. The whiskey has a amber mahogany color and eight variants. The whiskey is universally liked and like its counterpart, the Amrut Single Malt this also uses barley from the foothills of the Himalayas. The whiskey is distilled and matured in Goa. It produces a pesky spirit with a creamy texture
The product is very well received abroad and a special launch was done by the company in London. The driving spirit of the company is Paul G John. it has penetrated the best of markets. The company has introduced a special edition whiskey last year.
The whiskey has been awarded the Liquid Gold Award by Jim Murray's Whisky Bible and has been crowned with the best Indian single mart award along with the best Asian whiskey award. This whiskey has won the most number of awards and has a soft taste that sets it apart from other whiskeys.
Rampur Single Malt
This is the first Indian single malt whiskey from the Radico Khaitan Distillery (previously known as the Rampur distillery, hence the name). The distillery is located in Uttar Pradesh close to the foothills of the Himalayas. The distillery was established during the days of the Raj and came up in the early forties of the last century. This is their first single malt whiskey from India.
Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Thyme honey, dried apricot, cinnamon, and vanilla custard.
Palate: Tropical fruits, more rich vanilla, apple and a touch of pepper.
Finish: Long and quite drying.
Rampur is a non-chill filtered single malt, distilled and matured in the foothills of the Himalayas. Styled as “The Kohinoor of Single Malts”, this super-premium malt whiskey is steeped in the rich Indian heritage and enduring traditions of the Maharajas.
Solan No 1 and Peter Scot
Solan Number 1 Malt Whisky
This is a product of the oldest Brewery in India. It is produced by Mohan Meakin at the hill resort of Kasauli in the Himalayas. It has a heritage of nearly 200 years. The founder of the distillery was an Englishman named Edward Dyer. He chose this place because the climate in this area of India was quite similar to his native Scotland, (and because the British troops in nearby Punjab had a taste for Scottish style whiskey). The distillery was taken over by Indian management in the first half of the last century.
Solan Number 1 Single Malt whiskey, is blended with mature Malt Spirits produced using traditional Scottish methods of malting, kneading, and distillation on vintage copper pot stills and aged in oak casks.
This is the latest brand of single malt whiskey from India. This is a product from the house of Khoday's. The whiskey is available in India and abroad as Peter Scot Black. The whiskey is also available in the military canteen.
India is on the ascendant. Manufacture of high-class single malt whiskey was like crossing the last frontier. This is breached and Indian made single malt whiskey is available in all duty-free shops around the world. It is also served in chic bars. Other than single malt whiskey even ordinary whiskey sells like anything. How many know that 'Imperial Blue' is the largest selling whiskey in the world. So cheers to a peg of the finest Indian single malt whiskey!
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 11, 2020:
Dear Liz, I would love to visit this distillery. Despite many visits to England, I never made it to Dublin. Thank you for your comment.
Liz Westwood from UK on January 11, 2020:
This article reminds me of a visit to Jamesons whisky distillery in Dublin, which I made many years ago. In recent years in the UK whisky has grown in popularity, only exceeded by gin.
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 07, 2020:
Thank you so much for sparing time and commenting
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 07, 2020:
Wow! I had no idea of these whiskeys. Will have a look at the duty free shop and would like to try at least one of these Whiskeys.
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 06, 2020:
Col Batra, thank you for your comment. Yes Amrut is good single malt whiskey and it has a nice fruity taste
Colonel S Batra on January 06, 2020:
An article after my heart. Ì love single malt whiskey and its great to know some good Indian whiskeys are around. My choice is Amrut single malt which I drink regularly when Chivas is not available. Great article.