Apr 062017
 

#354

Amrut, that Bangalore company which makes the Old Port rum I tried many years ago, as well as whiskies many swoon over, is no stranger to making rums, but their marketing effort is primarily aimed at the subcontinent itself, and perhaps other parts of Asia (maybe they’re chasing Old Monk, which is supposedly the #1 rum in India).  There’s not much of a range (five rums in all), and I rarely saw any of them in Canada – this one was bought in Europe.  Given that this particular rum is a blend of – get this! – Jamaican, Bajan, Guyanese and Indian pot-still rum, one can perhaps be forgiven for asking whether they’re going in the direction of Ocean’s Atlantic Rum; and as far as I was concerned that one suffered from overreach.  But at least we know where the “Two Indies” moniker derives, if nothing else.

It’s also worth commenting on one thing: the Indian component of the rum is supposedly a pot still originating distillate based on jaggery, which is a natural sweetener made from sugar cane…whose by-product is molasses so one wonders why not just go there and have done, but never mind.  The issues (not problems) we have are two fold: firstly, jaggery is actually made from either sugar cane or the date palm, so I’m unsure of which variation is in use here (since sugar cane jaggery is cheaper, I’m putting my money there); secondly, assuming the jaggery is from cane, it is in effect a reduced version of sugar cane juice – a syrup – what we in the West Indies and parts of South America sometimes refer to as “honey”. So in effect there’s nothing particularly special about the matter except that its source product is made in Asia and widely known there.  And, of course, the marketing, since it suggests a divergence and distinction from more familiar terms.

Anyway, all this preamble leads inevitably to the question of whether that basic ingredient lends a difference to the profile, the way for example a “maple syrup rum” would (and yes, there is such an abomination). I don’t really think so – the difference in taste and smell I noted seemed to be more a product of the entire geographical environment, the way a Bundie is linked to Australia, and Dzama is Madagascar and Ryoma is Japanese.  I’m not saying I could necessarily taste it blind and know it was either from India in general or Amrut in particular – but there were differences from more traditional Caribbean or Latin American rums with which we have greater experience

Consider first how it smelled.  The nose began by presenting a sort of lush fruitiness that spilled over into over-ripe, almost spoiled mangoes, persimmons and sweet tropical fruit and kiwi, something also akin to those cloying yellow-orange cashews the snacking nuts are made from (not those with the stones inside).  In the background there lurked caramel and vanilla, some cloying sweet and also breakfast spices (cloves and maybe nutmeg mostly, though very light) just as the Old Monk had; and overall, the aromas were heavy and (paradoxically enough) not all that easy to pick out – perhaps that was because of the inoffensive 42.8% ABV it was bottled at.

I liked the taste a lot better, though that queer heaviness persisted through what ended up as a much clearer rum than I had expected.  So, bananas, more of the mangoes and cashews, honey, papayas, and the spices.  Adding some water released some chocolate and coffee, nutmeg, more vanilla and caramel, maybe some light molasses, some licorice, a nice twist of citrus rind, which I liked – it provided an edge that was sorely needed.  Finish was soft and quick, reasonably clean and warm, but was mostly the spices and caramel than anything else.

Reading around doing the usual research (and there is really not very much to go on so I have an outstanding email and a FB message sent out to them) suggests there are no artificial flavours included: but I dunno, that profile is quite different, and the breakfast spices are evident, so I gotta wonder about that; and the overall mouthfeel does suggest some sugar added (no proof on my side, though).  This doesn’t sink the drink, but it does make for an unusual  experience.  You’re not getting any Jamaican funk, Guyanese wooden stills or easier Bajans, nor any of that off-the-wall madness of an unaged white popskull.  It is simply what it is, in its own unique way.

On balance, a decent enough drink. I liked it just fine, though without any kind of rabid enthusiasm – it was just from somewhere new, that’s all. You could drink it neat, no issues. Personally I thought the flavours were a mite too heavy (it stopped just short of being cloying) and meshed rather clumsily in a way that edged towards a muddle rather than something clearer and more distinct that would have succeeded better.  Much like the Tanduay, Mekhong, Tuzemak, Bundie or even the Don Papa rums, I suspect it is made based on a local conception of rum, and is for local palates.  Add to that the terroire concept and you can see why it tastes so off-base to one weaned on Caribbean tipple.  There’s a subtle difference from any of the British West Indian rums I’ve tried over the years, and though the Two Indies is a combo of several nations’ rums, I can’t separate the constituents and tell you with assurance, “Oh yeah, this comes from Foursquare” or “That’s Hampden” or even “PM!”  (and no, I don’t know whether these were the constituents).

So, they have used jaggery rather than molasses to make it, blended their way around a mishmash of profiles, and while I liked it and was intrigued, I didn’t believe all that was really needed and may even have made it less than its potential.  In Guyanese creole, when we see that kind of thing showing itself off as an artistic blending choice we usually smile, grunt “jiggery-pokery” and then shrug and fill another tumbler.  That pretty much sums things up for me, so I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s a compliment or not.

(82/100)

Other notes

The rum makes no mention of its age, and nothing I’ve unearthed speaks to it.  That was also part of my email to Amrut, so this post will likely be updated once I get a response.

Mar 242013
 

First posted 30 July 2010 on Liquoirature. #032

Pungent, full and pleasant to drink.  Amrut may be taking the whisky world by storm, but I think this may have been the real shot across the bows

***

Didn’t Clint and the Last Hippie just post good reviews of Amrut’s fusion whisky the other day?  In researching the second of three new rums for the July 2010 gathering, I discovered (much to my surprise), that the same company out of Bangalore India, makes this very capable young rum called Old Port (I can’t get any details on ageing, distillation methods or composition for this baby, alas). Now India having spoken English longer than America, being a British colony ever since Clive in 1757 (look up Plassey, ye historically challenged ones), I sort of expect the whisky production (and definitely gin), but this was the first rum from there I had ever managed to snag.  This is the dark side of having so little choice, here in Calgary: you grab anything new with a price tag and hope for the best, and in your hurry to elbow the other guy out of the way, you don’t read the label carefully enough. I should have picked up the reference.

The bottle is short and squat, and the dark brown liquid sloshes invitingly within.  The nose is candied caramel, and the molasses from which it is made comes through clearly.  It smells a bit like a spiced rum, to be honest, sweet and thick.  Neat, that caramel charges at you right out of the gate, and you also get hints of cinnamon, and a spicy undertone of some kind.  There’s something unidentifiable buried under there, that spicy note which harkens to muscatel grapes, bananas or perhaps prunes, and I can only attribute that to either the distillation method, the source cane (remember how the Bundie blew us all away because of its crazy taste utterly at odds with our conceptions of rum?  same thing here, but in a much much better way) or some subtle spice addition in the blend that gives Old Port Deluxe a distinctive taste and bite all its own.  Whatever it is, I liked it, and the the overall texture and taste in the mouth were pleasant and tasted of just enough sweet. The burn on the back of the throat was a sort of dark rich caramel, deep yet not sharp. It’s not entirely successful as a sipping rum – lack of care in making this a successful marriage of flavours and tastes mitigate against that – but as mixer, I thought it was excellent

Amrut distillery was founded in 1948 (that would be the year the British left), and since India is the second largest sugar cane producer in the world after Brazil, is it any surprise they have made some kind of spirit out of it? For the most part and for many years they served the local “country hooch”  market, but have in recent years branched out international… primarily in fine whiskies.  The rum component of their production – the part that isn’t for internal consumption – is still relatively unknown.  In part this is because of the craziness of the Indian liquor landscape: there are thirty-three states in India and each has its own liquor policy – Ghandi’s philosophy on prohibition make booze illegal in Gujerat, for example. The sugar lobby prevents local country spirits from being legalized;  import taxes on foreign liquor are stupendously high…and yet the horribly large shot serving preferred in places like the Punjab makes India one of the largest tippling nations in the world. The British influence makes whisky preferred to rum as a sign of the upper classes (poor rum – no respect on the shelves of Calgary, and now none in the tastes of India either…sigh)

From country hooch, local tipple, flavoured vodkas, gins, brandies and whiskies, all based on molasses, to premium whiskies like Fusion and its counterparts is quite a step.  But I have to tell you that the rum as a whole wasn’t bad at all, and I liked it a lot.  It didn’t really have much competition that evening – el Dorado Five and the disappointing Mount Gay Extra Old – so it turned out to be the sleeper of the evening, in my opinion.  With the gradually increasing prescence of this 60+ year old distillery on the world liquor stage, all I can say is I look forward to their premium offerings to come: Curt was impressed with their whiskies, but I gotta tell you, if this was an example of their rums, they are worth watching in the future for something really stellar.

error: Content is copyrighted. Please email thelonecaner@gmail.com for permission .