We are tasting the fourth release of Amrut Spectrum; and Amrut claims that what it has attempted with this whiskey has not been attempted in 400 years of whiskey-making.
The distiller has created a barrel with staves of four different types of wood to mature the whiskey in, after first it has been matured in traditional ex-Bourbon casks. This release is titled Spectrum 004.
In true Bond (of James Bond fame) style, there are maybe a 100 of us around the world, gathered around a Zoom screen, quite like associates of Spectre, the criminal organisation that Agent 007 deals with in the movie of the same name.
We then cut to MI-6 (Amrut’s headquarters in Bengaluru) where Ashok Chokalingam (Amrut’s head distiller) is ready to taste the 004 from the cask along with us. We are all united by a Zoom screen and a pack delivered to our homes, with two miniatures, a mini-Christmas tree, a candle in the shape of a cask and an Amrut branded Glencairn glass.
I set up my table with the minis, the glass, some water and the Christmas tree, with my laptop screen glowing in the dim light of the candle, and wait eagerly for the magic to start.
Before we cut to the distillery, the build-up to the scene and the prelude in a sense is shared with us by Vikram Nikam and Rakshit Jagdale, the two key members of the Amrut family, who are at the helm of affairs.
Ashok begins by telling us that the multiple wood oak barrel is actually a mix of staves of New American Oak, French Limousin Oak and an Sherry (ex-Pedro Ximenez) and ex-Oloroso sherry casks. This unique barrel is known as the Spectrum Barrel.
The whisky has been matured for a total of 6.5 years, first in the ex-Bourbon cask and then in the Spectrum Barrel. Spectrum 004 (50% ABV) is a limited release of 6,000 bottles, with just 600 of those available in Bengaluru at Rs 12,500. The whiskey is available in the UAE, the US and France.
Not surprising to find its global reach, especially considering that Amrut is now present in 56 countries, with over 38 different unique single malt expressions, “five of which have no parallel the world over”.
Over at the distillery, Ashok finally puts us all out of our suspense and dips a pipette into the cask, then lovingly releasing the liquid into a glass. Even on a screen, a few thousand km away, we can see the dark rich hues of the liquid, the same replicated in my own glass, as I pour some into it.
On the nose, it’s redolent of the scent of Christmas pudding, rich with dates and sultanas, and is soft and inviting. Almost perhaps like sticky toffee pudding perhaps. One of those gathered around the screen calls out a hint of sandalwood – which Ashok attributes possibly to the influence of the French Limousin Oak.
On the palate it’s juicy and syrupy, with the sticky toffee pudding notes continuing. It has a lovely rich taste in the throat at the end. On the palate – as Krishna Nukala, a Hyderabad-based malt connoisseur describes it – it’s “like beeswax, a dry fruit and dark fruits bomb”.
Dennis Steckel, one of the most ardent of fans of Amrut globally, marvels at the fact that even though it’s a full-bodied sherry dram, it’s still very fresh on the palate.
The linkage to James Bond, Ashok says, is purely coincidental, though it helped that the first release of Spectrum coincided with the release of Spectre in 2015. It’s an absolute coincidence, Ashok insists, that this releases in the same year as the latest edition of Bond (and the last outing of Daniel Craig), No Time to Die.
As we expect the James Bond franchise to be re-invented after the last movie, so also we can’t wait to see what the next release of Spectrum may bring!