Whisky Pairing

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Amrut's Fusion Paired with Chuao's Dark Grignottine and Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 Churchill Cigar

The name Amrut refers to the "Elixir of Life" from Indian mythology. As legend would have it, a tug of war between the forces of good and evil so greatly stirred the ocean, that a pot containing divine liquid rose out of the water.  This nectar of the gods bestowed immortality to anyone who drank from the golden pot.  

amrut distilleryA little known distillery from the outskirts of Bangalore, India has certainly "stirred the pot" of the single malt industry this year when insider Jim Murray anointed Amrut's Fusion as the "Third Finest Whisky in the World".  Murray, a man who evaluates thousands of drams to produce and continually update his annual Whisky Bible, surprised his international audience by granting this spirit a rare 97 points and bestowing it with rapturous tribute in the 2010 edition of his popular whisky ratings book. From its beginnings in 1948 as a small batch liquor blender and bottler, Amrut has grown over the past six decades into a world class distiller with a full portfolio of premium brandies, vodkas, gins alongside its mainstay rum.  It reached a company milestone when in 1961 Amrut was selected to supply the Armed Forces of India, who continues to be an important customer.  In 1999, Amrut's chairman N. R. Jagdale decided to pursue the possibility of adding single malts to their growing liquor legacy.  Working with Scottish consultants and a large network of professional tasters, the company finally launched its first malt whisky expression for export in 2004. There are currently six malt whiskies in their portfolio.

himalays smallAmrut's barley is sourced from the many contract farmers in Punjab and Rajasthan where the grain is said to be nurtured by waters flowing from the Great Himalayas. Malting takes place in Jaipur and Delhi.  It is then transported to Amrut in Bangalore, a city 3,000 feet above sea level, to be mashed and distilled in small batches.  High altitude and hot weather conspire to speed maturation.  Indian spirits are believed to reach their peak two to three times faster than in the cooler weather.  This results in a much quicker time to market, but these unfriendly conditions also contribute to a rather generous "Angel's Share" of 12 % evaporation each year compared to an average 2% in Scotland.

amrutfusFusion was bottled in March 2009 but didn't reach many of our U. S. retailers until this year.  Its name reflects the combination of 80% unpeated Indian malt to 20% peated Scottish malt.  Each is mashed and distilled separately.  The new spirits are matured in separate flame charred oak barrels for less than 4 years (due to aforementioned accelerated maturation).  They finally meet up once they've reached their peak, to be finished in ex-bourbon casks for an additional 3 to 6 months.  The result is a straightforward whisky with a flavor that is superb. The aroma is apricot and vanilla sweet with slight oak present and something akin to flowers mixed with pineapple on the nose.  The higher 50% alcohol by volume is evident more in the aroma then on the tongue, where the mouth feel stays very silky and not at all astringent.  As in the aroma, generous fruit flavors rush forward, followed by a sweet spice and peppery sting fading to dark chocolate on the palate.  Peat seems to add not so much a distinct flavor note but a depth to the overall spirit. While not a very complex whisky, Fusion is rich and satisfying. We found this to be an impressive dram.  You be the judge as to whether or not it is worthy of Jim Murray's adulation.

dark grignottine lighter pnBecause of its fruit flavor bias, Amrut Fusion was supremely easy to pair with many of the Chuao bonbons.  But it is the Dark Grignottine that seemed to best complement the flavors without competing for attention.  Dark chocolate is a must with this pairing and the crunchiness of this confection provides an excellent textural counterpoint.  It is however the caramelized orange peel that really "brings it" to this combination. 


rocky patelWhile cigars made in India have not found their way into the larger international cigar community, India's greatest export in the cigar world would have to be Rocky Patel himself. Having left Bombay when he was just 14 years old Rocky (Rakesh) Patel was an outsider to the cigar world until fairly recently. A business and entertainment lawyer until the mid-1990's, Rocky found a new passion in cigars through his actor clients. After spending many years learning the cigar trade and juggling his law practice, he decided to make the ultimate leap of faith and created the Indian Tabac line of cigars.

Often called the hardest working man in the business, Mr. Patel grew his business by constantly reaching out to the customer with fresh ideas, bold packaging, and fuller high quality cigars. In 2003, he changed the company name to Rocky Patel Premium Cigars and debuted with the Vintage Series. While in Honduras, Rocky had discovered unused bales of old Honduran grown broadleaf and Ecuadorian Sumatra. He used these tobaccoes to create both lines of the Vintage series. A low production rate and attention to quality craftsmanship resulted in cigars that have consistently achieved high ratings and accolades from the cigar community. This propeled his cigar company into the major leagues and now Rocky Patel Premium Cigars produces in excess of twenty-million cigars annually for national and international distribution. Rocky Patel's success is a result of his own personal investment and by offering his customers the highest value cigars at reasonable prices.

rockypatelv1992 horizOf the two series, the Vintage 1992 has always been one of our favorites. A beautiful ten year old Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper surrounds the aged binder and filler that is smooth as silk.  Even with the tightly packed tobaccos and box press, this baby always draws perfectly. Rich earthy flavors with notes of oak and almond roll off the tongue with each puff. The smoke is plentiful and very smooth with a slightly sweet scent. As the burn continues, the cigar transitions into deeper flavors of dark roasted espresso and chocolate. A fine burn and tight ash also make the experience very enjoyable.

Once paired with the Amrut Fusion, the Vintage 1992 makes for a heavenly experience. While the malt is fruity, the spice and chocolate notes are captured and amplified by the cigar adding a new depth of flavor. The relatively short finish to the malt and lack of any distinctive alcohol "burn" allow the cigar flavors to easily mingle on the palate. Alone or together, the Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 and the Amrut Fusion should be in every connoisseur's collection.

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