The word fusion kind of gets a raw deal at times. Few terms in music incite as much riot and rancor as the dreaded “Jazz Fusion”. This is not to say that there are not fantastic amalgams of jazz/rock/pop/etc. out there, only that the term “Jazz Fusion” evokes the very stuff of audio nightmares. Miles Davis’ “In a silent way” and “Bitches Brew”, early Weather Report, Jaco Pastorious, Mahavishnu Orchestra…mind-blowing innovators whose jazz was steeped in the pop music of the day. Similarly, the likes of Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and Frank Zappa, artists who incorporated jazz-flecked complexity into their mostly pop medium. Those folks and many others…innocent, and often wrongly shackled to the already dubious jazz fusion genre name that grossly inflated itself to include such 80’s flaccid fusion dingbats like Chuck Mangione, Bob James, and the grand poobah of banal drivel, Kenny G. Then there’s Nuclear Fusion, which, while responsible for fairly good stuff like the creation of the universe, also lead to Nuclear weapons, of which there were so many of in the 80’s that the only way we could alleviate the stress of impending global destruction was to listen to jazz fusion and eat fusion cuisine, also potentially horrific.
Taking fusion back and making it sexy once again and free of radioactive byproducts like David Sanborn, Amrut Fusion. Fusion is the…well…fusion of two separately processed barleys, a peated one from Scotland and a non-peated one grown in India, that were distilled at the Amrut distillery in Bangalore. The Indian barley makes up 3/4 of the mix with the peated Scottish barley taking care of the last 1/4. The two meet in American Oak barrels and hang out for between 3 and 5 years, quickly maturing in all that Bangalore heat.
Of the five impressive Amruts I tasted, Fusion is clearly the crown jewel of the bunch. While the others are very good whiskies, well-made, complex and interesting, Fusion is truly unique and perhaps the most realized of all their expressions.
The Nose: That’s a rich, dark varnished, wood paneled library of a nose. Ripe, sweet tropical fruit, a bit of canned pineapple and maraschino cherries even, mixed with soft chocolate fudge, and almost leathery oak notes. The peat from the Scottish malt is so well integrated, it adds a nice pungent note to temper the sweet fruit with wisps of faint, clean, dry wood smoke wafting over the proceedings.
The Palate: Wow, there’s a lot going on here, nice big flavors. Smooth, medium bodied mouth feel begins with more rich, sweet tropical fruit, grows cider-y and spicy – peppery, and then even more so as the grain and oak become larger. Really nice cocoa grain notes, a fruitiness, tannic oak and peat mingle unexpectedly well with good acidity and smoke building towards the end.
The Finish: Excellent. More clean wood smoke and what I’ve come to think of as that Amrut dryness, only this time it’s lessened somewhat by lingering fruit and acidity.
Thoughts: Amazing stuff. That rich, almost salacious nose is followed up by an almost overwhelming palate which, bold from the start, manages to just barely hold itself together with all the flavors and textures. The influence of the Scottish malt and peat is definitely there, but it’s more suggestive and artful than big and dominating. At times, with the ripe fruitiness, there’s an almost wine-finish quality here…which of course is sort of intriguing given that it’s aged only in bourbon casks. An innovative, rewarding and highly recommended whisky.