*Sincere thanks to RS and Purple Valley Imports for the sample.
In the alcohol world, the term “proof” can be a confusing one. Pretty much every booze label you see today expresses the alcohol content in a straight-up percentage, e.g. that bottle of Malibu Rum you just bought is a whopping 21% alcohol by volume (ABV). The ABV is calculated by determining, possibly with a hydrometer, the number of millilitres of pure ethanol in 100 millilitres of solution at 68°F/20 °C. A nice, tidy, scientifically-based hard number that’s the same whether you’re in Milwaukee, WI or Strasbourg, France. Proof, on the other hand, is a bit of an anachronism, a little hazy on its origins, varies from the USA to the UK and EU, and, thanks to the now ubiquitous ABV, a tad redundant and obsolete, especially here in the states. The origins of the term allegedly date back to sometime in the 1700’s when sailors, leery of the quality of their ration of rum, discovered they could mix it with a bit of gunpowder and ignite it all to see if their superiors were short-changing them. If the mixture ignited, that was proof that the rum was high in alcohol and not watered down. That’s a nice story and all, possibly true, but also a bit of a stretch to think that thirsty sailors on a rolling ship were the first and only ones carrying out controlled scientific work with gunpowder all in the name of getting a little buzzed. The science behind the story, however, is solid; gunpowder doused in alcohol will ignite if the alcohol is 57.15% by volume or greater. Booze that met this criteria was said to be 100 degrees proof, thereby setting the standard that was used in the UK until 1980, when it switched to the alcohol-by-volume standard used throughout much of Europe. Here in the U.S., “proof” is a little different. Evolving from some murky tradition, proof here is simply double the alcohol by volume. I’d love to find out how…no, let me more accurately rephrase that, I’d be mildly interested to find out how this American version of proof came about, so if you know, speak up.
I mention all this frippery about proof because in part, that’s where the Amrut 100 Peated Single Malt Whisky takes its name. In 2010, India’s star distillery released 100, 100cl bottles of “100 degree proof” peated whisky in five countries, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK. The whisky was initially aged in ex-bourbon casks before being finished for one year in much smaller 100 liter charred virgin oak casks. They decided to bottle it at, you guessed it, 57.1% ABV. The U.S. finally got its 100, 100cl, 100 degrees proof bottles in the summer of 2013. Of course here, that 57.1% ABV translates to 114.2 proof, but “Amrut 114.2” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, so they wisely stuck with the “100”.
The Nose: A nice, well-integrated mix of sweet and peat. The sweet is full of honey, apple cider, and grilled peaches, while the peat comes across as damp – wet charcoal and faintly rubbery. Behind that, there are nice notes of orange-infused dark chocolate, scraped vanilla bean, and sweet clove. There are subtler hints of roasted almonds and wet cedar, and a wisp of greenish wood smoke. A bit of water takes away some of the sweetness, revealing that, in the end, this is a fairly peaty, mostly savory whisky.
The Palate: Quite hot initially, but not at all unpleasant. There’s a honeyed, somewhat fruity sweetness that carries over from the palate but it plays second fiddle to the peat and nutty, dark chocolate notes that ramp up early. The peat is less pungent on the palate, smokier and a bit ashy. This grows quite spicy and tannic towards the end with lots of complex pepper and herbaceous, drying clove. The addition of water works quite nicely here, calming that initial heat, playing up those fudge-y chocolate notes, and drawing out the peat and spice to show off the complexity a bit more.
The Finish: Medium-longish. A smoky, banana split with little to no banana – hot fudge, caramel sauce, salted nuts. A bit of clove and ash or char hold on the longest.
Thoughts: Another high-quality offering from Amrut. In some ways, this is similar to Amrut’s Fusion, though I think it lacks a bit of complexity compared to that one. To be fair, a great number of whiskies lack a bit of complexity next to Fusion, but that’s a whole other review. In any case, I think the 100 is a small step up from their Cask Strength Peated release, which is very good stuff in its own right. At strength, the great nose tricks you into thinking there’s no small amount of sweetness to this one, but after adding water, it’s true nature is revealed – this is peaty, savory stuff. The palate at strength is a little too hot and peppery for me, but water helps calm things down and bring it closer to the heights reached by the nose. Even at its steep, ~$170 price tag, this one is, not surprisingly, becoming hard to find. Definitely recommended, though the high price compared to the equally as good, if not better, Amrut Fusion, might give some pause.
Amrut 100 Peated Single Malt Whisky, India, OB +/-2013
57.1% ABV…or 100 Degrees Proof if you’re an English sailor.