India , Land of the Amrut…. and beep-beep!

Chapter One .   A Passage to India……

This year we’ve been doing a bit of travelling and not to islay for once ! Earlier in 2015 we headed west to Toronto again and at the end of the Summer we travelled just as far east to India . This time we could fly from our local airport rather than have to travel elsewhere .

Saturday 29th August

So we headed off to Newcastle International Airport to take the early afternoon flight to Dubai , as most people know i’m not the greatest admirers of Airports (give me Kennacraig Ferry Terminal anytime!) but at least Newcastles staff are a bit friendlier that the other UK Airport we’ve used…..

Our flight was at 1.45pm so having arrived early we settled in at the bar for a pre-flight drink and got to see our Emirates plane arrive……

(Click on the photos to see full size version)

It was going to be a long day(or two) , it was a 7 hour flight with a 3 hour time difference , i got to watch the Toon playing on the on board entertainment and watched a couple of movies , Melanie was engrossed in her Kindle . We have to say Emirates is a great airline to fly with , the staff are fantastic and the food was superb , the main meal consisted of a starter of Smoked Salmon with Pesto Potato salad , the main meal was Roast Chicken with Creamy Mash , roasted Veg with a Cranberry gravy and finished with Chocolate Pudding with a caramel sauce , rather yummy!  We arrived at Midnight to temperatures of 38 degrees C , it was like stepping off into a sauna !

Sunday 30th August

Now it was a 3 and a half hour wait for the connecting flight to Bengaluru (Bangalore ) , again not the best place to hang around for me , too busy , unless you want to shop not a lot else to do . So at 3.30am we left Dubai , it was a 4 hour flight and another 1 and a half hour time difference . We set down at Bengaluru Airport just after 9am , first thing i noticed out of the window was rows of Coconut Palm trees lining the airport perimeter , very exotic , funny what you first pick up on….. To get into India from the UK you have to go through quite a lengthy process of getting a visa , it was actually easier to get my passport ! The Bureaucracy didn’t stop there , we had 2 more forms to fill in at the airport oh and a photograph taken , eventually we got through security and exited the Airport to a first for us , someone standing at the Entrance with a sign saying “Amrut Distilleries Welcomes Gordon and Melanie Homer” , wish i’d had my Camera out , a great welcome ! Pramod (who works with Ashok and we’d met in Paris last year) was standing beside the driver , Pramod was going to be our guide over the stay . The road leading away from the Airport is beautifully landscaped , even though it was Sunday morning the roads were very busy and we got our first glimpse of Bengaluru driving , it’s very hard to describe , stock car racing without the dunching (look up dunch….) , not so much as who has right of way but ‘Who dares Wins!’ It was a very colourful drive to our hotel in the centre of the city !

Interesting Fact No.1 -The Hotel we stopped in is built on the site of the original Amrut Distillery , the land is still owned by the family , the office block is called the ‘JNR City Centre’ ( JNR – J.N. Radhakrishna , founder of the distillery) and will shortly house – (or if you’re reading this in the future) now houses – the head office of the distillery .

After getting dropped off we grabbed a bit of a nap, freshened up and went downstairs to the bar to wait for Ashok to pick us up , enjoying our first Amrut in it’s home town while watching Black Kites (the feathered variety) flying over nearby housing . Fusion !

Ashok took us to his new abode to meet up with Viji and their kids Asitha and Jeeva , after a coffee and a catch up we headed back into the centre of town for a meal ,  he took us to the Vivanta by Taj Hotel on the MG Road , where we dined poolside……

I have to say it was a wonderful experience , a lovely setting with good friends and wonderful food……..

Starters

Mixed Tandoori

Lentil Dal

Mint Chutney

Kulcha

Mains

Lamb Bhuna

Chicken Andhra

Travancore Fish Curry

Paratha Bread

My mouth is starting to water thinking about it again…….  what a great way to start a holiday off !

The Chokalingams dropped us back off at the hotel and we went to bed knowing the next day we were going to sample the nectar at it’s home .

Monday 31st August

So after a bit of a lie in and Breakfast , Ashok along with Prakash (our driver through this adventure) picked us up to take us to the Distillery , i’ve done a few tours in my time but i knew this was going to be something special . We didn’t actually go straight to the Distillery , Ashok was going to take us to somewhere special first , somewhere not a lot of people get to see . The Journey out was once again busy and very colourful , there were an amazing amount of temples along the roadside , none of them dull !

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  After turning off the main Bengaluru – Mysore Road we headed along a small road littered with fruit and veg stalls , eventually we stopped at a farm which turned out to be owned by Amrut , it had a wonderful view …….

There were quite a few people employed on the farm , they had their own cattle and grew there own veg

There were Fig Trees and Coconut Palms growing , the Coconut Palms all had a number on them , so they knew if one went ‘missing’…….

They had there own temple

And we were shown the ‘Alternative Boardroom’ by Ashok , apparently they retreat here sometimes to get away from the hussle of the distillery and enjoy a nice cup of fresh Coconut Water , which we did , and boy it doesn’t half quench your thirst !

Of course the true purpose of the farm was revealed , it is the source of the water for the production of Amrut Single Malts ! It is extracted from a 300ft deep bore hole and then tankered to the distillery….. 

After a lovely time exploring the farm , we headed to the distillery stopping at one of the roadside fruit stalls for Ashok to give us a try of the local produce , including Jackfruit , Bananas and Custard Apples . The Bananas were smaller and sweeter – and i have to say better –  than the normal ones we were used to but the real surprise were the custard apples , they actually tasted like custard . 

The Distillery…….

It may not look as pretty as some of the Scottish variety but they aren’t surrounded by Coconut palms !  On arrival we were greeted by a familiar face , the Master Distiller and Vice President (Production) of Amrut , Surrinder Kumar , we met Surrinder at Ashoks house in Newcastle a couple of years ago and spent a pleasant evening in his company . Surrinder was going to guide us around his ‘baby’ , after all he was involved with the building of the current plant in the 1980’s and has been overseeing production ever since . I’ve met some passionate people in the industry about their job and product but Surrinder tops the lot ! After a coffee to catch up we set off around the distillery…….

They’ve only had to contact the manufacturer of the mill once in nearly 30 years ! The Mash Tun has a capacity of 1 tonne.

they have 6 wash backs each with a capacity of 10,000 litres , the wash backs are water cooled to keep the fermentation temperature down .

They have 3 stills , 1 wash and 2 spirit , each has a charge of 5,000 litres .

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(Left Picture above) Front right is the wash still , centre is the original spirit and the newest Spirit is at the rear.

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They don’t use both of the Spirit stills together .

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As well as Whisky production they are do Brandy here , using the original tiled containers and it’s own Column still .

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Straight from the Stillroom we went into Maturation Warehouse 1 , Amrut have 8 warehouses around the distillery , in each warehouse they have a board stating the temperature and humidity , it was cooler in the warehouses than outside , a balmy 26 degrees C ! The humidity seemed to average about 56%…….

In Warehouse 1 we were shown Cask No.1 , Amrut only put numbers on the casks and not the year like the Scottish Distillers , they do know when each cask was filled ! If you look hard you can also see other indicators on the cask, a ‘ I ‘ indicates how many times it has been filled (one ‘ I ‘ = First filling , etc etc) and a ‘P’ indicates Peated Spirit . There is also a permanent reminder of when the first cask was put in to the warehouse .

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There was also a strange cask in this warehouse , the pupose of this was to prove how much they lost through evaporation…….

While moving between warehouses we were shown the 3 bottling plants  , the first one contained the single malt line , all the work is done by hand and the people who work on this line don’t work on any other , The filling in the bottles are hand measured , an on off switch rather than an automatic measure . Anyone wearing a green outfit in the photos is a permanent member of staff .

 

At this point we took a break to have a spot of lunch in the offices . I have to say i could get used to their lunches  ! We then returned to the warehouses to sample a selection of Amruts finest !

For some reason i didn’t take notes of the first cask (probably the excitement !) , No.3742 , 1st fill Bourbon aged 4 Years 4 months .

The 2nd was Cask 3775 , another 4 year old 1st fill Bourbon  , this was very creamy with Millionaires Shortbread and vanilla , water brought out more creaminess and marzipan .

For the 3rd cask we moved into Peated territory , 3527 was a 3rd fill Barrel , 4 and a half year old , not an overwhelming peatiness on the nose but the usual Millionaires shortbread . there was more peat on the palate along with the shortbread .

We moved on to the Port casks next  , Port Pipe No.3877 , the spirit was 4yo but it had only been in the pipe for 1.5 years having previously been in a bourbon barrel , on the nose it was fruity and spicy , the palate was very fruity with the Amrut Liquorice , with water there were more spices ,  chocolate and shortbread .

Finally we hit the sherry ! Cask 3892 , Oloroso First Fill , The spirit again was 4yo but had only been in the Oloroso cask a year and a half , What can you say , Christmas Cake ! The Full Cake….. once again Liquorice and spices . What can you say about the one’s we sampled ? Sheer quality spirit ! Surrinder is doing a cracking Job !

We once more headed back to the offices to partake of a few more samples which i can’t talk about…….. 

Before we left Surrinder gave us a momento of our visit…. 

What a fantastic day ! Surrinder and Ashok made it very special , Thanks Guys !!!

We headed off with Ashok for a meal picking up Pramod on the way , he took us to a place at the South west side of Bengaluru on the Hosur Sarjapur Road Layout called Kanua , an absolutely stunning place

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The food Ashok ordered was so good i only wrote down one….. Chicken Ghee Roast but his selection certainly went down well with us . Melanie also got to try her first Indian Wine , a Sula Sauvignon Blanc , it was rather nice ! Loads of lovely Grapefruit and not like any other Sauvignon Blanc i’ve ever tried . It was a great way to end a rather special day , Ashok returned us to our hotel and we headed off to bed to dream of Future Amruts…….

To be Continued…….

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2 thoughts on “India , Land of the Amrut…. and beep-beep!

  1. Pingback: Summer Visit 2015 | Homer's – The [Whisky] Odyssey

  2. Pingback: 2015 , A strange sort of Year….. | Homer's – The [Whisky] Odyssey

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