Friday, February 5, 2010

Amrut - The Peatiness of Appropriation

There are several distilleries outside of the UK that are trying to piggyback on the success of regionally-specific, single malt scotch whisky from Scotland. There is Glenora Single Malt from Cape Breton, there is Yamazaki Whisky from Japan, and now there is Amrut Single Malt from India.

Let me tell you something - you alcohol imposters listed above - whisky made from malted barley and created by a single distillery and a single batch is only single malt scotch whisky if it is from Scotland. While this consumer-based cultural appropriation is not as blatant as, say, a Caucasian individual creating and selling Northwest Coast Native art or tattoo artists offering Asian characters and Celtic bands to any impulsive punter off the street, but single malt whisky is inextricably tied to Scottish culture. Of course, I realize that other cultures have made distilled liquors from barley, but these liquors lack the myth, heritage, intricacy, variety and reputation found within the world of Scottish single malt whisky.

A select number of BC liquor stores are stocking Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky. Amrut Distilleries was founded in 1948 and is based in Bangalore, a city of high elevation in Southern India. 'Amrut' translates to 'Elixir of Life' and the company was formed to provide spirits to the domestic population. The distillery began creating rum and brandy, but they also produce vodka...and now scotch. Amrut is like the Walmart of distilleries: they have everything you need. In addition to their lack of history and their factory-like production of spirits, Amrut has contributed to their own suspect reputation by offering six versions of their single malt. They have their basic Single Malt, a Peated Single Malt, a Cask Strength, a Peated Cask Strength, Amrut Fusion Single Malt (made with barley from Scotland and India), and a gimmicky 'Two Continents' Single Malt (made in India and aged at a "secret" location in Europe).

I must admit that I almost fell for Amrut's clever marketing and novelty. I recently tried their regular Cask Strength and was intrigued by the immediate citrus/picrocrocin flavours. The finish was bold but clean and caried bourbon traits. As this unique, spicy spirit flowed happily down my oesophagus I thought to myself "Just because Britney Spears has a Chinese character tattoo doesn't mean that she is Chinese". Amrut has created an interesting spirit, but it is not single malt scotch. 

To the company's credit, they to not chill-filter their products, which contibutes to the body of their beverages.

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