India’s First Premium and Natural Rum
- “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest— Yo-ho-ho, and
- a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest—
- Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”
- R.L Stevenson | Treasure Island
The first thing most people visualize when you mention the word Rum is Pirates and I distinctly remember leafing through my sister’s copy of Treasure Island as a young boy paying particular attention to the illustrations of tankards of Rum throughout the book. My connection with the sea is through my late father who was a Merchant Navy Captain. This was the man who introduced me to Beer and spirits particularly Whiskey, Gin & Rum.
British Sailors and pirates from the Caribbean alike depended on rum for long voyages. Water, Beer & Rum were stored on board and once all the water and Beer was exhausted, Rum was handed out as rations. The Caribbean was the birth place of modern day rum derived from the sugar and slave trade.
The early forms of Rum however can be traced to ancient India and China where sugarcane juice was fermented to form an alcoholic drink and it spread from these regions to the rest of the world. By the 17th Century the first distillation of Rum took place on the Caribbean plantations.
We aren’t going to get into a discussion about how Rum got it’s name – that is still highly debated but let’s talk about how Rum is made. Rum is known as “Ron” in Spanish speaking countries and “Rhum” in French speaking countries. Rum is primarily produced in the Caribbean and Latin America as well as the Demerara region of South America.
It’s a distilled spirit made from sugarcane by-products. Essentially you ferment, distill and then mature in a variety of woods to achieve the finished product.
- Ingredients: Sugarcane Juice, Molasses (frequently used) , Sugar Crystals & Jaggery (rare). Most countries use Molasses whereas some like Brazil use sugarcane juice to make cachaca.
- Fermentation Methods: Natural, Continuous (controlled) or Batch (controlled).
- Distillation: Column or Pot Still. The Pot Still method produces a fuller tasting rum.
The Indian Market
When you say Indian Rum, most people will give you two names, Hercules & Old Monk. Both of these brands are flavored rums with colorants that have been added to them (dark varieties).
Premium Rums from the Caribbean for example are distilled and then barrel aged for several years producing a premium product much akin to Single Malts. If you do get a chance, try and sample a rum that is 12,15 or even 20 plus years. We really did not have anything close to this in India that was natural until a few years ago.
In 2013, Amrut Distilleries from Bangalore launched their Two Indies Rum, a premium natural rum which had taken them over four years to develop. Amrut has been producing award winning Single Malts for several years and I have had the privilege to visit their distillery off Mysore Road a few times. If India can produce award winning Single Malt, then surely we can produce award winning rum!
This rum is unique in that it is a blend natural Caribbean rums from Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana and Amrut’s very own natural Indian rum. This marries Rum made from sugarcane with Amrut’s rum made from Jaggery.
Jaggery is a natural sweetener made from the juice of sugarcane and is similar to brown sugar. It has several health benefits such as being a digestive aid & cleanser.
- Category: Golden/Dark Rum
- Alcohol: 42.8% ABV
- Appearance: Golden/Straw Colored.
- Nose: Spicy with hints of Fruitiness and Sweetness – Citrus, Vanilla & Honey.
- Taste/Texture/Finish: In sync with the nose with hints of sweetness & spiciness, an oily texture with a balanced and a long, dry finish.
Impression – Good enough to be savored on it’s own with a minimal amount of water. If you’re going to mix this in a cocktail, keep the recipes simple where the rum’s flavor dominates.
Two Indies has won a few awards, these being:
- IWSC (International Wine & Spirit Competition) Gold 2016
- The Spirits Business (UK) – Silver Award 2014
- Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2014 – Rating 92 Points (Excellent)
Availability (Karnataka) – All major liquor outlets. Price: 1,221 MRP.
Amrut Website: Click Here
Amrut Facebook Page: Click Here
Amrut’s Blind Tasting Session
A few weeks ago, Amrut invites a few of us for a special blind tasting session at Amrut’s corporate HQ here in Bangalore.
This session included some of the senior staff at Amrut and was headed by Nikhil Varma, who walked us through Amrut’s portfolio along with Thrivikram G. Nikam, Executive Director – Brands & PR and the man I like to call 007, Ashok Chokalingam – their International Brand Ambassador.
Nikhil started off the session by going through a brief history of Rum, ingredients, the fermentation & distillation process and finally a look at various styles of Rum across the globe.
We then sampled Amrut’s very own Two Indies and made notes accordingly.
Next, up we had 5 samples for our blind tasting session and we were told these were samples from well known brands, all in the premium segment at the same price points as Two Indies.
We rated each sample individually and then discussed our findings as a group. Each sample was critiqued based on the following parameters and
- Nose (10 points)
- Taste (10 points)
- Balance (10 points)
- Finish (10 points)
- Total Score out of 40
My personal favorites were:
- Sample No: 5
- Sample No:4 & Sample No: 3
Sample No: 5 to me tasted just like a refined brandy, almost whiskey like, smooth and had a wonderful finish.
Sample 4 had a minty, herbal, mushroom like aroma & taste with a nice balance and dry finish.
Sample No: 3 was more spicy than fruity, oil with hints of olive (vegetal) and had a nice, long, dry finish.
After we completed our session, it was time to find out what was in our glasses. Only Nikhil from the Amrut team knew what had been poured in the sample glasses.
- Sample No: 1- Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
- Sample No: 2- Old Monk – The Legend
- Sample No: 3– Amrut Two Indies Rum
- Sample No: 4- Bacardi Gold
- Sample No: 5 – Amrut’s Product under Development – 100% Jaggery Spirit
Amrut’s new product was a clear favorite closely followed by Amrut’s Two Indies. I am one of the few people who liked the Bacardi Gold.
So what is Sample No:5 and why did everyone favor this new “test” product. We were very fortunate to try this sample and here’s is what I can legally disclose:
- Pure Jaggery Spirit at 42.8% ABV.
- Blend of 5 year old and 3 year old casks.
- Batch distilled in uniquely designed stills.
This new product will be released sometime in the near future and I’d like to be the first one to buy a bottle, if available in India. Jokes aside, this new Rum should help futher establish Amrut on the global Rum map.
Thank you to all the folks at Amrut for inviting us over and thank you for the souvenirs.
A company with a rich heritage that is as old as independent India itself. Founded in 1948 by J.N. Radhakrishna Rao Jagdale and has grown in stature and size. In 2004 Amrut launched its line of Single Malt Whisky. Amurt’s expression Fusion went on to win the third best whisky in the world title from renowned whisky connoisseur, Jim Murray. Their line of whiskys have gone on to win multiple awards since then.
To read more about Amrut, please visit their website – Click Here
Amrut Facebook Page – Click Here
Amrut Distilleries Tour
I highly recommend the tour. You can always ask them about Two Indies and also see how they make their award winning Single Malts and other spirits. The tour takes about 3 hours and covers distillation, the production line, coopering and their warehouse.
Contact Form – Click Here
International Rum Day just went by (August 16th) as well as Indian’s Independence Day. I am proud to see Indian brands such as Amrut rising up to the top and competing internationally. It’s an exciting time for India and I can only hope that as a nation we continue to excel to new heights! Jai Hind!
Cheers and Stay Frothy
JJ The Keg
All Images Courtesy: Amrut & Tales Of Froth (unless otherwise noted)