Sometimes whisky has a standard set in stone, with consistency being the main driver to ensure that there is no variation from one batch to the next. But other times it’s a work in progress, and the producer may decide to tinker with the formula to try and create something even better. Such is the case with the new release of Rampur Select, a revamped, limited-edition Indian single malt that is available exclusively here in America.
The company behind Rampur Whisky, Radico Khaitan, was founded in 1943 and has been making whisky for nearly three decades. In addition to Rampur, it also produces Jaisalmer Gin, Morpheus Brandy, Magic Moments Vodka, and a couple of blended whiskies. But Rampur is the shining star in the portfolio. The distillery is located at the base of the Himalayas and churns out a lineup of excellent expressions, including several that are finished in sherry and wine casks. The main type of barrels used for maturation are ex-bourbon, the same as in Scotland. But the climate couldn’t be more different, even if production methods are similar, resulting in an entirely different product. There are major shifts in temperature throughout the year in this part of India, resulting in more interaction with wood and about three times the angel’s share, according to the brand. There are no age statements on these whiskies, but presumably they are about three to four years old ,which is the equivalent of about a decade aging in Scotland or Ireland.
So why the revamp and U.S.-exclusive re-release of Rampur Select? According to a rep for the brand, the whisky is a “passion project” for distiller Anup Barik. The difference between this release and the last is that a new crop of barley was used in the mashbill, and a new set of barrels was employed for maturation (it’s said to be a bit older as well, and was aged solely in first-fill bourbon casks). In other words, this whisky isn’t so much about consistency as it is about quality based on changing factors and ideas. Both are valid concepts in the whisky world—the fact that every bottle of Jack Daniel’s will taste the same from year to year is as fascinating as it is when new batches of Booker’s are released with slight variations.
It’s impossible to compare this new release with the prior one unless you have them both available to taste side-by-side, but this iteration stands firmly on its own. The first thing you’ll notice is how incredibly floral this whisky is on the nose, like a bouquet of flowers soaked in honey with a bit of spice and licorice issuing forth. That all continues onto the palate, with notes of violet and rose petals soaked in vanilla treacle popping up here and there. I am not enamored with extremely flowery flavor profiles—on the contrary, rose and violet are notes I find to be almost overpowering at times. But it works here, balanced out by a malty base and familiar vanilla, oak, and brown sugar flavors from the bourbon barrels mingling into the mix.
If you haven’t tried Indian single malt whisky before, the good news is that there are a plethora of bottles to try here in America and many of them are quite good. Rampur Select should be counted among those, and the variations that will presumably come with future batches are something to look forward to. Maybe you can save a drop or two to compare with the next release, provided you don’t decide just to drink it all.
- 100: Worth trading your first born for
- 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
- 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram
- 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
- 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
- Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this