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Issue 100 - The Nectar of Life

Whisky Magazine Issue 100
December 2011

 

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The Nectar of Life

Davin de Kergommeaux heads to India to investigate the home of Amrut whisky.

Mark Twain once called India “the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.” And to think, such enthusiasm when Twain hadn't even tasted Amrut, the Indian whisky whose name in Sanskrit means ‘nectar of life'.

When Ashok Chokalingam was completing his MBA in Newcastle, England, in 2001, he took a special interest in the thesis his friend and classmate, Rick Jagdale, was researching. This was not your conventional approach to scholarly academic research.

Chokalingam joined Jagdale as he schlepped an unknown single malt from bar to bar recording people's reactions. The mystery malt turned out to be not from Scotland, but from India's Amrut distillery, the quirky, quaint and colourful distillery that Jagdale's grandfather, Radhakrishna Jagdale, founded in Bangalore.

In 1948, India had just gained independence from Britain, but many British traditions remained.

“Distillation came with the British,” Rick tells me. “Before that the Indian drink was ‘Toddy' naturally fermented from coconut or palm flowers. Radhakrishna Jagdale saw an opening to supply India with liquors similar to those it had come to know colonial rule. He opened Amrut as a small liquor blending and bottling unit, specialising in ‘IMFL' – Indian-made foreign liquor – and that remains the bulk of Amrut's output.

Jagdale's business flourished. By the 1970s, his success blend...

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