The New Indian Single Malt: Kamet

Kamet was envisioned by Ansh Khanna and Master Sommelier Ken Fredrickson, who believed India to be one of the greatest places in the world to produce whisky given the unique six row barley and ageing conditions. It is a JV between Peak Spirits and Piccadily Distillery.

Is India Good for single Malt?

‘We consider India to be one of the greatest places in the world to produce single malt whisky, given our unique six-row barley and ageing conditions.’ Ansh Khanna, co-founder of Peak Spirits that owns the two labels, says, “We had been working on the single malt much before Jin JiJi. Given the ageing requirements, the journey to launch is much longer.”

At the beginning of this year, Peak Spirits, run by Mumbai-based Ansh Khanna and Chicago-based sommelier Ken Frederickson, soft-launched their first product Jin Jiji in select cities in the US, Europe, and Canada. The ‘India Dry Gin’, which is distilled in Goa, and will soon be available in India as well — along with their first-ever whisky, Kamet. Named after a 20-thousander in the Garhwal Himalayas, among India’s highest mountains, work on the NAS whisky, says Khanna, began around 2016. “Ken and I believe that India’s unique conditions and six-row barley — we source ours from the foothills of the Himalayas — make it an exciting place to produce a single malt of great complexity,” adds Khanna.

Khanna and Frederickson have teamed up with Piccadily Distillery, in Karnal, Haryana, and set themselves a tough benchmark — The Macallan. Kamet is a duet, a unique collaboration between two Master Blenders – Surrinder Kumar and Nancy Fraley. Surrinder has previously served as the Master Blender for Amrut distilleries, founding and spearheading their single malt programme, and showing the world the potential for India to produce whisky of great complexity. Nancy has worked with numerous distilleries around the US. She has a deep connection with India, from her time studying Buddhism at Harvard. She serves as the Director of Education for the American Distilling Institute (ADI).

Using the local six-row barley, the whisky is distilled in copper pot stills and matured in a combination of ex-Bourbon American Oak, ex-wine French Oak and ex-Sherry casks. This gives the single malt a vinous touch, as most single malts use only ex-Bourbon casks for their standard expressions.

“Most whisky produced in India can’t be classified as whisky as per international standards since they are made from molasses (technically, rum) and not matured for an adequate period,” Khanna explains. “Our wide usage of ex-wine casks from France is a first-in-industry. We are proud to be one of the few making high-quality single malt whisky in the country.” “The wood used has always been crucial to The Macallan’s character, and I’ve been inspired a lot by them,” says Khanna. “Kamet is matured in a combination of ex-Bourbon American oak, ex-French oak and ex-sherry casks. The usage of wine and sherry casks gives Kamet a vinous complexity on the nose and a beautiful natural colour.”

The much-acclaimed Amrut Fusion is among the whiskies Kumar worked on while at the Bangalore-based distillery. The success of Amrut and Paul John has triggered a lot of interest among whisky entrepreneurs in India. “But making whisky is very different from producing, for instance, gin. Whisky makers abroad are finding it tough to sell regular single malt and are focusing on special releases.

Thanks to the wine, bourbon and sherry casks, Kamet has a fruity aroma profile with oaky spice forward notes, complemented with vanilla, caramel and subtle raisins with nutty and sweet dark chocolate on top notes. On the palate, it exhibits a melted concoction of fresh and dried fruit notes with subtle hints of oaky vanilla, spice and dark chocolate. Kamet has a long, warm complex nutty finish with a balanced dry and sherried sweetness. Khanna recommends the whisky be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or with a splash of water.

Kamet will be available in Goa, Europe and the US in early 2021 for a price of Rs. 2,699 for a special introductory price. This will be increased to Rs. 2,999 post May 2021. In Gurgaon the launch price will be Rs. 2999 with the company targeting a volume of 1000 cases a month.

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