12
Dec 14

An afternoon with Amrut whisky, hosted by The Glass House

I was invited for a blogger gathering at the invitation of Amrut Distilleries, makers of the renowned Amrut Single Malt whisky. I had heard of the brand, but never knew much about it nor had I ever tasted it. It’s not easy to find it in liquor stores and I think I have seen their whiskys more at airport duty frees. Amrut XXX rum on the other hand, that’s far more common. None the less, we were asked to come for a tasting session to be held at The Glass House on Lavelle Road.

The Glasshouse Lavelle road Bangalore

There was a bit of space across from The Glass House to park my bike

The Glasshouse lounge restaurant Bangalore

This was my first time at The Glass House, and first impressions: “Wow!”

We were instructed to first go upstairs for the Amrut event.

Whisky sample glasses The Glasshouse

Upstairs, they had set up tables with 6 glasses per chair. So clearly a tasting session is on hand — but 6 varieties?

The Glasshouse lounge Lavelle road

Then we were told we would have to move downstairs due to the music, which would make listening to the speakers difficult. We weren’t moving to the outer lounge.

Private room The Glasshouse Bangalore

Instead, they were setting up a table in the Private Dining Room which is often reserved for corporates or high-end clientele. (Ahem, for this afternoon, a bunch of low life bloggers)

Birds interior The Glasshouse Bangalore

The interiors at The Glass House were classy and minimalist to say the least

Wine cellar The Glasshouse Bengaluru

We had to wait a bit before they set up the new table, so I checked out The Glass House

Bar The Glasshouse Lavelle road

The Glass House is an authorized distributor for Amrut whisky, so yes, it’s on the bar menu

Deli chocolates The Glasshouse Bangalore

The Glass House has their own deli and make their own chocolates. And yes, those are chocolate shoes (Rs. 500 for one)

Whisky review table Glasshouse

When the table was set, we were asked to take our seats and the session would begin

After an introduction by the organizers from Lywd, the folks from Amrut Distilleries were introduced to us. In 2010, Amrut’s Fusion single malt whisky was named “third best whisky in the world” by renowned whisky connoisseur Jim Murray in his 2010 edition of the ‘Whisky Bible’. A impressive recognition for an Indian brand, and for a nation that’s not really known for producing whisky, despite actually being one of the largest producers of whisky by the numbers.

In fact, Amrut didn’t really start out making premium whisky. Although the company has been around 1948, it wasn’t until the Chairman’s son, Rakshit Jagdale, who was doing his Masters in UK, decided to to sample the market there and investigate the potential of exporting Amrut Single Malt whisky to the UK.

Amrut whisky ambassador

The man who led the session was Ashok Chokalingham, from Amrut. Ashok was voted “World whisky ambassador” in 2012. Again, quite an achievement for an Indian.

Ashok explained to us the process of evaluating whiskys. On how to smell it, taste and how to pick up the various fragrance notes in a whisky’s taste. I never realized our nostrils pick up smells differently… until Ashok told us to smell the whisky using one nostril first, and then the other. For me, my right nostril sensed a stronger smell than my left nostril. What do you know, you learn something about your own body everyday!

On the scoring sheet, we had to describe how it smelt, how it tasted, the balance (as in, if one flavour was stronger than any other) and finish (how long the taste lasted on our tongues). Then we had to guess how aged the whisky was and whether it was Indian or foreign.

With the primary education over, we began tasting. We had 6 glasses in front of us, but guess what, they weren’t all Amrut whisky. They didn’t tell us which glasses contained Amrut whisky(s). Each blogger was given a score sheet where we had to note down our impressions of each whisky we sampled.

We would pause in between every whisky tasting to assess what flavours we got out of each sip. Here’s another thing to try out when you drink whisky. Take a whiff (smell) after pouring it into a glass. Now cover the glass top with your hands and keep it closed for a few minutes. Now remove your hand and smell the whisky. The smell was so much stronger than when I first smelled it. It just hits you!

After we had sampled all six glasses, it was now time to reveal which glass was which whisky.

Scoring sheet whiskys

This is how I scored. The highest score I gave was a 35 out of 40, to whisky number 6. So I hoped it would be from Amrut, otherwise it would have been embarrassing! :)

Amrut whisky revealed

By the time they revealed bottle no. 6, it was not only Indian, it was most definitely Amrut!

Whisky no. 6 was Amrut’s award winning Peated Indian Single Malt Whisky Cask Strength. Sadly, I ranked the Amrut’s Fusion Indian Single Malt Whisky (glass no. 3), my second lowest. Maybe it just wasn’t for me. The second highest score I gave was for whisky no. 4 — which turned out to be Jim Beam’s! Funny, considering I didn’t think much about Jim Beam’s when I first tried it a few years ago. The other whisky brands were Glenmorangie, Johnny Walker Black label and one other that I can’t recollect now. The fact that I chose Amrut’s Peated Single Malt over Johnny Walker Black label shows you just how good that whisky is.

Throughout the session Ashok, Rakshit and Vikram from Amrut Distilleries would tell us the challenges they faced when trying to convince the world that India could produce whisky that was very good. Most foreigners who tried Amrut couldn’t believe it when they were told what they were drinking was from Bangalore, India! And because of the climatic conditions, Amrut whiskys aren’t aged as long as Scotch.

India has always had its share of underdog stories. I guess Amrut’s Single Malt whisky story isn’t any different. Although Amrut was mostly export-oriented with its Single Malt whisky, it has recently, tried to get more bottles into Indian liquor stores and ramp up production to keep up with demand.

Rohinton Motahed The Glasshouse water

This is Rohinton Motahed, director at RSP Gourmet Foods, the company that operates The Glass House. After the whisky session, he told us about all that his company was into, including the bottled spring water brand, Mulshi, which is named after the region in Maharashtra it originates from.

Rohinton spoke about the inspiration behind the design of The Glass House. Minimalism, if it wasn’t evident from the photos, was key. The entire structure is glass (duh), steel and concrete — and that includes the furniture.

Chef The Glasshouse Bengaluru

Rohintan then introduced The Glasshouse’s head chef, Preeteesh. The chef would give us a talk on what inspired the menu as the appetizers rolled in.

Goatcheese breadsticks The Glasshouse Bangalore

First up was goatcheese on breadsticks, coated with corn flakes. This was yum!

Red wine cured beef Glasshouse restaurant

This was red wine cured beef beef carpaccio. Rather tasteless in my opinion. Tore the minute you touched it and it barely registered in my tummy.

Brinjal wraps lamb sliders The Glasshouse food

Left: Stuffed mini eggplant roulade with hummus — tasted just okay; Right: Lamb and jalapeño sliders — gooood

Mango chicken fish tapas

Left: Chicken coated with mango sauce. No, not raw mango but ripened mango. Trust me, it worked! Right: Deep-fried basa fish bits on crunchy wafers. Okay, nothing special.

Margharita ultra thin crust Pizza

Finally, The Glass House is famous for its ultra-thin crust pizza. This was the margharita cheese pizza.

Like the design, the food on the menu is minimalistic too. The chef told us most dishes on the menu comprise of no more than 3-5 ingredients. All the breads and desserts are made in-house. The menu is largely European and the food is all very gourmet. Yes, The Glass House is a bit on the high end. Then again, given the location and if you couldn’t already tell from the looks of the place, you kind of expect that.

Coming back to Amrut whisky, I regret not taking a photo of the bottle. The thought never crossed my mind because when I saw that they were going to hand out bags to each blogger, I assumed the bags contained a bottle of Amrut whisky for us to take home. Turned out they were just Amrut branded whisky glasses. And by the time I thought of taking a photo of the open bottles they had, the whisky in it was all gone. Would have been nice if they displayed their entire range there for us to at least take photos.

Amrut Indian whisky range

I pulled this image off the web. The Peated whisky that I liked the most is on the extreme left. Next to that is their regular Single Malt.

I also forgot to ask about pricing but they told me prices for Amrut whisky begin at Rs. 2200 and go up with each variant.

Now, I’m no whisky connoisseur, but I love the art of such things like the process of making whisky or beer. Appreciating the science behind the making whisky and its finer points was the bigger take away I had from this taste session by Amrut. I learned things like, it is caramel that is used to give whisky (and other spirits) its dark brown colour. And using caramel as a natural colouring is perfectly legal. Also, every distillery uses demineralized water to reduce the strength of alcohol.

Amrut Distilleries also organizes distillery tours at their facility off Mysore Road, which the company representatives described as “one amazing experience”. Hope I get to check it out one day.


15
Oct 14

Visit to Amrutha Dairy Farm, a learning experience

I have gone to my friend Santhosh Singh’s farm before, but quite a lot has changed since our visit. First, Santhosh gave it name — Amrutha Dairy Farm. But later decided to not put up signs anywhere. Why? We’ll get to that later.

Amrutha Dairy Farm is located in Haalenahalli, Madhure Hobli, Doddaballapura.

I mean, here’s a map of its location.

Beyond that, all I can say is: good luck finding it on your first try!

Sunrays through clouds-bangalore

The weather seemed nice for this visit

It is a bit of a challenge to find the farm, but if you follow the direction path highlighted on Google Maps, you can get there with relative ease if you use your phone as a GPS device.

Farmhouse Bangalore Karnataka

We parked inside the farm. This is the farmhouse Santhosh and his brothers built.

The dairy farm was set up nearly 4 years ago. The initial plan was to setup a milk processing center, but when Santhosh realized the heavy investment that was required, he realized it would be better just starting off with just producing milk for the time being, and slowly ramp up.

Cows shed dairy farm Bangalore

Santhosh *only* has around 30 cows

Santosh is parallely working on a heifer rearing project (heifer is a young cow before she has had her first calf). This is to contain the operational costs on the business, such as drought in the area for consecutive years. So yeah, like many Indians, even these guys suffer from water and electricity problems. They also have a hydroponics system which can produce very nutritious green fodder (up to 1ton per day) and this was built completely from scratch by them after taking technical help from some guys in Europe and New Zealand.

Growing hydroponics greenhouse

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. They have such a facility in the farm.

Cow shed dairy farm Bangalore

They feed the cows a hybrid napier grass grown at the farm and maize procured from nearby farms along with prescribed nutrients

Cows feeding dairy farm Bangalore

This might look like a lot of cows but only 6 cows are ready to produce milk

Cow staring dairy farm Karnataka

Hello

Farm land Hallenahalli Karnataka

The farm has some extra land which Santhosh and his brothers are contemplating how to best make use of.

When word spread about Amrutha Dairy Farms, a Netherlands-based group came to India and approached Santhosh to join hands with the farm to set up a milk processing plant to produce products like khova, paneer and cheese. Continue reading “Visit to Amrutha Dairy Farm, a learning experience” »


23
Jul 14

Feasting on Ramadan food treats at Mosque Road, Bangalore

Every year, during the holy month of Ramadan, Mosque Road in Frazer Town converts into a major hub for food lovers. Several stalls are set up selling a variety of Iftar treats by the road side, and every year, the number of stalls just keep getting bigger and bigger.

Now, you don’t have to go to Frazer Town for Iftar treats as stalls are set up outside every major mosque in Bangalore during the holy month of Ramadan. But Mosque Road being what it is attracts are a larger number of people. I have been Mosque Road with friends in previous years, but this year I wanted to capture some photos for my blog.

After meeting up with a friend, we rode down to Frazer Town, parked my bike near Savoury Restaurant and walked up to Mosque Road.

Ramzan food stall Frazer Town Bangalore

Stalls were set up away from Mosque Road too

Heritage hotel Ramadhan stall Bangalore

Heads up: a lot of meat in this blog post

Mutton kheema egg fry Ramadan food India

Mutton kheema and stir fried egg next to it

Free Quran distribution Bangalore India

This was an organization handing out free copies of the Quran (in English). I asked for a copy as I have always wanted to read for myself what was myth and what is actually quoted in the Holy Book.

Sheek kebabs Ramadan Frazer town

I moved to Mosque Road where sheek kebabs were being cooked over charcoal. Beef, chicken, and of course mutton were on offer.

Brazil beef kebabs Bangalore India

This stall was selling Brazilian beef. When I asked the guy why he wasn’t selling Indian beef, the owner just shrugged and said this “tastes better”. Oh well, I know why. None the less, I packed some.

Fried beef chicken kebabs Bangalore

Beef and colourful chicken kebabs beside it. Really put off by the use of food colour in meat.

Idiyappam Mosque Road Iftar Bangalore

Idiyappams and chicken kebabs?

Beef sukka Frazer town Banglaore

Beef sukka. Sampled some and it tasted okay.

Biriyani Palace Eid stall Bangalore

We then crossed over to the other side where much of the big stalls on Mosque Road were

Pathar gosht stone mutton Bangalore

That’s mutton being cooked on a huge slab or stone over a charcoal fire :-) They call it pathar gosht (pathar = stone; gosht = mutton)

Ramazan tent Iftar Mosque Road Bangalore

There were many of these food tents set up beside Mosque Road

Ramadan food tent Bangalore India

It was crowded!

Mutton haleem Bangalore India

Mutton haleem. Haleem, for the uninitiated, is a thick gravy like dish made using wheat, barley, lentils and meat (plus spices).

Ramazan food tent Mosque road Bangalore

I don’t think I could have even stood here and ate something. Too stuffy and way too many people passing through.

Iftar sweets Bangalore India

Lots of sweets on offer!

Fish chicken kadi Eid food

There wasn’t a whole lot of sea food available and given the ‘Bangalore premium’ for seafood, whatever that was on offer was kinda expensive.

Mosque road Ramadan stalls Bangalore

There were many more stalls alongside Mosque Road

Ramzan tent Frazer town Bangalore

We went in here next

Chicken samosas Eid food Bangalore

Chicken samosas, chicken fry, chicken kebabs, chicken this, chicken that…

Pathar gosht beef Frazer town

More beef and mutton grilled on stone

Dry fruit firny Shahi tukda dessert

Packed up some firny (sweet)

Chocolate cupcakes Karachi haleem

And picked up some chocolate cupcakes

Pudding gulab jamun sweets Iftar

I had some pudding next, which was yum!

Mosque road Ramadan night Bangalore

Even though much of the activity was on the right side, I crossed the road to check out what was on offer on the other lane on Mosque Road

Muslims sheek kebabs Bangalore India

Much of the same, albeit far less glamourous that’s all

Iftar sweets Frazer town Bangalore

There weren’t too many different varieties of food on offer this side

After packing up some more food, I left Mosque Road. It’s obvious the annual Ramadan treats have grown into a big business opportunity for vendors over these past few years. It wasn’t this crowded when I visited 2 years ago. People of all faiths turn up to try out the food. Of course there were a few ignorant people. One guy was silly enough to ask if pork was available! :P

Also, the prices this year weren’t low by any street food means. A plate of pathar gosht was sold for Rs. 200, and the quantity was only good enough for just one person. A stick of just three chicken-cheese balls cost Rs. 50. Don’t even ask about the sea food prices.

Still, if you have an opportunity to check out the fare on Mosque Road, do so if you have never visited the stretch during Ramzan before. And do it before Eid. Happy feasting!

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