12
Apr 15

Amrut Distilleries factory tour (with Vir Sanghvi)

Date: February 12, 2014

I was invited to visit the Amrut Distilleries factory on Mysore Road, just outside of Bangalore city. I was going to get to see the manufacturing process for making the famed Amrut whisky — with a special guest in tow. Noted journalist, writer and TV personality Vir Sanghvi was going to drop by the factory for a tour.

Amrut whisky display Bangalore

The award-winning Amrut whisky range

Barley peat for whisky

Barley to the left, peat to the right

Amrut distillery office awards display

We were waiting for Vir Sanghvi to arrive

Amrut awards Jagdale old photo

Gave me enough time to check out the awards and the history of the company Shri Radhakrishna Jagdale founded

Amrut distillery test lab Bangalore

This is the lab where they sample and test whiskies — Amrut’s own production batches and the competition

Jagdale gifting flowers to Vir Sanghvi

Vir Sanghvi had arrived, and so had the present chairman of Amrut Distilleries, Mr. Neelakanta Rao Jagdale. After a formal greeting, the Amrut team led us all to the factory.

Amrut factory tour with Vir Sanghvi

Senior VP Surrinder Kumar led the factory tour

Storage silos Amrut whisky distillery Bangalore

These silos store the grains

Inside Amrut factory Mysore road

We went up to witness the manufacturing stages

Amrut factory grain pulley

The process of making whisky begins here. The grains are brought in using this conveyor.

Malt mill Amrut whisky tour

Then the malted barley is ground into powder in the malt mill

Grains grinder Amrut factory

The flour then moves down

Amrut factory whisky making Bangalore

We then moved on to the fermentation process and to large vessels (on the left hand side)

Fermentation vessel whisky making Bangalore

We were asked to take a look inside these fermentation vessels

Fermentation yeast Amrut whisky making

Hot water is added to the barley and this breaks down the starch content in the barley. This liquid mash is called wort. Later, yeast is added.

Yeast rising fermentation process whisky

The yeast causes fermentation of the wort and creates alcohol. The mixture rises after a few weeks of fermentation.

Copper pot stills Amrut factory

The next stage is distillation of the liquid in these large copper pot stills. Amrut distills twice(?). Basically the pot stills are like large kettles that heat the liquid causing the alcohol vapours to rise. These vapours turn back into liquid and what is essentially spirit.

The spirits are then poured into oak barrels for the maturation process.

Maturation chamber oak barrels Amrut whisky

This is the maturation chamber (one of many) where barrels of spirit are left to mature over a period ranging from one to three years

Maturation room temperature Amrut whisky

They note the temperature and other stats daily

Amrut whisky tasting maturation room

Vir Sanghvi samples the spirit that has only matured for a few months. I had a sip too and it really doesn’t have a taste to it… but it’s got quite a kick! It’s pure alcohol.

Amrut whisky maturing chamber panorama

I took a panorama of the maturation chamber before leaving

Amrut whisky bottling factory

We then moved to the bottling unit

Amrut whisky bottling machine Bangalore

Here is where the end product is bottled

Corking Amrut whisky factory

Corked

Amrut whisky workers factory

Stickered

Amrut whisky boxed

And boxed

Amrut factory warehouse

After which these boxes are shipped. Unfortunately, they turned down my offer to ‘ship’ one box of Peated whisky to my house free of charge :)

Vodka bottle inspection Amrut factory

This is the bottle for Amrut’s Muschovy vodka. One such bottle is being inspected for sediments.

Amrut distillary bottling factory Bengaluru

This is a second factory where they package other products such as their rum and vodka offerings

Maturation chamber Amrut whisky factory

We stopped by some other maturation chambers where Amrut is experimenting with new flavours and techniques

Oak barrel charring process India

Then we saw something really special. The process of charring the oak barrels.

Barrel charring Amrut whisky Bangalore

It’s done by this guy who is among the very few in India who does barrel charring professionally

Oak barrel charring process Amrut whisky

The barrel spins as it gets charred on the inside

Fire oak barrel charring Bangalore India

It’s quite a sight

Charred barrel whisky making

The fire is put out quickly

Inside charred oak barrel Amrut distillary

And this is the end result. You can smell the oak and it’s this char that gives the spirit its dark colour over the maturation period

Used oak barrels Amrut whisky

There’s a limit to how many times Amrut uses one barrel. These are used barrels they sell off.

With that, the tour was over and we returned to the head office for lunch.

Jagdale presenting Vir Sanghvi Amrut whisky

Post lunch, Vir Sanghvi was gifted with a limited edition “Naarangi” variant of Amrut whisky before leaving.

Amrut appreciation dinner Bangalore

Later in the evening, we all gathered at the JW Marriott Hotel on Vittal Mallya Road for an appreciation dinner hosted by Amrut Distilleries

Guests Amrut dinner party

The evening saw special guests from Bangalore high society invited to join Vir Sanghvi and sample some Amrut whisky

JW Marriott Amrut dinner Bangalore guests

The event saw the Amrut folks talk about their whisky and educate the guests on savouring whisky in the right manner

Food at JW Marriott Bangalore chef

The food served was an all-gourmet affair with some top-notch dishes

JW Marriott hotel lobby Bengaluru

I left the JW Marriott hotel once the night’s festivities were over

A big thanks to Amrut Distilleries for inviting me to the factory and the appreciation dinner. I enjoyed both and I loved getting an insight into what goes into making an exquisite bottle of Amrut Whisky.


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! 😛

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!


03
May 14

Day trip to Pyramid Valley meditation center

Date: 21 April 2014

On a Monday morning, I joined my cousin brother and his family on short day-trip to a place called Pyramid Valley International, just off Kanakapura Road.

Kanakapura road Bangalore drive

Pyramid Valley is around 27 kms from the METRO Cash & Carry store on Kanakapura Road.

Mithun Jithin family GoPro

Even though I was primarily using my phone to shoot photographs, I carried my GoPro with me to take some photos too

Way to Pyramid Valley Kanakpura road

The drive barely took an hour

You have to get off Kanakapura Road when you see the sign pointing left to where Pyramid Valley International is located. Once you get on to the small road, it’s pretty bad. You pass through a village with poor roads before you reach the gates at Pyramid Valley.

There is an open ground for parking and there is no fee for the same. We parked under a big tree as it was quite sunny.

Pyramid Valley map Bangalore

Like many spiritual centers in India, they are spread across many acres

Pyramid Valley International claims to be a “new age meditation” and “spiritual science” center (if there ever is such a thing as spiritual science).

Mahatma Gandhi statue Pyramid valley

Much of the space inside looks like there is still a lot of work to be done

But why is it called Pyramid Valley? Continue reading “Day trip to Pyramid Valley meditation center” »

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