Solan Number One Malt Whisky
Review: Solan Number One Full Bodied Malt Whisky 84/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf) in
Posted on July 16, 2013
Solan Number 1 Malt Whisky is produced by Mohan Meakin Limited at the Kasauli Distillery which is found in the Himalayan Highlands at an elevation of over 6,000 feet. (The town of Kasauli in located in the Solan District, Himachal Pradesh, India.) The distillery was founded in the late 1820s by Edward Dyer who apparently chose this location because the climate in this area of India was quite similar to his native Scotland, (and because the British troops in the nearby Punjab had a taste for Scottish style whisky). Solan Number One is blended with mature Malt Spirits produced using traditional Scottish methods of malting, kneading, and distillation on vintage copper pot stills and aged in oak casks. I was recently sent a sample bottle by the local Alberta distributor, Madira Spirits Inc. and asked if I could provide a review here on my website. I was more than happy to oblige.
(Solan No. 1 is bottled at 42.8 per cent alcohol by volume.)
In the Bottle 4/5
My sample bottle of Solan Number One Malt Whisky arrived in the tall slender bottle you see to the left. The presentation included a beige coloured cardboard box which helps to protect the bottle from the deleterious effects of light. The topper is plastic and provides a good seal, but the spout has one of those annoying diffusers which are used by manufacturers in certain areas of the world to prevent the bottle from being refilled with an inferior liquid in a nefarious business establishment. It would be nice if the importer of the spirit could convince the parent company that such diffusers are not necessary for the portion of the spirit bottled for Canada. I also would have preferred to see an age statement upon the label, and a more definitive statement on the back label with respect to how this whisky is produced.
Based upon how I read the label, the Solan Number One may not be a 100 % malt whisky, and in fact I cannot even ascertain whether it is a 100 % grain whisky. Don’t get me wrong, I harbour no preconceived notions regarding quality, I just would like to know more completely, how the spirit is made. (FYI: Much of the whisky produced in India is grain spirit blended with cane spirit, a practice which is also legal in the United States, but not in Canada or Scotland.)
In the Glass 8.5/10
When I pour the whisky into my glass it displays as a rich golden honey coloured whisky with a strong visual appeal. When my glass is tilted and twirled, a light sheen forms on the inside which gives up slow-moving droopy legs of medium thickness.
The initial nose is honeyed with a mixture of sweet malt and butterscotch, some clean oak spices and hints (but only hints) of a rum-like cane syrup. I let the glass sit to see how the nose developed, and I was rewarded with a few new notes of orange peel, heather and tobacco. I find the aroma appealing, although I would not describe the air above the glass as complex and engaging.
In the Mouth 50/60
The whisky enters the mouth with flavours of butterscotch, oak spice, and a touch of sea brine. There are also some unusual flavours that remind me of licorice, orange peel, lilacs, and oriental spices. (I have only sampled a few Indian whiskies, but I remember this same sort of exotic taste is apparent in the Amrut brand which is also produced in India. I suspect the local grain or terrain imparts some unique flavours into the spirit.) The Solan Number One’s flavour is rounded out with little dabs of vanilla, some obvious almond, and hints of tobacco.
The overall effect is pleasant and very approachable. I can sip quite easily, although I admit the whisky seems to be more suited to mixing. To that end I mixed a nice highball recipe using juice and soda and found the experience very enjoyable. (See recipe below)
In the Throat 13/15
The exit is smooth and unassuming just as the entry was. Vanilla, almond and cane syrup seem to linger with just a touch of oak spice providing a little heat. Quite nice actually.
The Afterburn 8.5/10
The Solan Number One Malt Whisky seems to lack the complexity and fullness of flavour which I desire from a sipping spirit (which is why I suggested earlier it was more of a mixer). It also has a vague rum-like cane flavour lurking within which gives the spirit a touch more sweetness than what I would normally expect from a malt whisky. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed my tasting sessions. This Indian whisky offers a different sort of taste experience from the norm, and that taste experience is smooth, pleasant and unassuming. (If you look at the picture down below you will see that the fill line of this whisky has been drastically assaulted by my tasting regimen. I think you can ascertain from that information alone that I liked the Solan Number One quite a bit indeed.)
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
2 oz Solan Number One Malt Whisky
1/2 oz Triple Sec
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz sugar syrup
4 mint leaves
3 oz Ginger-ale
Mint sprig for garnish
Muddle the first five ingredients in a mixing glass
Strain into a glass tumbler
Complete with Ginger-ale
Garnish with a mint sprig in the glass
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)