- Brand: Murree's Malt Whisky
- ABV: 43%
While a lot of whisky reviewed on this site has been procured slightly illegally (ie. not declared at customs, purchased through private sales, etc), this is probably the first that has been actually smuggled into Canada under serious threat of prosecution. Here is the story of how that happened.
A very close friend of mine of Pakistani ancestry travelled there to visit family and shoot part of a documentary he's making. He decided (perhaps unwisely) to seek out a bottle of local whisky and bring it back to me as a gift. Although Pakistan is a Muslim country, there is a brewery that also makes whisky, gin and other spirits (as well as various soft drinks, etc etc) called Murree Brewery. It was founded in 1860 and is the largest, most well known brewery in Pakistan (apparently the beer is quite good).
Anyway, because Pakistan is a Muslim country, neither local citizens nor those of Pakistani ancestry are allowed to drink within the borders. How then, could a brewery / distillery remain in business? By selling (completely legally) to non-Pakistanis. However, it is very difficult to find retailers who sell alcohol, so the vast majority of liquor in Pakistan is sold on the black market. Which is how it came to me.
My poor friend finally got a line on an illicit "retailer" who could sell him what he wanted. He went down an alley (he showed me a picture and I swear there are bloodstains on the pavement), entered a shadowy door and found a dark room full of heavy, bearded, scary biker-types who looked ready to snap your neck, just for fun. He nervously told them what he was looking for, and they led him to a back room where they pointed to a pile of garbage on the floor and said "Help yourself." Apparently, the pile of garbage on the floor was the "storage area" for their various liquors. He picked this bottle out of the trash, handed the scary dudes some money and ran out as fast as he could.
When he got back to his hotel, he was told by a friend that it was completey illegal to take alcohol out of the country! The only solution: smuggling. He took a small empty plastic container, filled it up (about a dram's worth), tried some from the bottle (he's not a whisky guy so he wasn't impressed) and poured the rest down the drain! He then hid the small plastic bottle in his luggage, as well as the empty bottle and the box it came with.
At the airport, while going through security, the empty bottle showed up on an X-ray of his luggage. They tore into it, found the empty bottle and proceed to mock and laugh at my friend for bringing it back as a souvenir. Certain he was about to end up in prison, he smiled calmly and laughed it off....and they let him through without finding that small plastic bottle of hooch. When he got home, he poured it back in the bottle and presented it to me as a very generous gift!
According to the packaging, Jim Murray is quoted as describing Murree whisky as having "crisp and delicate maltiness." Well, let's find out...
The colour is a very cloudy, pale yellow - the cloudiest whisky I've ever seen, and extremely oily legs. If I were poured this in a bar, I'm not sure I would drink it. Slightly peaty on the nose, with lemon, sour apple, mint and Creamsicle. Underneath all that there is a red liquorice sweetness that is mildly cloying. Plasticine. Tar. With water it gets very cloying, smelling like it's vaguely poisonous. Not pleasant.
Thin on the palate - and pretty bad. We're back to the plasticine, with gasoline, cotton candy, a hint of peat and very thin chicken broth (which could be an ingredient for all I know). Borderline-rotten Red Delicious apples (you know, the soft, mealy kind). Worse than the nose, though improves slightly with water.
The finish is olive-oil-flavoured Becel, Halls cough drops and something kind of rancid that I can't quite put my finger on. The label says this is "Bottled and Matured" at the distillery - it doesn't mention it was distilled there. I would guess much of this is scotch (and not good scotch), possibly mixed in with something distilled from molasses, and may have other flavouring agents in it. Who knows. Also, I'm amazed this is eight years old - it is so pale, with barely any oak to the nose or palate, that it could not have matured in Pakistan for that long unless it was kept in a dark, cool, humid cellar (which it very well may have been). Another concern is hinted at by what is printed on the inside of the label: "Please break the empty bottle to avoid fake filling." Counterfeit whiskies are a huge problem in Asia; hopefully this isn't one of them. I don't think it is though - it still tastes like whisky, just pretty damn bad whisky. And I haven't gone blind...yet.