I've written about Indian whisky before. I said then that India is not one of the countries that springs to mind when we think of whisky but it seems like it may be only a matter of time before this is no longer true. I have been getting my eyes opened to a whole new world of distilleries and John Distillery is one that I am particularly interested in.
The Great Indian Single Malt, as it is known, is created in Goa. The climate there is a tad different from the Highlands of Scotland and this plays a distinct role in the maturation of the whisky. The angels in India are much greedier than in the UK, taking a share of up to 8% per year! The Distillery was established in 1992 but has sought the input of experts from far and wide to create their expressions. The copper pot stills were installed by experts from the UK to ensure traditional processes were at the core of the spirit. Peat used at the distillery is imported from Scotland but the barley used is from the foothills of Himalayas. It was this final fact that made me so intrigued to try the Paul John.
The Master Distiller for John Distillery is Michael D'Souza, who has more than 20 years’ experience working with spirits and I love his approach - he sees whisky manufacturing as equal parts science and art. I want anybody who works in the whisky industry making anything that I'd like to drink to have this passion. Science has its place, of course it does, but I don't want my dram to be crafted by a machine. Great whisky is every bit as artistic as the best of the Great Masters and requires the guiding hand of an artist kept in check by the odd test tube.
Paul John Brilliance (46% ABV)
Appearance: Amber. The Paul John website has a beautiful description - 'Its sparkling hues are reminiscent of sun-kissed beaches'.
Nose: Sweet malt with candied orange peel; honey and vanilla. The sweetness is like a dessert. The malt smell reminded me of the smell of a distillery that is producing - the first distillery I ever visited was Edradour and this smell took me back to that visit. Whisky Exchange describes it as a 'delicate gristiness' which sums it up very well.
Taste: Sweetness follows through from the nose in a buttery smooth manner; malty notes form a solid base over which a tingly hint of spice enters to tingle the tongue
Finish: The spicy tingle continues with malted sweetness fading out over a long time.
Paul John Bold (46% ABV)
Nose: Peat smoke is most notable but complemented by a fruity sweetness.
Taste: Honey at first, which was surprising given the smoke on the nose, but then peppery smoke billows in. The dry smoke builds before subsiding to leave a spicy tingle in the most pleasing way.
Finish: Spicy smoke to a long crescendo
Paul John Classic Select Cask (55.2% ABV)
Nose: The malt of the Brilliance is back but in a more understated way. Slightly fermented apple; nougat sweetness with a hint of spice that is reminiscent of nutmeg or cinnamon.
Taste: Interestingly the malt comes through stronger than the Brilliance, as does the spicy tingle. Honey sweetness keeps the spice in check with a burnt toffee sensation peeking through at the end.
Finish: Malty, sugary sweetness gives a smooth and long finish
Paul John Edited (lightly peated) (46% ABV)
Nose: A whisper of peat smoke is interesting, hiding within it a slight medicinal quality. The malt that I have come to expect from the Paul John is there but this time complemented with the most wonderful chocolate covered coffee bean aroma.
Taste: The peat is beautifully delicate and towards the front; malted sweetness edging towards demerara sugar; the official notes say mint - I think I finally get what this means but it is more of a sensation than a taste for me.
Finish: Malted gristiness (thank you Whisky Exchange) lingers with an amazingly delicate peat smoke that maintains throughout. A big fan of this dram and especially the finish!
Paul John Peated (Select Cask) (55.5% ABV)
Appearance: Somewhere between burnished copper and tawny
Nose: Peat smoke that reminds me of one of the Southern Islay malts; salt and sweetness hinting towards sugar notes
Taste: Salty earthy sweetness (bear with me; I know that contradicts itself). The sweetness is provided by cane sugar flavours with the earthy quality coming from fresh cut peat. There is a salty tang towards the back of the throat that is unusual and pleasant. Tingly spice returns on the tongue.
Finish: Peat smoke lasts for a very long time with just a hint of honey sweetness fading out behind it.
This is a distillery that has a lot to give. Every one of the drams above is notable but my favourite without a doubt was the Edited. The light peat is a nice touch that interplays with all the other flavours in such a perfect balance that it really is something special. So much so, it is making it onto my wish list! Notable mention must go to the Peated Select Cask for packing such a punch with the smoke that it reminded me of Islay's big 3! So, to paraphrase Paul John's own request, go take a sip of the soul of India.
The Cask Blog is now an affiliate with our friends at Master of Malt. If you want to buy great whisk(e)y and support the Blog, without paying a penny extra, I'd appreciate if you would click through one of the following links to let them know I sent you -
Paul John Brilliance - https://www.masterofmalt.com/whiskies/john/paul-john-brilliance-whisky/
Paul John Classic Select Cask - https://www.masterofmalt.com/whiskies/john/paul-john-classic-select-cask-whisky/
Paul John Edited - https://www.masterofmalt.com/whiskies/john/paul-john-edited-whisky/
Paul John Peated Select Cask - https://www.masterofmalt.com/whiskies/john/paul-john-peated-select-cask-whisky/