Paul John is the single malt output from John Distilleries, a large wine and liquor producer based in Bangalore, India - their main output is large amounts of Original Choice (a blended whisky) that claims to be the seventh largest whisky in the world. The Paul John single malt is distilled and matured in Goa, allowing them to use clean spring water directly in the production process. Paul John single malt was only recently launched (2012), with a pair of single cask releases. Since then they have released Brilliance (single malt), Classic Select Cask (cask strength version of Brilliance) and Edited (containing 15-20% lightly peated malt).
All ingredients apart from the peat are Indian. The malt is from 6-row Indian barley, which is harder and more expensive to grow, but contains more proteins and they believe produces a better mouthfeel in the finished whisky. The peat itself is shipped in from Islay (usually - India has no peat), but the actual peating smoking is performed in India on Indian barley. The quality of the distillate is obviously high in the samples I tried, and the character of the peat is lovely, quite Campbeltown in character to me. In October they will be releasing a fully peated whisky, "Bold", which I was able to try recently, notes are below.
The output is pretty simple - all the spirit is matured in bourbon casks for 4-5 years, and released at 46% or "cask strength" (55.2%). Of course 5 years cask maturation in Goa is the equivalent of about 15 years in Scotland due to the hotter climate, although the temperature and humidity is pretty stable there. This is in contrast with Kentucky, where high temperature fluctuations produce wild cask influence in even shorter timescales. My problem with a lot of American whisky (but certainly not all) is while the whisky doesn't taste young, it seems simple - lacks complexity, lacks integration. Japanese whisky seems to also do very well in its youth, and through great cask selection and skill drinks very well young, although sometimes lacks a little soul too (I've got a big Japanese post in the works and it's a mixed bag). This Goan whisky seems to play quite a good game with its youth, lots of interesting character, good integration (on the whole) and reasonably well balanced. And the new fully peated expression is very impressive.
Here's some quite notes I took while trying their range recently, and a marker for myself to do a fuller tasting another time.
Paul John, Brilliance, 46% – Liquorice torpedo, apple boiled sweets. Quite sharp and bright but with a deep numbing sweetness. Not light, but bright, sweet and well integrated.
Paul John, Classic Select Cask, 55.2% – More wax, lemon wood on the nose, but more restrained. Sharper, and even fruitier on the delivery with numbing wood, and a lovely mouthfeel. The finish has rich wood; very long and quite dry.
Paul John, Edited, 46% – This is lightly peated. Fruity and nicely seasoned with peat – very complementary. There’s no hint of youth here. There’s a lovely, considered initial delivery with a touch of bandage but it doesn’t quite hold it together later, becoming slightly harsh as it develops. The finish is long and numbing, but has an offputting bitterness – the peat doesn’t quite go all the way for me.
Paul John, Bold, 46% - This is fully peated. The nose is deep, sweet and sour but with a touch of tobacco and joss sticks. Very perfumed. The delivery is big, complex and old, quite spicy and has lots of tobacco and apple, lovely fruit, coffee and lots of oak. The finish is very long, with excellent peat character and great balance. It's a little spicy with hard, blonde oak, and reminds me somehow of Longrow. Peppery at the end.
I think this will be a big hit when it lands in October, highly recommended!