India. The name itself evokes a rich, proud, diverse and fascinating history.
Or tasty spicy food, vast class discrepancies, a growing income gap, and a cold war process with a border more complicated then trying to play connect the dots on a fry chef’s face.
India is fascinating. And has a bit of English history. So it’s not surprising at all that they have a growing whisky base.
John Distilleries has been a player in India since the crazy wild west of 1992, making multiple different spirits, including the molasses ‘whisky’ that India has now become quite well known for. For those of you who don’t know, that’s basically rum with the wrong name.
However John Distilleries, which was started by Paul John, also makes real single malt whisky, made from local Indian barley, double distilled in copper pot stills, and aged in ex-bourbon casks.
Also, don’t make the same mistake I did. I assume that a gentleman named Paul John was a leftover ex-pat Englishman who was living the high life. I was incorrect, the founder is Indian and has a majestic mustache.
So this distillery has been around, and sells the most Indian whisky in the world. They have a decent heritage and are only growing. Let’s see how their Paul John Indian Whisky tastes, shall we?
I’m going to quote the good people at Master of Malt for a description on this one:
Paul John Edited is an Indian single malt whisky created by Master Distiller Michael John using Indian 6-row barley as well as peated Scottish barley. The final vatting contains 15% of the peated spirit with maturation taking place in bourbon casks.
The above is all from Master of Malt. I felt it just worked.
The name is a fascinating one. “Edited”. I’m not going to lie, it does give me pause. Or paws. No, this isn’t Tumblr, it’s pause.
Edited sounds like the colour was messed with, or flavour was added. Granted it could also mean that it was worked with really closely. Hard to tell. Something to think about. Or don’t. You are an adult with many busy things to do.
So, this is Paul John’s version of Fusion, at the end of the day. Unlike Fusion it’s a lower amount of Scottish barley, and has some peated spirit.
Let’s see how their version tastes, shall we?
Colour: 2.5Y 8/6
Nose: Sour orange, mango, vanilla, dried leaves, butter, pot-pouri
At first it’s quite stinging on the nose. Not stinging like citrus in one’s own eye, more so walking through the scented candle section “all of a sudden”.
As time goes on it has more of a vegetal, buttery, and floral note to it.
Taste: Orange, butter, peanut, almond, parsley
More of the same from the taste, which is nice, however the pot-pouri has changed to a nutty flavour. And as someone who hasn’t had to shit scented dead leaves and flowers, I’d prefer to continue that trend, and Paul John has helped me out there.
Finish: Mushroom, butter, lime, orange, gravel, grassy
More earth on the finish, much to the detriment of the whisky. The fruit stays, the floral becomes dirt, it all becomes dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt. Hard to taste anything else, really. The peat hasn’t mixed or aged well here. Dirt.
Did I mention dirt?
Conclusion: What started out as a nice, smooth, fruit forward malt that should have gotten in the low 70s and been a nice sipper has since meandered forward into a shallow, dirty grave. Tongue first.
There’s issues, and there’s fixes here. Given the fast maturation, I don’t think the typical Scottish peated spirit played nice here. Especially if it’s Bowmore, which I’m assuming it is. The taste and nose should be the start to a good whisky, and then the finish doesn’t keep it up. Time makes it more earthy and not fun. Would skip this one, unless they make changes.
Paul John Brilliance is, again, made with 6-row Indian Barley, aged in ex-bourbon casks, and bottled at cask strength.
Before you correct me, yeah. 46% is cask strength when you’re aging a malt for 3-5 years in India. That’s rough. The angels are busy in warm places it would seem.
Imagine that was the case? Like, Angels just really like the heat, for some odd reason. They stick around distilleries stealing pure alcohol on a regular basis. Makes you wonder what the prohibitionists would think about that.
I’ll have to ask the ones who work at the LCBO some time.
So I probably should have started with this whisky, as it seems to be the most standard version of the line-up. Or just for Alphabetical reasons. Oh well, let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Colour: 5Y 8/6
Nose: Cream, raspberry, nougat, coconut, cocoa, lemons, oak
There’s a consistent creamy note that I later notice in almost all of these malts. Let’s put a pin in that grenade for the moment.
Where as the last malt ended with a rougher earth, this one is sweeter on the nose and nice. Good amount of fruit and oak to pair well with it too.
Honestly it smells like a really nice box of chocolates. And isn’t that what life is all about?
Taste: Floral, passionfruit, almond, strawberry, anise, ginger, caramel
Tastes like a crazy Lowland, except stronger and without the triple distillation. Like one of those Highland/Lowland mixes maybe. Or a good finish.
Finish: Coconut, floral, lemon, mint, rosemary, almond
So we start seeing a little bit of the Earth Elemental monster coming out here, yet it’s been tamed this time.
Conclusion: A solid dram here. Nothing over the top or crazy, yet a nice amount of sweetness to balance out the earth. The nose was the best part, and it’s impressive they can get the amount of fruit and spice without sherry casks.
We’re seeing some earth issues again, however I’ll have to wait and see if that persists as time goes on. I liked this one, and would probably pour it for newbies to whisky.
Paul John Classic Select Cask is… yet again aged for a NAS time and in ex-bourbon casks, and was bottled without chill filtration or colouring. This one came out in 2013, when we were young and foolish.
Not much else to say. It’s part of their main line-up, I think. Maybe. Can’t really say. I’ll say yes to be consistent with my cocky attitude.
So here’s some facts about Goa (where the distillery is located) to make up for it:
- Mining and Tourism are the main industries of Goa
- Coconut and Coconut oil are main ingredients used in local cooking
- Due to a visit by an Irish Priest, Football (soccer) gained popularity in Goa
So, let’s see how this Goan delight tastes, shall we?
Colour: 5Y 8/10
Nose: Cream, pear, cocoa, almond, sand, oak, graham cracker crust, ginger
Remember that pin? Keep it in there. Don’t want stuff blowing up in our collective faces. Unless you’re into that, then you do you.
Little more sweet to this one than earth this time. Quite nice actually. Here’s hoping for something a little bit different.
Taste: Lemon, enough butter to kill half of France, pear, peanut, salt, peach
Well… enough Butter to kill elephants by beating them to death is different, so I guess I got what I asked for.
It’s… it’s just a lot of butter. Unbalanced on butter. Kinda rough to drink butter whisky. Can’t believe Harry Potter did it when he was a kid. I’m such a muggle.
Finish: Lime, butter, cumin, mango, oats
Good news: The butter calmed the fuck down. And there’s a nice amount of acid and earth here too.
Funny enough, while simple, this finish isn’t too harsh or rough.
Conclusion: Interesting direction with the malt. Nothing overly rough or bad, with the exception being the god damn flavour being a pound of the South’s special ingredient. I love butter, and this was too much.
Like the nose, and have no beef with the finish. Probably the best finish of the bunch, if I can be spoilerific. Or at least best of the ones I’ve had so far. If the taste was more balanced this would probably be as good, or better than some of the others.
Oh well, back to the drawing board.
Paul John Peated Select Cask wins the award for the most descriptive name yet. Having no idea what Brilliance, Classic, Edited, or any of the others are suppose to mean, at least this one has a word I know the meaning of.
So same thing as before: Aged in ex-bourbon, distilled twice, bottled at cask strength, no chill filtering or colour. All good things. Great.
However for this one they imported in peat from Scotland. Why? Because India doesn’t have peat of their own. Makes sense, they don’t want to bump the boat too much, and I don’t believe (correct me if I’m wrong) that there’s a huge meat-smoking culture in India, so they leaned on the Scottish ideas.
Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Colour: 10YR 7/8
Nose: Cream, peat, pine, tar, anise, almond, oregano, light brown sugar
Still cream. See? Glad we kept the pin in that one? Put it back in, we’ll get back to this.
Young spirit and peat come out of this one. Wish I knew how much the ppm is, however given the note, I’d say it’s equivalent to Caol Ila.
Taste: Citrus, peat, pine, hard candy, peanut, cream
It’s a young dram, and this is one of the first times that has popped out. The pine and hard candy notes are evident in some younger casks I’ve had of Canadians.
Also the noted cream nose is showing up in the taste now. At least it’s not a metric shit ton of butter this time.
Finish: Smoke, lemon, menthol, mushroom, funk
Yup, it’s a peated malt. I assumed before I drank this that the added peat would amp up the earth at the end, however the two have decided that getting along is better than nuclear peat explosions.
There’s a funk at the end that makes me wonder if the barrels come from Beam. Throws the dram off a little.
Conclusion: Good first try on a peated malt. Better than the Edited, that’s for certain. This has some young notes that may throw you off like a Cowboy at the fourth second. It’s young, yet the flavours work together, they are tasty, and the nose reminds me of nice Islays.
I almost want a Mesquite or different type of smoke on this one. The peat hasn’t been given the time it needs with the oak to develop beyond itself. Needs work, but nice.
Paul John Single Cask is… holy shit, again? Alright. It’s NAS, it’s cask strength, it’s aged in ex-bourbon, and it’s all from one single cask.
We cool now, Paul John? Can you use something different at some point? I know this is a special edition and comes in a freaking nice box, but… Come on man! I need to write something here! People expect something I can riff on, right? Or at least something to skip when I do a large ass multi review and all they want is to figure out what the hell to drink!
Also this is cask 163. I noticed that Cask 161 was the first cask brought out. With some google-fu under my belt, this is the second single cask from the distillery so great they named it twice.
Oh well. Let’s see how this cask tastes, shall we?
Colour: 10YR 8/8
Nose: Rubbing alcohol, butter, pear, smoke, corn, wheat, lemon
Holy astringency Paul-man! After letting this sit for a decent amount of time, it’s really raw. Lots of corn and wheat notes, and a rubbing alcohol that isn’t doing it any favours.
Reminds me of Arrack, a Sri Lanka alcohol that’s like rum and brandy had a fucked up love child. Harsh as heck, though I love the flavour.
Taste: Peach, pepper, cream, orange, kola nut, mango
Okay, okay. Getting better. Still has the cream element, that’s good, we’re getting back to palatable land.
Strong flavours on this one. Nothing crazy, and it’s still pumping out a hot, pepper flavour, even after water, however better than the nose.
Not that that’s setting the bar quite high.
Finish: Vanilla custard, grape, lime, kola nut, mint, floral
Ends like a grappa with a splash of grapefruit juice and a vanilla bean up it’s ass.
Nope, not even I can tell if that’s a good or bad thing.
Conclusion: I can see someone liking this if her mother berated her daily while holding up a fruit salad and cheering them on in public painted like the great Gazoo.
What I’m saying is this is weird. Okay taste, okay finish, and all around needed more time in the cask. Given the high Abv compared to others, I’d hazard a guess this is a cask that was bottled quickly while they were starting the single malt program.
Overall shows promise, but needs to stop eating crayons and learn to age more.
Paul John 6 2008 Single Cask (Master of Malt) is the first malt brought into the Independent Bottlers at Master of Malt that wasn’t from Scotland.
Surprising to say the least. However I think that’s due to the fact Paul John is still making a name for itself, so it was available. Beat out other distilleries from England though.
Aged in (you guessed it) ex-bourbon casks, this one is a little bit older than other Paul John offerings, yet has more of the Abv. I’d hazard to say that maybe it was aged in Scotland rather than India, however nothing of the sort is listed, so I’ll assume the Angels were just drunk and forgot to steal more out of this cask.
That happens though. Do I have stories… that would get me barred from various countries based on the Geneva convention rules.
Also: Don’t steal booze from the Geneva Convention people. It’s against their rules
War Crimes aside, let’s see how this dram tastes, shall we?
Distillation Date: 01 Dec 2008
Bottling Date: 01 Mar 2015
Colour: 2.5YR 5/8
Nose: Smoke, floral, strawberry, chilli powder, oak, malt, caramel
Nice nose on this one. The smoke and floral elements both mesh well. It’s quite malts.
Now to take the pin out of the grenade from earlier: No cream here. It’s changed into more of a malt and caramel flavour. Quite nice growth.
Taste: Raspberry, malt, ginger, lemon, pear, cream, tobacco
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Tobacco is not my thing. And the cream is back.
Quite malty this time. It’s nice, and overall is probably the best taste of the bunch.
Finish: Pepper, oak, carrot juice, lemon, musty, ginger
It finishes with a little bit too much heat and wood I’m afraid. Has this off earth note that blends with the sweetness. Not my thing
Conclusion: So I think this could have been the best of the bunch. Or perhaps just a look into the Paul John malt itself.
There’s some distilleries that can release young whisky in such a way that it tastes fabulous. Kilchoman and Amrut are two that come to mind. Others that need a lot of time: Tobermory and unpeated BenRiach.
Paul John, overall, needs something else. I don’t exactly know what. This one sums up that an extra year brings forth some interesting notes. And maybe they need to move to the colder parts of Goa to achieve that. Or perhaps different casks. Perhaps they need to keep trying some cool stuff.
This proves to me that they can bring out some interesting stuff. Not amazing, but I’ll add “yet”. At the very worse, they could become the Bowmore of India, and that’s not too shabby.
World Whisky reviews #145-150, India review #5-10, Whisky Network review #689-694