Goa. It’s not the first place you think of when you consider top whisky destinations. Instead you think of washed-up British hippies and students perennially on their gap year. But Goa is home to Paul John, a brand of Indian single malt whisky that is owned by John Distilleries Pvt Ltd. The chairman of said conglomerate is a Mr Paul P. John (pictured right), and one of the perks of being the boss is to get a whisky named after yourself. Let’s face it, we all would if we could.
I’ve previously tried – and enjoyed – Amrut Fusion. So I know Indian drams can be world-class, but what of Indian whisky’s second wave? Paul John whiskies were introduced into the UK market back in 2012, in an effort to establish a fine reputation before it moved on to global domination. Guess what? I think the plan is working. Jim Murray, of Whisky Bible fame, rated their Paul John Single Cask 161 Whisky at a staggering 94.5 points.
Since 1992 the distillery has been knocking out spirit to go into blends, but since 2008 they’ve been making their own single malt. Its whiskies are quite young, thus far, but the thing about the tropical, hot and humid climate is that it accelerates maturation. The angel’s share is also higher in these regions, which means if they left it much longer there’d be no whisky left. And that would be a shame.
The Paul John Edited uses barley grown in India – on the foothills of the Himalayas, which are probably higher than Ben Nevis – and is the peated sister of Paul John Brilliance. In terms of peat levels, we’re talking 20-25ppm, so that’s around a Bowmore. It’s bottled at 46% ABV, and one of these will cost you around £40 – £45.
Colour: deep copper, chestnut. On the nose: you know, this is pretty unique. The young spirit and the peat put me in mind of something like a young Kilchoman or Port Charlotte at first. A touch of Lapsang Souchong and Assam about this, circling around a citrus and sea weed core. Minty. Briny.
In the mouth: surprisingly intense for a 46 percent-er. First impressions are how well-balanced it is, but also how different it is too. A nice oily dram, though not as full in the mouth as the aforementioned Port Charlotte. There are honey and dark chocolate notes, then there’s a crispness – not quite mint, but not far off for my money. Pernod, just a touch. A nice long finish, plenty of smoke, though not the sweet kind. So… It’s not radical, but there’s plenty of interesting stuff going on here – all the more remarkable for a young whisky at a good price point.
In fact, Mr Paul P. John – we salute you. I reckon for this price you should get yourself a bottle. It’s good fun. Its youth shows, but it comes out fighting. This is a young Sachin Tendulkar scrapping away on a dusty wicket. Which is to say: watch this space.