First things first: I love Paul John. It’s comfortably in my top five distilleries in the world, in fact. Their whiskies are interesting. They’re characterful. And they’re very well made indeed. Their Peated Select Cask was one of my top pours for under £60 last year – in fact, fuck it – it was my top pour in that bracket. Their Bold, Edited, and Brilliance are very smart buys too. (Though, like Mark, the Edited’s my pick of the three).
In fact India in general sees more of my whisky pennies than probably anywhere outside of Scotland and the USA. The average quality’s higher than most of what we (currently) see from Canada. The flavours are more intense, and generally more interesting, than the bulk of Cooley-distilled identikit malts from Ireland. And they’re more reasonably priced than the juice from Australia and Japan.
Fair enough, the prices of some of the Amruts have caused a spot of eyebrow levitation from time to time. But Paul John? They’re normally solid.
Which is why the new Paul John Kanya confuses me.
I’ve read the spiel a few times now, and I’m still struggling to quite get my head around it. I didn’t even try to get my head around the whole ‘ruled by mercury-sign of the virgin-6th symbol of the zodiac-second star to the right’ gobbledygook – though they’re no more culpable than 1000 other distilleries in the marketing fairytale respect.
Where I’m mostly confused is when I try to marry the known statistics of this whisky to its price.
That’s the suggested sale price, at any rate, and that’s a lot of money. So why the premium?
The casks don’t seem to be any different. Standard issue American white oak ex-bourbon. Same as, for example, the Classic Select Cask.
Peat? Well, that shouldn’t add pennies anyway, but there’s none in the Kanya. Same as, for example, the Classic Select Cask.
The age – so far as we’re told – isn’t in super-special territory. 8 years is the received wisdom. Fair enough, that’s apparently the oldest stuff they have. And I appreciate the increased maturation rate in that part of the world. But it’s only about a year older than, for example, the Classic Select Cask.
And the ABV. This one’s 50%. Not bad – perfectly decent, in fact – but I imagine that’s the result of cutting it with a bit of water. Unlike, for example, the Classic Select Cask.
All of which suggests that the justification for the price is that they took a couple of barrels which could theoretically have been used for the Classic Select Cask and made something else instead. In limited quantities and for three and a half times the price.
In fairness, should such things be of importance to you, the Kanya has received a mighty 96 points from Jim Murray. Which does, admittedly, put it ahead of the Classic Select Cask. That one only got 95.
I’ve probably been sufficiently facetious by this point: let’s get to the important bit.
Paul John Kanya – Review
On the nose: Light, delicate, but complex stuff. Signature PJ graininess is offset by vast quantities of fresh orchard fruit. Apples and pears initially; as it warms, this leans more towards white peaches and florals. Absolutely loads of citrus zest; oranges and lemons. All of this is wrapped up in light, sweet honey. An ever-so-slight yeasty funk plays around in the background – not in an offputting way – it’s a nice extra dimension.
In the mouth: Follows the nose pretty closely. Actually, make that very closely. More of that green fruit. Granny Smiths. Very mouthwatering; there’s bags of citrusy acidity, but no single citrus fruit stands out in particular. As with the nose, peaches and nectarines open up and overcome the green fruit with time. Fruit progression feels like a journey from Chablis to Pouilly Fuissé. More honey, and a tiny bit of butterscotch. It’s still delicate, medium-bodied stuff. Towards the end elements of spices kick in; the influence of toasty oak and perhaps a smatter of juniper.
It’s a tasty thing. For Paul John, which I always think of as having an exuberant ‘bigness’ to its character, it offers rarely-seen delicacy, without compromising on complexity. It’s interesting whisky, it’s terrifically flavoured, it’s a good glass to spend time with.
But, if £200 does indeed prove to be the asking price, it’s still three times too expensive.
I simply do not see what you get from this whisky that puts it beyond its stablemates. At £200 it’s twice the price of even the single cask editions, so on the ‘limited’ front it really doesn’t have a leg to stand on. If you were really that desperate to overspend on Paul John you could just buy one of the Master of Malt bottlings and you’d still save fifty quid.
So, should you have £200 to spend on whisky in January, I strongly recommend Paul John. I recommend you pick up the Classic Select Cask and the Peated Select Cask. And the Edited, and the Brilliance. (Or the Bold, if you’re a peat-head).
That’ll give you about £15 left over, depending on where you do your shopping. Which may (just) be enough to buy a glass of the Kanya, should you find it at a bar. And I think you will realise, as you sip your Kanya and look at your four new bottles, what a wise decision you made.
(7 for quality, but I knocked a point off because the price is nonsense.)