It’s C-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s !!
Well, not quite in reality just yet. The weather has turned colder in Scotland and the warmer clothing has been dug out. The morning routine of defrosting the car has begun in earnest and the weather forms a chunk of any conversation. Except we’re here to celebrate the festive period and what better way to do this than with a bottle of whisky?
Around this time of year, the fashion is to produce lists of the best whiskies for Christmas or Top 10 pointless gifts. In other words clickbait. We tend to value our platform here and plough our own field. If you really want to seek out a bottle for yourself or present, then go explore through the library that is Malt. Or failing that, drop us a comment on a piece or via the social media platforms if you’re really in need of a recommendation.
The fact that more whisky is sold in the run-up to Christmas than any other period of the year hopefully isn’t a major revelation. I tend to avoid the dark recesses of supermarket aisle during this period. Confused individuals stand inquisitively, gazing at the realms of bottles often seeking some reassurance. This can come in the form of a famous name, age statement or a special offer that seems too good to be true. In reality, I’m surprised that more distilleries don’t take advantage of this festive boost. Many seem content to churn out bottles and that’s it. Blends over the decades are more in tune with the market often coming up with a seasonal slant. I always remember the Bell’s festive decanters growing up, along with a growing stockpile of Scotch blends being gifted and my father’s favourite Bushmills.
Stepping into the breach is Paul John whisky from Goa in India with its Christmas 2018 offering. I quite like the packaging and what they’ve done whilst still retaining that essence of India. On Malt we’ve always been impressed by the quality of the spirit of this distillery and the affordability factor. Mark wasn’t too taken with the Paul John Bold and preferred the Paul John Edited. These are solid whiskies that have a sprinkling of interest and Adam remains a big fan and that’s a serious endorsement.
Paul John started life as recently as 1992, which in Scottish whisky terms is still a feisty, troublesome juvenile. The distillery is the source of several of India’s biggest selling whiskies that remain the envy of the corporate giants that dominate scotch. The big players have a presence in the Indian market, but export tariffs of 150% mean they are unable to compete on a level pricing field. This leaves John Distilleries and others to clean up with brands such as Original Choice and Bangalore Malt racking up sales in the millions. Business is booming.
The next logical step came in 2013 with the movement into the single malt market with the aforementioned core expressions. For the relatively new whisky contingent, due to the local climate, whisky matures at a more rapid pace than in Scotland. In theory, a 4 year old Indian whisky should – depending on the cask – offer more complexity and style than its Scottish equivalent. Not always, but the maturation factor is always worth remembering and why age statements are a rarity as seen with the Cadenhead’s Paul John 5 year old that went down a storm.
My original vision for this article was a festive Scrooge tale but I’m just not feeling any kind of spirit just yet. Traditionally, once we pass through Halloween and the drone of Christmas tunes on repeat begins to embed. Then the anger level rises especially when I have to wear a stupid jumper in the office. That’s the time for such a piece.
This Paul John is a limited release of around 3000 bottles and roughly equivalent to 8 years in age in Scottish terms. Bottled at 46% strength, this particular bottle is batch number 01 and is a mix of peated and unpeated malt finished in Oloroso casks. It’ll cost around £55. I purchased a bottle after having a chat with Noortje and Shilton of Paul John at the Whiskybase Gathering festival in Rotterdam and enjoying a dram.
Paul John Christmas Edition 2018 – review
Colour: Golden toffee.
On the nose: A lovely combination of oranges, rubbed brass and red apples. A gentle peppery peat layer adds seasoning before more subtle sweetness with butterscotch and sherbet. Enticing and balanced. Red rhubarb, cardamom and new leather are followed by walnuts and a clay-like aspect that adds body.
In the mouth: Gentle and wholesome. A glorious toffee with toasted almonds combines to provide a buttery texture. Very moreish and easy drinking. Waxed leather, honey, caramel, black tea and a vegetative aspect. A touch of cracked black pepper, mace and dark chocolate flakes.
This Paul John 2018 Christmas Edition would be a welcome gift in my household. It offers that rare marriage of flavour and value. There’s a gentle assortment of complexity here and aromas. A liquid equivalent of the box of chocolates that is passed around during a seasonal family gathering. This whisky would be a fine accompaniment and vanish just as quickly.