Review – An Indian Whisky Odyssey with Paul John

Whisky from countries other than Scotland used to be a novelty.

I say “used to be’ as there really is no novelty now, world whisky is a burgeoning sector of the market and there are few places where the market is as large and as vibrant as India. Granted it is not the first nation you would think of but the bigger Indian bands have been around for some years now (Paul John has been available in the UK since 2012) and are firmly establishing themselves.

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There are 5 Paul John core range expressions currently available in the UK. Brilliance, Edited, Bold, Classic Cask Strength and Peated Cask Strength. There have been various limited editions such as the Single Cask, Kanya, Mars Orbiter and the Christmas Edition.

Indie Paul John expressions are also starting to appear. I have tried a SMWS bottling (the exact name and number escapes me) after a recent whisky show, which I remember being really rather impressed with. Upon checking Philip Storry’s excellent website, which is fast becoming my go to reference for all SMWS releases, I think it may have been 134.1 that I tried.

Paul John only use Indian barley for their whiskies. In the case of the peated expressions however they import the peat from Scotland and do the malting in India. The peat is sourced from both Islay and the Highlands. Bold uses Islay Peat whereas the Peated cask strength expression uses both Islay and Highland peat. Edited uses Islay and Highland Peat and is a mix of peated and unpeated whiskies  (75% unpeated and 25% peated)

Paul John Bold, OB, NAS, 46%abv, (press sample)

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On the nose its s pleasant aroma of fresh baked apricot pastries under a layer of soft peat smoke. Its full of tropical fruits, honey and a touch of soft oak. A little tobacco comes and goes but in the main it stays rather fruity.

The palate is again fruity with a big dollop of honey. Theres a faint hint of malt and some gentle ginger biscuits here. Perhaps also a touch of lime and a faint nuttiness.

The finish is soft oak, peanut brittle and very distant peat. By the time we reach the finish theres a slight wood / spice dominance overtaking the peat.

A pleasant start with a nice understated peaty influence overlaying some really fruity tones.

 

Paul John Brilliance, OB, NAS, 46%abv, (press sample)

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The nose is packed with oranges, vanilla and faint traces of brown toast. There is a trace of sweet caramel that reminds me slightly of Irn Bru, along with some green apple, some redcurrants and a barley backbone.

The palate has some initial wood and a pleasant buttery feeling. There are more oranges here, alongside a small pinch of tobacco, a little cedar, kiwis, chocolate and some caramel.

To finish we have some soft spices and a little ginger. Notes of burnt marmalade and faint cereal pop up then fade gently.

 

Paul John Classic Select Cask, OB, NAS, 55.2%abv, (press sample)

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The nose is full of fruity vanilla, fresh orange and honeyed apricots which dominate initially before giving way to barley sugars and a thick dollop of syrup. Theres an undercurrent of dry cereal and hob nob biscuits.

The palate is full of juicy barley initially, the vanilla sweetness and the viscosity very reminiscent of an older bourbon. Much more here than I had thought, brown toast well buttered with heather honey and some side notes of mocha.

The finish is an excellent balance between drying and sweet. Medium strong black tea softened with a big spoonful of brown sugar. Touches of spice linger gently. Gets a little woody after a while, a splash of water softens.

My favourite so far. Not massively complicated but flavoursome and very more-ish.

 

Paul John Peated Select Cask, OB, NAS, 55.5%abv, (press sample)

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The nose has waves of soft peat propelled by a zippy coastal breeze. Underneath its woody and somewhat nutty with a mixture of dark dried fruits and some malt loaf. Notes of zingy citrus pop up randomly.

The palate is quite dry with a layer of smoke overlaying some tannic spices and some singed oranges. Almost like marmalade. There is a slight cereal note here but its more like a rye in nature than a barley.

The finish is gingery and peppery with distant fruits. Theres a touch of drying ash with a fleeting tobacco tang with perhaps a little chocolate right at the end.

 

Prices for these whiskies range from just under £35 for the Brilliance to just under £60 for the Peated Select Cask so from a price point of view there is no criticism here.

Each is a fresh and vibrant NAS whisky with a nice mixture of complexity and drinkability. 

What we really need to ask ourselves when assessing a whisky is “Did I enjoy drinking it?”

In this case, yes, I really did enjoy drinking these drams.

If you’ve not tried them you really should seek them out.

**Authors note – Unfortunately my sample of Edited succumbed to an accident (e.g I spilt it everywhere) during sampling so has been regrettably omitted from the article**

Samples provided by Paul John, opinions my own.

You can find more tasting notes and whisky news in the Amateur Drammers Archives.

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