A Chat with Mr. Paul John from Paul John Indian Single Malt

Earlier this month I have been invited to sit down and chat with the man behind Paul John distillery, Mr. Paul P. John himself to share a few drams and talk about the whisky. He visited Sydney for a tasting and public greeting event, which was held in J&M Cocktail Bar in Angel Place. It is always a great experience to meet the makers, to understand how do they put all the blocks together and make things work.

A quick side note: Massive thanks to Mr. Matthew Wooler from Dramnation for letting me use his photos!

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Paul John and Paul John Oloroso

In recent years, Paul John Indian Single Malt has established a presence on international level. It has received multiple awards and acknowledgements from renowned institutions including WWA, IWSC, The Spirits Business Awards, The Whisky Bible, etc. I too am very impressed with the high level of quality and consistency across the core expressions, which is unfortunately an increasingly rare trait in the whisky industry.

Over the session, we revisited a few of the core Paul John expressions – Peated, Brilliance and others during the conversation, on top of that Mr. Paul John has brought along a new, limited edition – Paul John Oloroso, the very first sherry expression experimentation of the distillery for us to taste, what a juicy treat! You can have a look at the expressions they offer in their official website, which gives very detail information about the distillery, their products and bottlings available in your area.

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The interview session in progress, with a few essential drams involved!

So let’s start from the distillery, Paul John distillery is located at Goa, India. Goa is India’s richest state and boast one of the biggest tourist attractions. “What I have learnt from the Scottish distillery is the importance of water quality for distillation. Goa has quality water source, and I already have infrastructures set up there, so that’s why I have decided to build Paul John in Goa.” The distillery uses traditionally designed copper pot stills, the production capacity is 3000 litres per day. Recently they have installed a couple of extra stills and fermenters to double up the production to 6000 litres to cope with the increasing demand around the globe.

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Three of the core expressions of Paul John Indian Single Malt – Bold, Classic and Peated

When I asked Mr. Paul John which style of whisky he was aiming for when he started the single malt line, he said, “I was always looking for a smooth, fruitier style because I like that.” When quizzed about his favourite Scottish distillery, Mr. Paul John paused for a moment and (to the delight of AD) he replied, “Glenmorangie. It is probably the single malt which I have looked up to when I was in Scotland.” I could not help but wonder if the silkily delicate characteristics in Paul John did in fact draw inspiration from the house of Glenmorangie.

The production of Paul John is 100% natural. Meaning there is no caramel additives or chill-filter processing. Paul John bottles their whiskies from 46% to almost 60% for single cask and cask strength releases. Another interesting topic we touched on that night was the barley they used – Their insistence of using Himalayan barley for whisky production. The flavour contribution of barley to the spirit has been a debate for quite a while, some claimed that the strains of barley only contributes to the yield of alcohol and does not affect whisky flavour while some thought the otherwise. On this matter, Mr. Paul John said, “The barley we are using is six-row barley and the Scottish distillers are using two-roll barley. Our barley has lower yield but we have more husk in the barley, and that translates into more oil and a richer mouthfeel.”

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 Signing time, I should have brought my bottle along…

For maturation, Paul John exclusively uses Amercian oak casks to age their spirit. We did not go further and ask the reason behind that, but I faintly remembered a couple years ago, Ian Cheng, the master blender of Kavalan mentioned that Kavalan also exclusively uses American oak for maturation in their distillery. He explained in a hotter climate like Taiwan, maturation in Spanish oak tends to generate too much tannins into the spirit, thus making the flavours not as satisfactory. With the tropical climate in Goa, I can assume the logic of Paul John’s cask choice will be somewhat similar. All the Bourbon big guns, including Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, etc. are where Paul John buying their casks from, “I want to ensure that the cask we use is of the best quality.” Mr. Paul John said. “We also found out that casks which has previously held 4 years of bourbon work best for us.” However, he admits that under the current whisky boom, there is pressure on cask shortage as everyone is trying to get the best casks.

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This is bloody amazing Inoka, and that’s coming from a guy who never drinks whisky cocktails!

Similar to many other distilleries situated in hotter climate, Paul John distillery has two warehouses (one elevated and one underground), combining with the effects of high temperature and humidity, the maturation process of individual casks vary more depending on its shelf location in the warehouse – whether it is on the upper or basement level, towards the side or closer to the central of the building , “The storage system creates diversity in our inventory, it expands the flavour profiles and our master blender can have more varieties to utilize.” Mr. Paul John explained.

Unlike the craft distillery model which is more commonly found in Australia, Paul John Indian Single Malt is one of the many brands under John Distilleries Pvt Ltd’s (JDL) portfolio. Established in 1992, JDL has built a diverse portfolio in alcoholic beverages, other than whiskies, they also specialize in brandy and wine for the enormous local Indian market. “There is an enormous demand for low-priced whiskies in India, the regulations are quite different in India compared to other countries so we make whiskies tailored for the local population.” Mr. Paul John said. Today, their flagship whisky brands, Original Choice and Black Pelican sell over ten million cases per year in over thousands of outlets across India. When I asked him how did he come up with the idea of starting the single malt line, he replied, “After we have enough volume running in our whisky production business, and I thought, what next? I used to live in U.S. for 8 years and during that time I have gained exposure to bourbons and single malts, the quality is just another level, then I decided (to start Paul John Single Malt), not for the money, but for the passion of making world-class whisky.” Indeed, Mr. Paul John even put his name on the product, that shows his commitment and determination on it. Paul John Single Malt was first launched in UK in 2012 and the feedback was very positive, now it is widely available around the globe, also local market in India is picking up the trend and contributes to 35% of Paul John sales.

This Paul John is very nice!

During the chat Mr. Paul John offered us to taste the new limited release of Paul John Oloroso, an expression which is matured in ex-bourbon American Oak for 3 years and finishes for an extra four years in Oloroso cask. Bottled at staggering 57.2% without a drop of dilution. There are only 252 bottles from this cask (due to intense alcohol lost to angel’s share when it was maturing in the Oloroso cask) and Australia has an allocation of mere 18 bottles. The quality of the whisky is just incredible, it encapsulates the beautiful spirit of Paul John while blending in an extra layer of elegant sherry red fruits into it. Impressive. You can see my review here.

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A group photo of the folks who put this event together, thanks guys!

After our interview session, Mr. Paul John makes his way to the J&M Cocktail room and meet a roomful of whisky lovers in Sydney who came to meet him. Some incredible cocktails whipped up by Inoka and the amazing bartenders in J&M, delicious food served at the bar, more Paul Johns on the pour, nice chats, happy crowd. A big thanks to Mattew from Dramnation, Inoka from Sydney Cocktail Club and Sneha Rao from Paul John who all put in the hard work and set up the event. Cheers!

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Paul John “Oloroso”

Style: Sweet and Complex

Nose:
Oloroso sherry trot gently over the surface. Then we have fragrant, silky red fruits elegantly weaved their way into signature Paul John nutty, vanilla core with an herbal overtone. Eye catching roasted peanuts, white flowers fluttering on the ridge of deep mineral spice. White pepper and timber scattering across the aroma, whereas the spice is muscular but not aggressive. Exquisite nose.

Palate:
Chilli spice entrance. Big vanilla malt and beaming red berries swirling around each other – strawberries, raspberries and cranberries drizzled with treacle, muscavado sugar sprinkles blending into vanilla cream and nut crumbles. Light brushes of herbal tone slowly emerges, almost grassy at times. Warm, oily mouthfeel. Very enjoyable texture on the palate. Almonds and probably light smoke (?) stays around towards the end.

Finish:
Subtle molasses, vanilla oil and coconut milk with a soft ending of green herbs.

Thoughts:
I was told that Paul John Oloroso is matured in Bourbon cask for 3 years and finished in Oloroso sherry cask for an extra 4 yours (that’s double maturation in my book, but hey, not important). It is amazing to see how well the sherry red fruits has been built into the malt. It gives an extra dimension, smooths the edges of the spirit with an elegant touch. The spice brings intensity but the heat is nicely tamed. Nice flavours, composed with great complexity. Remarkable dram! 

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[57.4% • 2016 • Original Bottling • Single Cask • Cask Strength • Non Coloured • Non Chill Filtered • Batch: 1 • 252 Bottles • Quick Impression]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Ardbeg “Kelpie” Special Committee Only Edition

 

Style: Smoky and Peaty

Nose:

Sooty peat teams up with fragrant wood spices on the nose. A deep wave of dry punchy spices rushing in together with brushes of sardines, minerals and seaweed. Gradually chocolate and subtle lemon sponge cake approaches with a peppermint kiss. Rather dry and spicy aroma, especially at this strength.

Palate:

The sweetness comes forth and thrives on the palate. Tight spices. A lovely blend of milk and dark chocolate to give a bitter-sweet opening. A hint of lemon drop, vanilla cream cake is charred on the surface. Oily peat smoke rises and wraps around with a gentle but determined grip. The spirit remains composed and calm under the gentle sea tide. Lemon and peach tarts rise gently towards the back, peat going slightly herbal and finishes with a touch of toasted oak.

Finish:

Composed finish, medicinal peat and vanilla ice-cream melting quietly on barley sugar. Tarry notes sink to the bottom giving out a lasting smoky whisper.

Thoughts:

We have a maritime theme this year and Kelpie drags us to the drier side to highlight the sea breeze, oak and peat smoke influence of the spirit. I think the expression has worked out quite well by shaking things up and tilting the balance. Although some might feel the profile might not be as evident as what the bottle description has suggested, nonetheless, it is another solid offering from Ardbeg.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[51.7% • 2017 • Original Bottling • Limited Release • Non Chill Filtered • No Age Statement • t]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Lochside Distilled 1991

[43%・10 Years Old・Gordon & MacPhail Bottling]

Nose:

Nose of an old school Highland whisky, clean soft malt setting the tone with infusion from sweet Seville oranges gifting the dram a jammy presence. Mellow cedar wood with a whiff of white floral note elongating the simplistic enjoyment.

Palate & Finish:

Orange sorbet and mango frozen yoghurt, decorated with glazed walnuts. The delivery is soft and mellow, with a medium finishing of fruitiness and maltiness finely blended together.

Thoughts:

A typical comfort whisky from a by-gone era, this would have been some lucky guy’s daily dram back in the day.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Dalwhinnie 15 Years Old

Style: Rich and Delicate

Nose:

A delicate but rich honey scent rises from the glass, fresh barley, Chinese melon candy, tailing with a blotch of dry smoke. Beautiful stuff. Do some light digging we have grass oil, vanilla ice cream and lightly charred wood spice. Smooth, rich flavours with exceptional texture and balance.

Palate:

Neat entrance, heather honey delivered with clean barley and fresh spring water. Softer tropical fruits underlined by almonds and smoke on the second layer. Rich vanilla ice cream, papaya puree in the middle. Wood spice lifting up gently while more honey filling up the empty spaces. Barley and subdued peat smoke goes drier towards the end.

Finish:

Whispering subtle malt and dry smoke, traces of heather honey slowly resurface at the finish.

Thoughts:

Dalwhinnie 15 is one of my earliest whiskies but it is until quite recently that I truly appreciate how well it has been made. Delicate texture and rich flavours with brilliant composure. I am falling in love with the robust, oily Highland style of whisky these days… It is a blessing that whisky at this calibre comes at such an incredible price point, but it is also a curse that makes it incredibly underrated. Truely remarkable dram. Exceptional whisky doesn’t have to be expensive!

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[43% • 2015 • Original Botting • General Release • **]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Caol Ila Wild & Primitive 1998

[53.4%・18 Years Old・Silvano Samaroli Bottling・Cask 10740]

Nose:

A soothing wave of peat carries lime essence across, the sea breeze bringing along hint of seaweed, bits of smoked biltong and a sprinkle of sichimi spices.

Palate & Finish:

A voluminous delivery of lemony oiliness that glides and coats the tastebuds effortlessly, a real showstopper. The peat gradually develops, extending the depth; though it is content in reaching a relaxed presence with its wee medicinal earthiness, showing real constraint from a bygone era, revealing what one wishes to experience without forcing on any narrative.

Thoughts:

This is one of those rare malts that is seemingly transformative; think going on a stroll on a rainy Sunday morning during spring into a forest where tall, ancient woods grow.. the mist and the humidity in the air, the moist earth and the condensations atop the leaves. Incredible.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Cragganmore Seduction 1997

[45%・19 Years Old・Silvano Samaroli Bottling・Cask 1139]

Nose:

Crisp waxy red apples on the nose, the fragrant and buttery aromas are very breathable, with none of the volatile irritants and none of the spices that need to be overlooked, just blissfulness in its purest form.

Palate & Finish:

A sense of tranquility on the palate, it’s juicy and delicious, fresh mints on pineapple piña colada with just a whiff of spices coming on faintly.

The malt has dissolved into the mellow floral note, dried white peaches interacting with a toasted weetbix note that leaves a grainy mouthfeel..

Thoughts:

The nose is absolutely gorgeous, the body is well constructed.  It’s thoroughly enjoyable and evokes something more than the mere feeling of satisfaction.

[Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Highland Park Flowing Feature 1992

[45%・24 Years Old・Silvano Samaroli Bottling・Cask 1252]

Nose:

Rose petals and orchards, the grassiness gets blended in like a roll of superfine wool, a tastefully maintained lawn on the front yard. Marzipan and other fresh orchard fruits complete the picture.

Palate & Finish:

A playful delivery, lightness dancing on the palate with green bananas and fruit jellies. A spray of malt evoking the spirit’s naturally fragrant state. It disperses a touch too early however, leaving only some residues that gives an indescribably delicate sweetness that I have not quite experienced before.

Thoughts:

Things are not as they seem and this is not the usual Highland Park. Regardless, this is a worthy dram.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Glen Grant Celebration 1985

[45%・30 Years Old・Silvano Samaroli Bottling・Cask 10196]

Nose:

Aromas one desires the most in the morning.. a rich toffee note that is most endearing served with freshly brewed café au lait. The vanilla note is elegantly inserted and is incredibly indulgent, it pairs well with fresh pear purée and cremè caramel.

Palate & Finish:

English tea stirred with a drizzle of vanilla cream, dressed with a sprinkle of coffee ground to draw out the raisins and white peaches. More of that refreshing white tea note sipping out but at the same time the velvety body continues with a sweetened caffè latte note that extends and satisfies in a restrained manner.

Thoughts:

Bravo! I am glad and honoured to experience a modern masterpiece. Truly an offering that is worth celebrating for.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Signatory Vintage Glenlossie 1992 Aged 22 Years

Style: Delicate and Rich Fruits

Nose:

Light grassy hue spraying over a thick layer of rich, ripe citrus and tropical fruits. Overripe mango, balmy coconut sago pudding and a drop of sweet orange oil. Peppermint and wood spice infused into the sweetness. The grassy side gives a touch of dryness to balance the aroma. Very nice.

Palate:

Massive, oily citrus-tropical sweetness unravels on the palate. Caramel dip springs in with a bit of weight. Grapefruit skin, coconut ice cream decorated with a couple of white flowers. Drier, but green grassy tone entwined with more peppermint spice. Hot, but not too hot. Oak comes in and we have milk chocolate, char-grilled greens and slightly burnt malt to finish.

Finish:

Drier side becomes more apparent, grassy malt, vanilla chocolate crunches, hint of navel orange squeezing through.

Thoughts:

While Glenlossie is known as a rather light and delicate style of whisky, there is an extra sweet and juicy layer sitting beautifully on top of the grassy malt. The light, grassy undertone allows the citrus-tropical-vanilla sweetness to fly sky high. Impressive. A hidden gem from another Diageo distillery.

☆ [Recommended]

[57.1% • 2015 • Independent Bottling • Single Cask • Cask Strength • Non Coloured • Non Chill Filtered • Limited Release • Cask Number: 3450 • Bottle Number: 120 of 258 • *]

-Esmond