Whisky Review: SMWS 134.1 Paul John “Exotic Rainforest Fruits”

Style: Hot, Fruity and Complex


Immediate whiff of herbal overtone, a layer of peanut brittle followed by deep, round tropical fruits and confectionaries. Packing a fragrant but powerful punch. Peppermint and lavender notes sneaking under the hot wave, vanilla malt carpet rolled out carefully at the back. Fiery heat but it carries the aroma through nicely.

More signature peanut notes from Paul John – nuttiness with a
hint of saltiness. Soaring herbal breeze knitting into a juicy candy core which is riding on enormous energy. Plums and red liquorice, wood shavings, blue berries, honey oat and milk candy, showing plenty of layers, all bright and sweet. Earthiness and charry notes lurking at the back. Deliciously complex.


More pencil shavings, ripe tropical fruits humming without pressure as the spice and intensity wanes. Cherries with a final kiss of peanut butter.


Such an energetic display from this Society Paul John, really wakes you up with this level of intensity. It feels both the distillate and the cask have really worked really hard here, weaving layers after layers of flavours, very complex and complete. Made in India, but definitely qualify for a perfect winter dram.   


[57.9% • 2010 Distilled • 2016 Bottled • Aged 6 Years • Independent Bottling • Single Cask • Non Coloured • Non Chill Filtered • Matured in Refill Bourbon Barrel]


Tasted at Archie Rose Distillery, Sydney.

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.


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.”


 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!


Whisky Review: Paul John “Oloroso”

Style: Sweet and Complex

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.

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.

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

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]


Whisky Review: Paul John ‘Edited’ 

Tasting Notes:

Paul John Indian Single Malt Edited☆ [Recommended]

Style: Fruity and Peated


A velvety layer of fresh, raw bananas and reeling smokiness unlids an aromatic, ripe tropical fruits core which sits underneath. Lemon honey drops, fat toffee and a quick slick peanut butter brush around it. Dazzling nutty touch, very nice.


Clean ripe fruits and cocoa notes quickly sweep across the palate. Honeyed barley with a hint of peat rolls in. Gleefully grassy, mouth drying smoke gradually clouding at the back, but the glistening tropical fruits remain unobscured throughout. Spice fires decisively and empowers the flavours. Tingling vanilla mint tail towards the end.


Abiding chocolate mocha with a passionfruit fluff, soft oak and pepper to finish.


Brilliantly crafted structure which can be hardly matched by most whiskies. Layers of flavours unfolding positively with supreme balance. Distinct profile with the fruitiness executed beautifully. Imagine this being matured for another 2-3 years to round off the spice edges and bottled at 48%, we will have a winner no doubt…

[46% • 2013 • Original Bottling • No Age Statement • General Release • Non Chill Filtered]



Whisky Review: Paul John Indian Single Malt ‘Bold’ 

Style: Fresh and Peaty


Take off with a sublime aroma of green mango and coconut jam. Vanilla pods, oak with a trace of smoke and ash. The acidity brings out the sweetness and creamy notes. Barley sugar undertone.


Green fruits overture quickly disrupted by herbal ashy peat. Tropical notes run on a slightly sour edge combines with the spice perfectly to give a stirring freshness. Macadamias and peanuts, uncovering another layer of dusty peat and smoke, while herbal tea floating lightly at the back. Fascinating structure… Vanilla and bitter oak surfacing towards the end.


Milky, herbal and hints of peat rolling on. A rare combination but it has worked pretty well.


Intriguing profile – something I never had before. Unconventional combination of herbal, cream, nuts and peat worked like a charm here and it is immensely enjoyable! Solid flavours with great structure and transitions. Perfect spice control. Perhaps not many people know about Indian single malt, but they are making truly beautiful whiskies.

☆ [Recommended]

(46%2015 Bottled ・No Age Statement ・Non Chill Filtered ・Non Coloured ・Batch 1)



Dram Review: Paul John Classic Select Cask

[55.2% • Original Bottling • Bottled in 2015 • No Age Statement • General Release]


Peppery on the nose with an oomph of tanned leather note. There is a buttery waffle note, pine wood shave that leads way to a roasted barley note that feels rathe enormous. Vegetal on the side with somewhat a gum tree note.

Palate & Finish:

Bright lemon zest and ripe peaches with a brush of saltiness from the oak. Japanese style shaved dried fish. A fluid juiciness alongside nutmeg infused maple syrup and spices coming in quite strong. Coconut chips and a minty note help mellow out the rather spicy nature towards the backend.

The malty nature remains robust long into the finish after the milk chocolate and stone fruits.


I believe the 55.2% abv really brings out the malty nature of the spirit on this occasion, you don’t often come across a whisky crafted with the specific intention of celebrating barley these days. I feel like by sourcing local barley, Paul John has really found themselves a niche in this market.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

– Nicholas