I was first introduced to a Paul John single malt in January 2015 with their mildly peated Edited. It was bought by one of our tasting club members on a trip to Goa. Our merry samplers were honestly surprised to discover it was a single malt from India and our overall impression was that it showed promise and made us curious for more.
After my post on Edited, Michael John, master distiller for Paul John, reached out with a kind offer to send a few expressions for us to try. Naturally we were thrilled! It is rare to compare different expressions from the same distillery – then to have that be from India?! How could our desi hearts resist!
Fortunately I already had a trip to Goa planned so had visions of throwing into my bag a couple of small bottles… the reality was a wooden crate filled with a Paul John Quartet sufficient to fuel more than one tasting session!
Hence Paul John Single Malt ‘Brilliance’ was sipped on two occasions:
- Monthly private single malt tasting group in an informal Paul John Evening with significant others
- Sociable yet focused tasting with a few friends – for once notes were jotted down by someone other than myself (in far better penmanship!)
As I was the common thread, did my best to keep ‘mum’ to not influence others experience… you will see some overlap but also a few different perspectives too in the tasting notes.
Paul John Single Malt Brilliance NAS 46%
Initial pour from newly opened bottle rewarded us with an immediate wash of jackfruit aromas which dissipated, strong ripe fruit, medicine capsule like b-complex, vanilla, faint nutmeg, overall quite sweet with a cognac-like quality. As it aired longer, had a sour curd element, tinge of leather beneath a lavender perfume. One even noted a punch of vinegar?
- For the open bottle samplers – We found rich honeycomb, cinnamon, a hint of toasted almond, peppery notes, woody oak element, delayed accents of fruit – papaya and apricot, strong aroma of maple syrup after even more time…
- Dry, light, slightly bitter initially then as it ‘sat’ longer, very karwa bitter, a hint of leather which then mellowed into a toffee sweetness
- Bitterness, a touch of anise, quite ‘oaky’, retained a ‘kick’ even by the 3rd sip, a medicinal chewy quality, mild spice
- Lots of contradictions in reactions here!
- A few thought it quite limited
- Some categorised it as medium with a bitter-sweet quality
- Strong though rather “nondescript” finish
- “It is like aacccchhh at the back of your throat”
- Some thought it opened up better with water, softening the oak without detracting from the tropical fruit
- Others preferred it neat
- Had a pronounced sweet nose while the palate had an equally strong bitter taste. It was a contrasting combination – not necessarily bad – just a very yin-yang kind of experience
- “Dispensary needs to mature a bit more”
- Strong with a ‘raw’ quality, has a kick and a bit rough for the 1st whisky of the evening
It was interesting sampling with two very different groups. Our regular tasting team are old hands at even 61% cask strength whiskies, so the initial ‘punch’ didn’t deter us… however our palates are also spoilt by some pretty superior stuff so Brilliance didn’t quite make muster for all concerned.
Whereas the informal evening was a mix of novices and more experienced whisky sippers… Some found Brilliance a bit harsh needing time to adjust to the alcohol. However these same folks found the much stronger cask strength Paul John cousins Classic and Peated soooooo smooth! So perhaps it was all part of calibrating the palate.
Certainly for the price-point in India (Rs 2,100 / approx $30), it definitely scores way above the typical Indian blends in the same bracket. There is also a definite pride-point in enjoying a single malt from India – especially Goa which is a favourite destination.
Just to close, here is Paul John description for Brilliance which we read out after our sampling. We didn’t call the bitter quality ‘cocoa’ however that is one way to interpret it.
There is brilliance everywhere in Goa… colours, fragrances and tastes all exude myriad shades of sensual delights.
Brilliance is a non-chill-filtered non-peated Indian Single Malt Whisky that captures all this, sip after sip. It spoils you with the barley generating all kinds of juicy riches with the light Demerara sugars providing enjoyable companionship. Now sit back to the finish of a gorgeous cocoa, and spices that pamper your taste buds.
It doesn’t gather any more brilliance than this.
The Paul John Quartet – all NAS:
- Paul John Brilliance Single Malt 46%
- Paul John Edited Single Malt 46%
- Paul John Classic Select Cask 55.2%
- Paul John Peated Select Cask 55.5%
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