Top 10 whisk(e)ys… sort of…

Anyone heard this before: “Oh, you drink whisky? Which is your favourite?”

I have a tough time. My whisky preferences are often tied to mood, company, and… let’s face it… accessibility!

Let’s also be honest… folks that drink blends are a loyal lot. They have a ready answer to the ‘favourite’ question.

Those of us tending towards single malts are rather promiscuous… always looking out for something ‘new’ to try. We’d rather end up with a disaster than miss a possible gem.

However when Whisky Girl from the Netherlands gave a challenge to share a Whisk(e)y Top 10, I had to rise to the occasion!

Whisky Lady in India's current favourites

Whisky Lady in India’s current favourites

Here goes! From my Whiskies by Country list with random reasons for their pick (by country/region order):

  1. Sullivans Cove – French Oak Cask – Only Tasmanian whisky sampled so far and makes me really wanna try more
  2. Kornog bottled for The Auld Alliance – Why I’ve begged my gal pal on a biz trip to Paris to pretty please bring me back ANYTHING from Kornog or Glann Ar Mor
  3. When in a ‘desi’ (Indian) mood – Paul John’s cask strength Peated
  4. Hakushu 18 year – No surprise this old favourite from Japan made the cut!
  5. Perhaps because I sampled it recently, but the ‘Yoichi’ 10 year has character…
  6. Springbank from Campbeltown shows promise with Hazelburn 12 year
  7. Love the chocolaty coffee yumminess of Glenmorangie’s Signet
  8. Caol Ila 1997, bottled 2009 (Gordon & MacPhail) simply notches up what I enjoy most about Caol Ila
  9. My current ‘everyday dram’ is Kilchoman Coull Point
  10. The American craft whiskey that made me go ‘Oh yes!’ Westland Cask No 395 54.6%

The most remarkable “I can stop now” single malt is Lochside 1981… Completely out of my reach, but I have to mention it… it is simply that good.

And one that is completely unfair to include – blend of two discontinued distilleries (Hanyu & Kawasaki) plus impossible to buy – Ichiro’s Malt Houou-uhi (Phoenix) 46.5%.

See how hard it is? I couldn’t even restrict myself to 10!

Come on… share your top 10 (or 12)!! You know you want to!


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Party whisky – Amrut’s MaQintosh

While there are so many fabulous single malts out there, what about those sociable evenings where folks prefer quantity over quality?

The usual suspects in Mumbai for around Rs 1,000* are Blender’s Pride, Antiquity Blue, etc. However one evening, supplies were dwindling and the local liquor store didn’t have any of these.

That’s when my friendly neighbourhood ‘wine’ shop suggested MaQintosh.

Thanks to Amrut‘s marketing efforts (with a nod to Jim Murray‘s Whisky Bible review), most have now heard of this Indian international contender in the single malt category.

However few outside of India’s local booze shops would know of MaQintosh. Touted as a ‘Premium’ whisky, just what the heck?

  • Well… it immediately comes across as fake Scottish with appalling spelling… I mean after all isn’t ‘u’ after ‘q’??
  • It declares boldly that it is ‘genuinely’ made from Scottish and Indian malts… (as opposed to…?)
  • It is also ‘aged’ and ‘married’ in imported Oak barrels
  • Admits uses ‘permitted‘ caramel
  • Strength 42.8% and NAS
  • Price Rs 900* in Mumbai (That’s $15 for you folks who don’t live in India!)
MaQintosh (Whisky Lady)

MaQintosh (Whisky Lady)

And tasting notes of the whisky?

  • Nose – Toffee sweet
  • Palate – Mildly oaky, apples, pleasant but not memorable
  • Finish – Warm burn

Yeah, I know… not exactly much, eh?

But here is the deal… If you compare it with your average cheap – oops! I mean ‘premium‘ Indian whisky – it fares better. Far better.

As most folks I know aren’t familiar with MaQintosh, initially they would still reach for the usual suspects. Several parties later, I couldn’t quite seem to convince anyone to polish off the bottle.

But the thing is… that started to change. It began to make an appearance in friends homes as more and more folks began to realise they can get a certain level of taste and enjoyability in an affordable package. Just the other day, at the local Bandra gymkhana, talk turned to “Have you tried MaQintosh?”

Me? I’m still on the quality over quantity side of the equation whereas party whisky should be the opposite.

But that’s just slightly snobby me. Don’t let me stop you!

*This post was originally written in 2015 pre-COVID. Prices have risen significantly and availability varies state to state. Just check with your local “wine shop” in India – if open.

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Paul John Single Malt Edited NAS 46%

Welcome to India’s newest offering in the Single Malt category!

This is the 2nd from our January 2015 Mumbai whisky sampling session after the Bailie Nicole Jarvie (BNJ).

Paul John Single Malt Edited NAS 46% 

Single malt from Goa – 1st bottling

  • Colour – Dark gold with the immediate impression that the colour was added not natural
  • Nose – Rubber, tincture of iodine, detached industrial smell, not fruit or flower, slight caramel
  • Taste – Sharp spice, musty yet also dry, perhaps a bit of salt
  • Finish – Um… well… there were no comments so clearly it didn’t leave much of an impact
  • Add water – While naturally the spice went up a tinge, there was a new element that reminded of bitter tumeric, a sourness added to the mix, then overripe banana

As we were having such fun with our discussions, the malt had time to ‘breath.’ Each time we returned to it, new notes emerged:

  • First the iodine transformed into dry coconut with a hint of vanilla and added a leathery dimension on the palate
  • Come back again and a clear caramel custard welcomed the nose and the sourness on the palate mellowed into sweet

20150115-John Paul Single Malt Edition

The unveiling:

Talk about a surprise! This new single malt from India definitely shows promise. It could benefit from more aging and peat… however as a first bottling, it is a good beginning. While clearly a work in progress, it will be interesting to see where Paul John goes next.

More info:

  • John Distilleries are from Bangalore best known for their “Original Choice” whisky and “Big Banyan” wine
  • Produce their single malt Paul John in Goa
  • A new entrant to single malt, the distillery uses copper pot stills and began manufacturing whisky in 2008
  • We tried one of their two single malt whiskies (Edited and Brilliance) released in May 2013 in Goa (not Maharashtra yet!) – and understand it the ‘1st bottling’- lucky us!

Best quote of the evening:

Promising… but should have practiced susegad a bit longer!

Other whiskies in our January tasting session:

Since this introduction, we’ve had many more brushes with Paul John whiskies!

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