Another Indian single malt – Rampur 43%

It is one of those strange ironies that being able to BUY in India an Indian single malt produced in India is actually difficult.

Rampur Single Malt is from Radico Khaitan distillery in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, India. The distillery itself dates back to the 1940s, however this is their first single malt. Touted as the ‘Kohinoor of Single Malts’.

This particular bottle was purchased in the US. We sampled it blind – freshly opened.

Rampur (06/2016) Batch 383 43%

  • Nose – Banana, spice, sweet lemon, peaches, nectarines, jackfruit, summer fresh with juicy fruits, cashew fruit, mandarin orange canned segments, honey sugar drops… if covered for a bit lost some of the fruitiness and took on a young wood quality, then as aired more… melon toffee, light perfume, cashew feni
  • Palate – Green capsicum, a bit of spice, not at all bitter yet also no body, no complaints per se but nothing wonderful either
  • Finish – Spice, bitter, a sense of being quite green or young
  • Water – Just makes it sweeter with a bit of spice – adds nothing

Our speculation ran rife – the nose was initially quite lovely but by contrast the palate disappointing. Discussion turned to how this is characteristic of some young whiskies that are bursting with fruit aromas but haven’t yet spent enough time in the cask for it to shift to more complex notes or have any staying power. We all felt this whisky had promise but just needed to spend more time maturing.

We also speculated that this may be one of those whiskies that do not keep well… some more powerful peaty and even sherry bombs seem to mellow out with a little oxidation, revealing more nuanced characters. Others, again tending to be younger or more delicate drams can lose the very quality that makes them interesting if spend too much time oxidation in a bottle.

We could not specifically identify its origin – just that it was neither Scottish nor Japanese and not typically American either.

With the reveal, we were terribly impressed out host managed to track down a bottle as we’d been coveting an opportunity to try it since launch.

In all we pronounced it a “Good early attempt.” 

At the end of the evening, we returned to see how it fared with an hour or so open… there was a lovely toasted coconut on the nose, a coffee bitter on the palate yet overall it was a ‘mono-dimensional’ whisky… lacking the nuanced complexity we ideally seek in a dram.

Who knows, perhaps future editions with a bit more patience will reveal further characteristics. And certainly this is an entirely respectable early effort and nothing to dent desi pride in yet another home grown single malt.

Also from our evening:

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Paul John Whisky Evening

Every once in a while our merry monthly malt group breaks with our sacrosanct meeting approach to throw ‘open’ our doors to a sociable evening with better halves. As luck would have it – we managed a full house this month!

The motivation for the evening was a delightful ‘score’ from a recent trip to Goa… With 4 lovely bright bottles of India’s Paul John single malts distilled in sunny Goa, how could we resist?

While John Distilleries has been around in India since 1992, their first Paul John single malt was launched only in late 2012 in the UK. Now a few are available in India (Goa!) and it was a rare treat to try four expressions from the same distillery!

We sampled in the above order – without reading the distillery tasting notes.

Then my partner read out in his rich baritone the Paul John whisky descriptions… let’s just say they are unlike any notes we’ve seen!

All are distilled in copper pot stills and while ‘NAS’ are understood to be matured for 4-5 years in ex-bourbon casks. As I keep being reminded, whiskies matured in warm… ok let’s admit it HOT climes (in the case of Goa) have an accelerated maturation cycle and heightened ‘angels share’ loss. However when done right in such conditions, the whisky sipper is the ultimate beneficiary!

Paul John Brilliance, Edited, Classic, Peated (Whisky Lady)

Paul John Brilliance, Edited, Classic, Peated (Whisky Lady)

An immediate indicator of preference is the quantity consumed. After the initial pour, the bottles are available for further enjoyment. You can immediately see Classic was ‘tops’, followed by Peated then Brilliance. In fairness to Edited, we tried it earlier so a couple of late-comers skipped the sample.

Tasting notes links provided above however overall had the following observations:

  • Clear stamp of being part of the same family – all had a luscious tropical feel yet varying degrees of bitterness on the palate proved none are wimps!
  • Brilliance and Edited are like twins – one with blue eyes the other brown!
  • Some preferred Brilliance’s fruity sweet perfume (blue eyes) over the lightly peated qualities of Edited (brown eyes)… whereas for others it was the reverse
  • Classic shows considerable promise – clear favourite of the four
  • Much speculation over whether the brilliant ‘gem-like’ colour could possibly natural!?

It would be interesting to compare the Paul John expressions side-by-side with Amrut – such as their entry-level single malt or Peated. Based on our recent experience with Amrut, suspect Paul John would come out ahead. However a ‘blind’ head-to-head would still be an enlightening experiment! Particularly as within our group are a range of palate preferences.

Regardless, how fabulous that India is now producing REAL single malts not just the mass-produced blended ‘whisky’ which is often coloured spirits masquerading as whisky.

Comment of the evening summed it up:

“An interesting work in progress!”

And we look forward to seeing what more is to come!

The real test for me?

I think a Paul John just might join an upcoming trip to Canada end June. My Aunt and Uncle have a whisky tasting club. They also quite enjoyed their time in Goa a few years ago…. So bringing a whisky taste of Goa to Canada sounds like a perfect gift!

What others are saying about Paul John:

PS – Wanna see what the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai had to say about Paul John?

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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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