Paul John Peated Select Cask NAS 55.5%

We recently sampled a quartet of Paul John  whiskies from Goa, India. Before cracking open the 4th whisky, we tried:

The Paul John Peated Select Cask uses peat imported from Scotland, is non-chill filtered and aged in American white-oak ex-bourbon barrels.

Paul John Select Cask Peated

Paul John Select Cask Peated (Whisky Lady)

The notes are from two sampling sessions. The 1st points are from when the bottle was initially opened, the balance from the 2nd tasting session.

Paul John Peated Select Cask 55.5%

Nose

  • Peaty, leather, while strong peat on first whiff morphs into smoked bacon, burnt mushrooms, medicinal hospital smell, burnt charcoal and finally after more time a sweetness like a betel leaf or mint
  • Hickory chips, peaty, smokey BBQ, roasted, toasted toffee, nutty whiff, lightly tropical. After letting it rest, even more fruit.

Taste

  • BACON as in serious we aren’t messing around BACON, very good, sweet at first like brown sugar then ashy
  • Heats the tongue then spreads across the palate, lots of crisp bacon, smells a lot peatier than it tastes, citrus of grapefruit, orange then slight bitterness of a chocolately orange
  • Veeerrrry smooth with the peat becoming subtler with each sip, softly curling around like a comforting blanket

Finish

  • Smoky finish
  • Heavy, dense, a little peppery hot
  • A bit harsh like a warm tingle of tiger balm
  • “It’s a slow burn to the finish”

Water

  • Really opens up with a light splash!
  • However just a good with nothing added at all…

Overall comments 

  • “An uncommon sweet peaty dram”
  • “Interesting with some great elements but not quite as complex as I prefer”
  • “It reminds me of a Texas BBQ!”
  • “Remarkably smooth… the more you sip, the more you enjoy!”
Paul John Peated close-up

Paul John Peated close-up (Whisky Lady)

While there is peat, it is a light not heavy hand – teasing rather than clobbering you over the head. It is definitely the kind of whisky the grows on you more and more.

Interestingly some who initially voted Paul John Classic as their favourite over the course of the evening found themselves drawn back to the Peated. It even made a convert out of one who tends to prefers non-peated whiskies.

Here is what Paul John has to say about Peated:

Experience the many notes and shades of Goa here…

The Paul John Select Cask Peated gently astonishes the seriously indulgent. The swirl lightly whisks up narratives from the undulating landscapes of the windswept oceanfronts of Goa.

The smoke slowly blows forward and acts as a cushion to the many layers of crisp sugars, muscovado and demerrara. A hint of spice radiates from the hickory and Dominican-style cocoa.

That’s the Goa experience in a tipple.

There is clearly a distinctive quality to all four Paul John whiskies. Each has a kind of tropical ‘sunshine’ with a range of sweet to bitter to spicy and, for Edited and Peated, smokey elements.

It is refreshing they are from India and while all are quite enjoyable single malts, the Select Cask Classic and Peated are the ones appreciated the most.

A welcome newer voice in the world of whiskies and growing pride from India.

Paul John Quartet - compliments of Michael John

Paul John Quartet – Compliments of Michael John (Whisky Lady)

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Paul John Classic Select Cask 55.2%

For those joining in only now… the gift of a Paul John Quartet provided an opportunity to sample four whisky expressions from Goa. Of the quartet, the Paul John Classic was a clear favourite for many!

Paul John Select Cask Classic

Paul John Classic Select Cask 55.2% (Whisky Lady)

The Paul John Classic Select Cask is an unpeated single malt whisky matured in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled without chill-filtration at cask strength.

Paul John Classic Select Cask NAS 55.2%

Nose

  • Instant ‘very nice’, sense of this being more what we would expect in a whisky, lots of tropical fruits, fresh-cut grass. Not in the least peaty. A whiff of toasted coconut. As it breathed, gained a musky quality like a mens cologne. Then some basil, lemon and honey.
  • Cognac-like, almost zesty, very complex, cupcakes, grapes
  • “I’m expecting a really nice cognac but I’m sure it can’t be that tasty..” (quote from a serious cognac fan)

Taste

  • Strong, bitter, banana, coffee, pepper, honey and rasins, figs, more body and more viscous than Brilliance or Edited, a bit of allspice
  • Sugary sweet, marmalade, chocolatey caramel, banana, brown sugar, like caramelised Caribbean bananas with rum raisin sauce
  • A light fresh quality yet balanced and rich with enough going on to keep it interesting…
  • “Wow! Oh good god! It’s delicious! Even better than cognac!” (cognac fan quote – highest compliment he can give!)
  • “An almost tequila-like agave sweetness”

Finish

  • Nearly all remarked this was the first Paul John Single Malt sampled with a ‘serious’ finish that truly lingered
  • Some found it started slightly bitter then took on a minty mellowness
  • One simply remarked – “Time to do a happy dance!”

Water 

  • A few found a few drops balanced it out and softened further
  • Most preferred it neat and found it delightfully smooth ‘as is’

Overall impressions:

There is a hot sunlight summery quality to Classic. It has the richer bourbon dimension, bursting with ripe juicy tropical fruits along with spicy elements yet there is something bright and fresh too. Perhaps it was influence of the Guyanese / Caribbean connect in our midst the 2nd tasting session or that we were sweltering in Mumbai’s humid summer heat, yet there was a sense this whisky has  lazy tropical sunshine down pat.

Particularly in the informal evening, it was the clear favourite with folks quite impressed. Most could not believe how smooth it was… particularly for a cask strength whisky. To have such a whisky be from India – let’s just say there was a swell of pride by extension for the country we call ‘home.’

When compared with India’s better known Single Malt producer Amrut and – more specifically the whiskies sampled in March with Jim Murray – there was a recognition that Paul John has something quite interesting going on. Certainly worth paying attention to – particularly the quality Classic has captured. The only pity is that Paul John whiskies are not yet available in Mumbai!

Paul John Classic

Paul John Classic (Whisky Lady)

And the Paul John tasting notes for Classic? Here goes…

Feel the tropical tastes of Goa from the first whiff and taste.

This is a masterfully crafted Indian Single Malt  Whisky, matured in selectively chosen cask profiles.

The barley shows early and with pride. A bourbon manic honey-liquorice mix makes for an attractive spine with toasted honeycomb arriving somewhere in the middle unexpectedly.

This is as tropical as it gets.

Paul John Classic label

Paul John Classic label (Whisky Lady)

Sampling quartet – all NAS:

Paul John Quartet

Paul John Quartet – Brilliance, Edited, Classic and Peated (Whisky Lady)

What others are saying:

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Paul John Brilliance Single Malt NAS 46%

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.

Paul John Quartet - compliments of Michael John

Paul John Quartet – compliments of Michael John (Whisky Lady)

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%

Nose

  • Paul John Brilliance

    Paul John Brilliance (Whisky Lady)

    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…

Taste

  • 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

Finish

  • 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”

Water

  • Some thought it opened up better with water, softening the oak without detracting from the tropical fruit
  • Others preferred it neat

Overall comments

  • 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.

Paul John Brilliance Bottle

Paul John Brilliance Bottle (Whisky Lady)

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.

Paul John Brilliance 46% label

Paul John Brilliance 46% label (Whisky Lady)

The Paul John Quartet – all NAS:

What others are saying:

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Paul John Edited Single Malt NAS 46% (2nd bottle)

It is very unusual for our single malt tasting team to try a whisky more than once within the space of a few months.

However that is exactly what happened with Paul John Edited from John Distilleries in Goa.

We managed to sample it on no less than three occasions:

  • Once ‘blind’ by our monthly single malt tasting group in January – 1st bottle
  • Again by our monthly tasting group in March – 2nd bottle
  • Informal evening with a few friends – 2nd bottle

The reason for trying so many times is we were treated to a Paul John quartet which featured:

It was a delightful treat to be able to compare four expressions from the same distillery. And while Edited kick-started the John Distilleries tasting journey, it truly was just the gate-opener to one of India’s single malt distilleries. There is something distinctly ‘different’ and while hitting ‘home runs’ quite yet, it sure seems that Paul John is on the right track…

Paul John Single Malt Edited 46%

Paul John Single Malt Edited 46%

So here goes yet more impressions – focused only on reactions to the 2nd bottle.

Paul John Single Malt Edited NAS 46%

Nose

  • Paul John Edited

    Paul John Edited

    Strong and peaty “Wow, good God!”

  • Sweet tropical fruits, a bit of liquorice, some spice
  • Roasted coconut, ripe bananas, jackfruit
  • A medicinal quality, some vanilla
  • After some time to breath a delicious custard apple

Taste

  • After the initial spice, becomes surprisingly soft, settles more gently on the palate, unlike Brilliance which some thought went “BOOM!”
  • Walnuts, turbo-charged oak, hint of cloves and apples
  • Bitter chocolate/coffee quality that mellows

Finish

  • Mild sweet finish, surprisingly minimal sense of peat
  • A kind of fizz like cola, leaving a light tingling sensation

Water

  • Smooth, especially with water

Comments

  • Pouring “just a smidge” may be ineffective!
  • A good “banquet” serve where folks enjoy quantity

While peat has been added to Edited, it is with a light hand –  there but after the welcome more the impression of mild peat than prominence.

Overall those who sampled it originally in January confirmed it showed promise, however both Brilliance and Edited were completely eclipsed by their cask strength cousins Paul John Classic and Peated. It is with these that a ‘Paul John character’ starts to emerge.

Edited label

Edited label

Here is what John Paul says about Edited:

This is where you taste the sea off Goa.

This masterfully crafted Indian Single Malt Whisky brings to the fore a hint of peat, created from discretely chosen cask profiles to delight the ardent malt drinker. Grassy barley shows first, but then slowly makes way for their gentle peat notes. They dissolve into the palate and begins to build momentum and intensity.

Slow down now to a chocolate mint and mocha rush, as well as a sublime molasses note that overwhelms you with a sweet end.

Dreams are made of this.

Only during the March tasting did we read the Paul John descriptions after we sampled the whisky. They may not tell you much about the whisky but are amusingly descriptive of the feel the whisky is trying to evoke.

While I remain more curious about what else Paul John has in store, this is the only of the quartet to survive the tasting sessions so I will have the luxury of re-sampling it solo one of these days when the mood hits. That isn’t such a bad thing…

Paul John Quartet

Paul John Quartet

What others are saying about Paul John Edited:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

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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