Whisky Ladies Go Goan! Paul John Quintet

After our Whisky Ladies conquered a cask strength Diwali and then went on a mini ‘world tour’ in November, you might think we would go slow for December. After all – our collective livers need to survive the holiday season!!

What we decided instead is to go Goan.. in honour of a merry malt member abandoning Mumbai for SanFran. She, quite understandably, wanted to squeeze in every desi moment remaining. Naturally this was a perfect excuse to pull out the Paul John expressions, courtesy of master distiller Michael John.

Paul John is India’s “other” single malt whisky distillery found in South Goa. Since launching their first whisky to the world in 2013, they have been making their mark.

We were first introduced to Edited in a blind tasting early 2015. Then, Michael reached out with a generous offer to send our tasting group more expressions leading to a most enjoyable evening! After those bottles were gleefully polished off, came a new set with the brand new Bold expression added to tempt our Whisky Ladies…

Whisky Ladies Paul John Evening

Whisky Ladies Paul John Evening

Here is what the lasses thought!
  • Nose – Caramel, mango, papaya, jackfruit a whiff of ahem.. Formaldehyde, then a chocolatey flavour when ‘aggressively’ inhaled
  • Taste – Sweet with lots of caramel, buttery caramel popcorn, marzipan, a little malty too
  • Finish – Soft and easy… warming… a bit of black pepper, slightly bitter finish a la dark chocolate
  • Water – Better… much better
  • Comments“A step up from Blue Ribbon and Old Monk! Multiple steps…. Possibly full flights” “A good ‘intro’ whisky for new whisky ladies”
  • Nose – Bursting with fruit especially pineapple, more citrusy than Brilliance. Soft butter, a curl of peaty smoke playing peek-a-boo… a little cocoa, most of all… it is “Like breathing in pina colada!”
  • Taste – Hugely sweet rush, smoked pineapple with a hint of banana, has a bit more of a ‘manly’ kick, meatier and richer, some woodsy spices
  • Finish – Some found it unremarkable, others found a sweetish note with a hint of bitter, perhaps a dash of oak. One remarked “Better than most recent dates!”
  • Water – Much preferred with a few drops of water
  • Observations – Pairs well with food – especially cheese!
  • Nose – Back to being almost overly fruity! This time with a hint of floral elements, some lemon citrus sweetness, a bit of caramel, white pepper, with a good inhale – heavy vanilla, lots of white pepper and some sage
  • Taste – Sweet and a bit spicy if you take a serious swig, hold and let it linger. Nice warm burn.
  • Finish – A bit of a bitter aftertaste, yet still sweet – almost like cough syrup
  • Comment“It is making us nice and warm… but alas not hot.” 
  • Nose – Yum! Now we are talking! Delicious bacon jam, some pastrami, think procsutto and cantaloupe, with a caramel glaze
  • Taste – Hickory, smokey, warm and sweet, rich, a little rough with character – in a way that we like! Fabulous balance of peat and sweet, fruit and earthy elements. Again – yum!
  • Finish – Leaves its mark like a scratchy stubble burn…
  • Water – A little citrus orange high note peeps out then settles back into bacon goodness
  • Comment “It is like a really GOOD Canadian man – Bacon, maple syrup, lumberjack fantasies and ice hockey!”
  • Nose – Bergamont, light, restrained, not quite sweet, a sense of being a bit more sophisticated, with a little vanilla
  • Taste – Dare we say… after a name like BOLD  we expected the whisky to jump out at us, swaggering into our senses… instead it was… um… almost tame? Light, honey sweet, some citrus, a puff of smoke, lovely but a step back from the luscious Peated
  • Finish – Here was where we found peat – a lightly peaty finish with walnut. Some found it slightly bitter, others found it wasn’t bitter at all – particularly when compared with the bitterness of  the Edited finish.
  • Overall – Character of the whisky contrasts with the name. We realised afterwards, we should have tried it together with Brilliance after Edited, as part of the ‘Trio’ of entry level Single Malts vs the ‘Pair’ of cask strength whiskies. Particularly after the fabulous Peated, the Bold was a bit overshadowed. Me thinks this one needs to be re-sampled just on its own…

As you can see… the Peated was ‘dipped’ into again after our initial tasting. I do believe that is a rather obvious sign that we liked it rather a lot!

20151224_Paul John Quintet

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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:

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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!

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

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