Raising a toast to India – with whisky!

Today is India’s Independence Day… This remarkable sometimes maddening country I’m fortunate to call home.

And what better way to celebrate its birth than raising a virtual ‘toast’ with a dram from India’s single malt distillery – Paul John.

Here’s to you India!

Wall of whiskies!

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Ladies Choice – Paul John Single Cask #1844 60.5%

Next up in our Ladies Choice evening was India’s Paul John Single Cask #1844, bottled at full cask strength of 60.5%.

Fellow Canadian Paula McGlynn returns as our guest whisky reviewer…

Guest Post by Paula McGlynn

Guest Post by Paula McGlynn

Based in Mumbai, Paula is an actress – including a Marathi film –  film-maker with her partner (Gulbadan Talkies), producer of the Bharatiya Digital Party‘s irreverent web series “Casting Couch” and script writer.

She’s the kind of lass that will track down a new whisky experiment  from Canada or the US, take an hour off from shooting in Goa to zip over to Paul John to collect a coveted bottle of Peated or pop into WhiskyLive when in South Africa… just because… whisky!

Here is what Paula has to say about the Paul John Single Cask #1844 60.1%…

The whisky ladies and I have come to associate Paul John whiskies with a distinct character, from the Peated Select Cask (my favourite), to the Bold and Edited expressions available in India. Paul John has quickly become a great staple whisky to keep stocked in the liquor cabinet if you want to impress your friends with high quality Indian whisky.

However, on the first try of Cask #1844 most of us were bowled over by the distinct caramel sweetness and had trouble finding complexity underneath. Partly because of the high alcohol level (60.5%), we all had a similar struggle finding new notes on the tongue. However, a generous helping of water helped bring out a few more notes.

  • Photo: Paula McGlynn

    Photo: Paula McGlynn

    Nose – Very sweet nose, vanilla, caramel, deep fried banana (a favourite element in Paul John whiskies for me)

  • Palate – Very dry, sweet, caramel
  • Finish – Smooth and then disappears, star anise
  • 5 drops of water – Added spice to the nose, rounder sweetness and a creamy feel added to palate
  • 10 drops of water – Added the slightest hint of coconut, some of us were getting some pear on the palate
  • Later – Star anise on the nose too

Overall: Nondescript sweetness, pleasing and non offensive if water is added to counteract the alcoholic dryness. However I personally found the 1st batch of the Select Peated to be my favourite PJ of all time, and wished #1844 could have lived up to my expectations.

I think this particular cask contained the pure sweetness that is a favourite component of Paul John malt blends. Although not very complex, the flavour notes presented are unique to the fruity Goan feel of Paul John whisky and it was interesting to have them in a cask strength dram.

This particular cask is available through a Danish distributor – Juul’s – who have this to say about the expression:

  • Color: Flower honey.
  • Aroma: Roasted oak, milk chocolate, pepper, apricot yogurt. The fragrance opens with the addition of a few drops of water, and is shades of orange peel, toasted muesli and peppermint.
  • Taste: At full cask strength, with an intense caramel taste explosion. The taste is drier than the aroma suggests with notes of burnt sugar, mint, malt and apricot.

What else did we sample in our “Ladies Choice” evening for the BMC gentlemen?

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Whisky Ladies Choice – Treating the BMC Gentlemen…

Last year, the gentlemen from the Bombay Malt & Cigar club took it upon themselves to treat the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai to an evening of Irish whiskies and cigars.

This year, it was our turn to return the favour.

We debated a range of different approaches and finally decided on a theme of “Ladies Choice.” And what pray tell did that mean to us?

We wanted to share with the gentlemen some of the most memorable whiskies we sampled together as a tasting group. They may not be the world’s best whiskies but they would be our “Choice” – ones that stood out in some kind of way.

We went about it in a democratic manner and voted, tallied up the responses to create a “short-list”, then began the efforts to source these whiskies.

Our approach was a bit flexible, in some cases we knew it would be impossible to source the EXACT same whisky. What worked was finding something from the same distillery or similar category.

The whiskies were literally sourced from around the world involving travel, friends of friends and even last minute acquisitions…

What made it into our final “Ladies Choice” list?

JapanAkashi Red Blended Whisky 40%

  • In truth we had several Japanese whiskies in mind however the Akashi was accessible and a refreshing departure from the expensive exclusive impossible to find Japanese single malts, so figured why not!
  • It also made for a perfect ‘appetizer’ whisky to get the evening going…

Sweden – Mackmyra Vinterdröm 46.1%

  • The most enjoyable peaty Mackmyra Svensk Rok 46.1% captured our attention with its clean, minimalist yet smoky qualities.
  • So when our Swedish whisky lady went on the hunt over Christmas for something distinctly different from the distillery, this limited edition “Caribbean love affair” avatar was her pick!

IndiaPaul John Single Cask #1844 60.5%

  • The Paul John Select Cask Peated Batch 1 “OMG bacon!” made many Whisky Ladies swoon for more during our Paul John evening… we definitely wanted to include a Goan single malt, preferably a Select Cask or Single Cask…
  • Thankfully Michael from Paul John distilleries was able to oblige our interest – literally hand delivering this single cask a mere two days before our evening!

France – Kornog Taouarc’h Pempved 14 BC 46%

  • Kornog’s whisky from Bretagne will forever be known in our group for the comment “How did you go from being a perfect gentlemen to getting my bra off like that?” (WL on Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46%)
  • Alas the Trived 10 BC was no longer available so we took a gamble on the newer Pempved 14 BC

TaiwanKavalan Solist Sherry Cask S090102020 57.1%

  • There was no doubt a Kavalan was going to make the cut…
  • By a very wide margin, the Solist Sherry Cask topped the charts with the most votes from all our Whisky Ladies tasting experiences. So… it simply HAD to be our ‘showstopper’ of the evening!

Somehow not one Scottish whisky made it into the list. Not a single one. It wasn’t deliberate. It was simply how the votes panned out.

But that says something about how the whisky world is going…

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Paul John Bold 46% – Bold is back and even better!

After the Japanese Hakushu, our journey from East to West brought us to our own shores… India.

Our original Mumbai based tasting group is no stranger to Goa’s answer to world whisky – Paul John. We found promise in PJ’s Edited back in January 2015, then had a highly sociable evening exploring a Paul John whisky flight in March 2015.

Since then, I’ve sampled various bottles and batches – including with our Whisky Ladies –  yet not with our ‘original’ tasting group and our strict ‘blind tasting’ approach.

Til January 2017… When our host thought it was high time to bring out Bold Batch #4 (Sept 2016) 43%.

Here is what we found:

  • paul-john-boldNose – Immediate ‘Hello peat, how nice you could drop by!’ Think leather saddles or high quality soft leather shoes, wet rice, fermented barley, old wood, sweet soap, new rubber sole shoes, citrus spice and everything nice!
  • Palate – Honey spice and such a contrast to the nose. The bold peat aromas became a very soft, mild peat on the palate with a beautiful mouthfeel. There is a light spice that just settles in for an enjoyable evening… overall it is exceedingly smooth
  • Finish – A nice curl of spices
  • Water – Becomes sooooo sweet, the leather is still there but takes on a more luxurious quality, a hint of bacon peaks out (mmmm…. bacon!)

Overall this is the kind of whisky we enjoy. It seemed to be using good quality casks, and while peat was very much present, it was quite a different from a typical Islay ‘in your face’ or ‘retro smoke’ peat quality. Instead we found the peat much more rounded and smooth. In short it was a most enjoyable dram – one you could quite sociably sip with friends.

As we began to speculate, it was clearly not a traditional Islay… and our host dropped a hint that it received Jim Murray’s 2016 “Liquid Gold” rating of 95.5 (Batch #1). While we often do not agree with Mr Murray, in this case our delight in the dram was aligned.

And the reveal… Paul John Bold?!? Wow!

In short – Paul John Bold is just getting better and better! And mighty impressive – particularly for the price point and availability in India.

Just to put into perspective – Bold is available for only INR 2,800 (approx $40). These days we are hard pressed to find such an enjoyable whisky below $100 and that too – only outside of India – vying against a precious import ‘quota’ of 2 Litres per person.

We sampled Bold’s Batch #4 and while my Batch #1 is long gone… before draining its last drop, it had become a favourite “home dram.”

So bravo Paul John on the Bold front!

Other whiskies sampled that evening included:

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East to West – Hakushu, PJ Bold, Puni Alba + Clynelish

I love the forethought and creativity that goes into some of our whisky tasting sessions…

Our January 2017 host’s theme was a journey from East to West… following a geographic progression from Japan to India to Italy and finally Scotland.

hakushu-paul-john-puni-clynelish

It was a fabulously curated collection that shifted in styles and threw in surprises too! Each was sampled completely blind before the reveal.

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2016 Whisky Thank You…

Sampling whisky is an expensive habit and one most enjoyable when shared. Rather than brag about brilliant drams, talk about top tipples, I want to start 2017 by saying thank you for those who aided in ways big and small Whisky Lady adventures. Because of you, 2016 resulted in over 200 posts – unbelievable!

Above, Whisky Lady in India is a collective effort – a chronicle of tasting sessions – so thank you fellow Mumbai whisky club members:

  • Our original private group that meets religiously at least 8 times a year on the 3rd Thursday for nearly six years.
  • I’m so proud of our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai – an amazing group of remarkable often unconventional ladies who forge unique paths in their lives… our monthly fellowship over a dram is something I look forward to!
  • And our Bombay Malt & Cigar gentlemen – you have introduced me not only to some mighty fine whiskies but the world of fine cigars. I still can’t believe I puffed up in smoke a $400 cigar?!

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Thank you also fellow bloggers and whisky aficionados:

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Two very specific thank yous:

  • Keshav – Friend and fellow spirits explorer, who turned an amateur interest into an avocation with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m so proud of what you have accomplished!
  • Krishna – India’s very own Malt Maniac for generously sharing your insights and select rare samples from your collection… your dedication to the world whisky fabric is inspiring

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Thank you also distillery and industry well wishers who generously share their wares. Specifically:

20151224_Paul John Quintet

We also have global whisky mules who keep us supplied… sourcing interesting whiskies isn’t easy and many a different dram would never make it to our shores without you.

Above all, I would like to thank my partner. While he does not indulge in whisky, he indulges me – every day in small and big ways. Thank you.

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Paul John Single Cask Peated

We’ve had a few brushes with Goa’s answer to the world whisky challenge… The Whisky Ladies were smacking our collective lips with the yummy bacon in the Paul John Peated Select Cask….

However there is a Single Cask avatar of the Paul John Peated too tempting to resist…

Paul John Peated Cask 780

Paul John Single Cask Peated

  • Nose – Sour curd yet also honey caramel like breakfast muesli, peaty bacon, grilled prawns, campfire smoke, then chocolate orange, musty rancio element, as it airs light rose, dry supari
  • Taste – Very smooth, not in the least sharp, lots of body, as much going on in the palate as nose, toasted almonds, green applesauce
  • Finish – Long finish, burnt charcoal that mellows into apple sauce then grapes
  • Water – Fabulous! Adds more to the nose enhancing the supari and boiled rice

Comments:

  • “I feel like frolicking around the campfire!”
  • “Smells like stinky brie but tastes delicious”
  • “It is a voluptuous woman with attitude”

Overall, all that promise and bursting character in the Select Cask? Even better in the Single Cask. Wonderfully balanced, lots of body, it opens beautifully with a small splash of water. More importantly, it has a distinctive ‘Indian’ quality.

What do the folks at Paul John have to say?

Open your taste buds to the burst of a blood orange and kumquat blast, with an undertone of marmalade, framed by the soft, but confident and compelling peat reek. The profound contrast continues: the mouth watering maltiness plays hide and seek with darker, drier, smoky undertones and the myriad shoes and subtleties of smoked cocoa butter… Quite a handful of attitude in one bottle, this is for serious whisky drinkers.

Other Paul John whisky experiences:20151224_Paul John Quintet

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Winnipeg Cabinet’s Paul John Peated experience

Yes another Paul John post, however it is such a treat to be able to share this tropical delight from Goa, India in my country of birth – Canada!

We’ve enjoyed more than one Paul John‘s Select Cask Peated:

  • 1st bottle graced two tasting occasions – an evening with our original tasting group with partners and then revisited with a mad bunch of friends
  • 2nd bottle made its appearance with the Whisky Ladies Goan send-off in December 2015. It was completely memorable and created a fan following amongst the Whisky Ladies…. so much so that one of our intrepid lasses made the trek to the distillery doors to help source further bottles…
  • 3rd bottle wound its way from Goa to Mumbai to London to Toronto and finally Winnipeg for a special peaty evening with the lads from The Cabinet

Paul John Select Cask Peated

Here’s a few impressions from the Canadian evening with a bottle from the 2016 batch:

  • Nose – Fruit, flowers and tropics, raisins, some toffee coffee, then back to fruit… dark cherries, berries with curl of smoke
  • Palate – Rum… did we mention rum? Exceedingly smooth, smoky yet sweet
  • Finish – Smoke tar with a sweet chaser…

Now my companions must have wondered a bit as I kept (annoyingly) going on about “where’s the delicious bacon??” Between the 1st batch and this batch, the gorgeous yummy glazed ham, back-bacon drizzled in maple syrup was… well… notably absent. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a rather good dram but oh… that meaty peaty sweetness I was greedily looking forward to was simply… different.

I returned to India to confer with my fellow Whisky Ladies – sure enough they all had the same reaction. Still a mighty fine whisky, still very enjoyable however…. where is the bacon???”

My friends at the Cabinet had no such pre-conceived notions. And it was therefore all the more enjoyable to experience afresh through their reactions what Paul John has to offer to the world of whisky!

Here’s what they had to say

And finally the genesis of the peat theme this evening: Carissa had brought a bottle of Paul John peated single malt whisky from Goa, India. Yes, Goa. It’s hard to imagine a locale less associated with single malt in most people’s minds. Right up there with Fiji or Egypt. But indeed, since 2012 there has been a distillery in Goa and what a distillery.
PaulJohnPeatedTo those of you for whom Indian whisky means Amrut and for whom Amrut is a byword for crap, Paul John is a revelation. Not only is it not crap, but it is in fact very good. Not only is the quality a surprise, but the entire whisky is a surprise.
To begin with, although peated malt was apparently used, the peat character is completely submerged under an intense sweet dark fruit flavour overlay, like raisins, like molasses, like… rum. This whisky tastes like a lovely aged rum. Perhaps an 18 year old Flor de Cana.
And the colour. For a whisky whose oldest components cannot be more than four years it has the deep mahogany colour of a 21 year old sherry cask finish. Apparently the tropical heat greatly accelerates aspects of the aging process.
And then finally the alcohol. This is a 55.5% fire bomb, yet none of us added water. The rummy sweetness smooths it and softens it. 
Very interesting. Thank you Carissa! It’s really an “apples and oranges” scenario when it comes to comparisons with traditional scotch whiskies. In fact last night the Rosebank and Paul John beautifully illustrated opposite ends of a series of spectrums: old and new, light and dark, astringent and sweet, austere and complex. As the rhinos dwindle away other species begin to proliferate…

Thank you Cabinet gents for a most memorable evening in Winnipeg! And thank you once again Michael of Paul John for the bottle that made its way from my adopted home to the city of my birth.

Interested in what else we sampled? Read on…

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Revisiting the Paul John Bold 46%

As I’m in UK/Canada, prepared this post during a sweltering Mumbai May evening for your reading pleasure while I’m off gallivanting… read on…

Whenever possible, I like to revisit a whisky for a 2nd opinion. While I absolutely love sampling with others, there is also something to be said for sipping solo and distilling your own unique impression.

When the Whisky Ladies first sampled Paul John Bold, we found it enjoyable but slightly tame. In part this was because we had it after the fabulous Peated. In short, it was overshadowed.

At the time, I expected to soon revisit after our first brush with Bold but it took a quiet evening in May to finally pull it out and sample solo.

2016-05-08 Paul John Bold
Here’s what we initially found with Bold Single Malt NAS 46% compared with what I found solo…
  • Nose
    • Whisky Ladies: Bergamont, light, restrained, not quite sweet, a sense of being a bit more sophisticated, with a little vanilla
    • Whisky Lady revisit: Much sweeter and more ‘malty’ than I remembered, some citrus or tart green apple rather than the burst of tropical fruits I normally associate with Paul John expressions, a pronounced curl of peat too which we missed in our initial tasting. Yes honey too with a vegetal spicy undertone… as it aired became even a bit milky?
  • Taste
    • Whisky Ladies: 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
    • Whisky Lady revisit: More burn and ‘oomph!’ than I remembered…. some coffee and malted cereals, delightfully peaty
  • Finish
    • Whisky Ladies: 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
    • Whisky Lady revisit: Nice and peppery, still find the bitter walnut, oak and a hint of cinnamon spice

Did I agree with our initial assessment? Yes and no. Once it sang solo, Bold stands out.

I also found it went well with water and… yes… I will admit, a cube of ice kicks up the spice while cooling the dram – most welcome. What can I say? It is May and hot in Mumbai!

Whereas if I was to pick a season for this whisky? I’m reminded more of fall, all leafy, wood fires and crisp cool air. As I stared my risotto slowly cooking, couldn’t help tip the bottle to add a splash. Bold added a dash of spicy smoke – yum!

2016-05-07 Paul John Bold

The Bold I sampled was from Batch No 1, released in Aug 2015. I understand it is made with Indian barley smoked using Islay peat to around 25ppm. This is different than a short-cut many other distilleries outside of Scotland adopt, which is to import peated barley rather than go through the process of importing just the peat to then play around with peating desi barley.

Here’s what the folks at Paul John have to say about Bold:

Bold is a journey that leads you down the unexplored, unchartered terrains of Goa. It offers you a slice of its best-kept secrets, unravelling the mysteries, bit by little bit. This expression of ours invites you to leave the trail, tread the path less taken and plunge headlong into the delicious depths of Goa.

  • Nose – After the slightest whiff of smoke, a dizzying array of Manuka honey, prickly spice and bourboneque red liquorice takes over.
  • Palate – This melt-in-the-mouth malt has the most profound flavours crashing in like waves. At first, the delivery feels sublimely silky and studded with oak-like honey. And just when you think you’ve savoured it all, you are surprised by a hefty second wave of spice. This is followed by a cloudy, smoky feel that coats the roof of the mouth and leaves a tidal wave of dry molasses, peaty soot and a degree of copper in its wake.
  • Finish – Bold has a light finish with a tinge of copper slowly making its presence known. You can also sense a gorgeous smoked mocha shaped by delicate and intricate spices.

More sampling adventures with Paul John:

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200 whisky posts…. with thanks!

Six months ago, I celebrated a remarkable milestone – 100 whisk(e)y posts with 100 whiskies!

I enthusiastically listed all 100 whiskies reviewed and couldn’t stop doing a jig of celebration!

Fast forward and today marks 200 whisky posts… a double accomplishment!

However nothing is achieved without help! So I thought it high time to recognise all the fabulous folks that made it possible….

Most importantly, our Mumbai based whisky groups! Our shared journey and tasting sessions gave birth to this blog:

Plus very special tastings thanks to:

Most importantly, many anonymous friends and fellow bloggers who bravely court liver failure in the quest to find that special dram! Be it sending a sample or sharing an evening… an amusing quip or shared opinion, you know who you are!!

I raise a dram to you all in salut!

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