World Class Single Malts From India
India produces two well-known Single Malt Whiskies that are in demand globally. They come from the Amrut and Paul John Distilleries and are so named. We were lucky to get the former at Rs. 1475/- (US$21.70) per 750 ml bottle, at 43% ABV or 75 proof. The latter is not as easy to obtain and costs a fair amount. There are numerous versions, all NAS (No Age Statement) and at much stronger ratings, like 55% ABV. That said, a few expressions are available at 46% ABV, but not as classy as the stronger versions.
Paul John Distilleries are based in the Cuncolim Industrial Estate, South Goa, an area subject to very high day temperatures and intense humidity. This raises the Angels' share to as much as 10-12% and no barrel under maturation can withstand such high losses per year. Paul John whiskies are mostly in the 4-7 year range, with the odd 3 and 9-year old.
Paul John whiskies are made from only Indian ingredients. They use six-row barley, unlike Scotch whiskies that are made from two-row barley which has very high carbohydrate but low protein content. Six-row barley offers a distinct tannic character to the spirit. The alcohol yield is also much lower.
At Paul John, after grinding where the malted barley is mashed into coarse grist, the three-stage hot water wort creation process is replaced by a single hot water process (70° C). They use eight stainless steel washbacks that hold about 18,000 litres of wort each. They cannot use wooden washbacks as is done in Scottish distilleries because the high humidity and proximity to sea causes the wood to rot, requiring continuous maintenance.
The only import is of two types of Scottish peat, used only for kilning (heating) and to increase the phenolic content of the spirit. One type comes from Aberdeen which has a marine and grassy character and the other is from Islay which has obvious high phenolic properties. The raw spirit is made using both these peats and blended according to the desired recipe.
In India, Customs officers go by the final bottling rather than the spirit output at the distillation point. The spirit safe is thus kept unlocked. This helps the blender to gain a real feel of the cut he is going to make. The entire middle cut is done by actual organoleptic senses and by constant monitoring. Paul John extracts the middle cut at 63.5%. In Scottish distilleries, the human element has been gradually removed and the middle cut is made by computer diktats re timing and monitored by a spirit meter.
Paul John produces malt whiskies matured only in imported American Oak barrels and stored in two warehouses, with a total capacity of 10,000 casks. Bottling is done in situ and the whiskies are not chill filtered.
Paul John, Edited, 46%, NAS– Gentle on the nose. You get barley sugars but with hints of orange marmalade and peat. The peat is not blatant, but gentle, suggesting that the malting was done with Aberdeen peat. After some time you get green capsicum, wet chalk and vanilla. On the palate, it is much rounder and peat reappears with sweet and honey flavours. Medium finish.
Paul John, Classic, c.s 55.2%, NAS – On the nose you get those complexities immediately. Lots of sugars and tannins mistaking it to be a sherried whisky. Some lactones with a feel like asafoetida followed by a mix of citrus notes. On the palate it is dry and you get some tannins with a wholesome feeling of a full bodied whisky. Very sweet. Finishes long with a mix of spices.
Paul John, Bold, 46%, NAS – On the nose you get some smoke with definite peat notes. Vanilla and lemon, spices with green peppers. On the palate it is very sweet. Finishes with long peaty notes.
Paul John, Peated, c.s 55.5%, NAS – Bonfire smoke and peat. Sweet and honeyed and mild medicinal notes like any Islay whisky. Lots of complexities, green grass juices, vanilla and citrus notes. On the palate you get those dry tannins but the mouthfeel is very full and wholesome. Sweet and syrupy. Finishes very long with a satisfying feeling.
Tasting Notes by Krishna Nukala