Whether you’ve got a few dozen malts under your belt or a few hundred, there’s nothing quite like opening a new stage in your whisky journey.
That’s the feeling I had tasting my way through the excellent line of Paul John Indian single malts. If North American drinkers know any Indian whisky, it’s usually Amrut, based in Bangalore. (Their delectable Fusion was one of my favorite whiskies of 2015.)
Paul John, based in the seaside town of Goa, is a newer entrant to the market, but it’s wasting no time in making a name for itself. The distillery has taken home a raft of prizes over the last two years, including multiple Liquid Gold awards from Jim Murray.
The seriousness of the craft is clear: they use all Indian barley, import peat from Islay and Aberdeen, bottle at 46% ABV or higher, and never chill filter.
Having tasted my way through the line over the past few weeks, I now know what the fuss is about. Below are reviews of the full Paul John lineup: Edited, Bold, Brilliance, Classic, and Peated.
As a teaser, suffice it to say there are more than one of these I want on my shelf year-round.
On to the notes!
Paul John Edited – Distiller: Paul John Whisky. ABV: 46%. No age statement (3-7 years). Price: $50-60.
Nose: Wow! What a way to start. Bears a family resemblance to the dense curried spice of Amrut, but it’s unquestionably its own thing. Grilled lemon, fig jam, ground ginger. Toasted almond croissant with vanilla icing. Soft buttery caramel.
Palate: Great dense mouthfeel. Savory spiced meats. Then fig, toasty peat, candied lemon. Cooked brown sugar. Belgian waffle. Grilled plantains. Lots going on here. The wood is sweet and dark—as much mahogany as oak. The peat and oak char carry through to finish.
Finish: Long, evolving…first charred chicken barbecue, lamb with rosemary and cardamom. Then the dessert: fried vanilla ice cream, dusted with cinnamon. Ginger snaps, molasses. The peat twines through it all, toasty and nutty.
Overall: Excellent. Never wanted this one to end.
Paul John Bold – Distiller: Paul John Whisky. ABV: 46%. No age statement (3-7 years). Price: $50-60.
Nose: Pear at the core, sweet and a touch overripe. Grilled pineapple. Dark, dense. Peat and spice coiled and waiting. Chocolate with toffee flecks and a whiff of espresso. Lemon zest.
Palate: orange and pear, then huge spice: clove, ginger, coriander, curry. Ardbeggian peat–in profile if not in strength. Black-bottomed buttery croissant.
Finish: cardamom and pastel sweets on your way out of the Indian restaurant. Pleasant sour and savory mix…soy and wasabi. The lemon zest takes an encore.
Overall: Every bit as good as the Edited.
Paul John Brilliance – Distiller: Paul John Whisky. ABV: 46%. No age statement (3-7 years). Price: $50-60.
Nose: Grilled lemon, fig jam, raisin. Similar overall profile to the Bold, though milder, with less spice. Some softer vanilla notes: marshmallow, cotton candy notes.
Palate: Beautiful savory teriyaki chicken. Ginger snap peat. Fragrant cedar. The peat turns a bit ashy late on.
Overall: Like a junior version of the Bold. For fans of other Indian or Asian single malts, I’d recommend starting with the Edited or Bold. For those more comfortable with scotch and looking to dip into something new, start here.
Paul John Classic – Distiller: Paul John Whisky. ABV: 46%. No age statement (3-7 years). Price: $65-70.
Nose: chalky fruits–lemon, orange, lime, berry. The spice is behind them: ginger, curry, and clove.
Palate: recalls a young fruity bourbon. A bit raw. Lots of oak and cedar. The grilled lemon note is a bit overwhelming.
Finish: repeats the nose. Lemon and orange pith. The chalkiness endures.
Overall: my least favorite of the lineup. The chalkiness very much recalls the cask strength anCnoc Blas for me–not my favorite of their (generally excellent) lineup either. The Classic opens a bit with water, but not enough, and is missing the brilliant savory notes I so like in the Edited, Bold, and Brilliance.
Paul John Peated – Distiller: Paul John Whisky. ABV: 58.5%. No age statement (3-7 years). Price: $70-80.
Nose: charred blueberry crumble. Cinnamon. Clove. The peat coils out of the glass, waiting to burst forth.
Palate: there it is. Dark, dense, peat, closest to Ardbeg. Expands and reveals more complexity with water, though not quite that of the Edited or Bold. Vanilla. Sweet oak.
Finish: long and enjoyable, though it doesn’t reveal new depths.
Overall: a good comeback for Paul John’s cask strength offerings after the disappointing Classic. Peat freaks, especially Ardbeg fans, should like this a lot.
In sum, Paul John is doing great things. I can recommend every one of these but the Classic without reserve. There are still some purists who turn their noses up at any single malt that’s not from Scotland, but man, are they missing out.
Hats off to the good people in Goa. Cheers, friends! – BO
Paul John graciously provided samples for review. As always, our opinions were 100% our own.