Q&A with Paul John single malt (Goa, India)

Paul John single malt whisky caught my attention when I first tasted its core range, the Brilliance, Classic, Edited, Bold and Peated. Then, my attention with this brand of Indian single malt was maintained as it released a new expression, which I have also had the pleasure of tasting, the Paul John Oloroso

As an Australian, there is something exotic about single malt from India. But setting all that aside, the whisky itself has proved to be consistently tasty and its main products (like the Bold and Brilliance) won’t break the bank. The Paul John  Oloroso, though, bucks that trend with its very high retail price.

That said, my experience tasting Paul John whisky has been positive, especially when I factor in the price of some of the whisky. I look forward to following Paul John’s story as it continues to evolve.

Asa Abraham, Corporate PR & Communications at The Paul Resorts & Hotels & John Distilleries Pvt Ltd, has provided me with the below answers to my questions about Paul John single malt.

Cheers!

Before establishing the Paul John distillery, when was John Distilleries Ltd (JDL) established and what was its first product?

Paul John Dist: The company was first started in 1992 under the name of National Distilleries and its first brands were called Master brandy, Master whisky etc. In 1996 the company was rechristened as John Distilleries Ltd and it was then that the brand Original Choice was launched.

What is your ‘flagship brand Original Choice Whisky’? How popular is it?

Paul John Dist: Original Choice Whisky is a popular brand in the lower segment, and is one of the top selling whiskies in the world with sales exceeding 11 million cases per year.

JDL was established in 1992. When did Mr John establish the Paul John distillery? Why did he choose to establish the Paul John distillery and make single malt?

Paul John Dist: The single malt plant was established in 2008 and we launched our first batch of single malts in 2012. Having lived in the US for a few years, Mr Paul discovered single malts and enjoyed them tremendously. This lead him to think of making his own range of single malts, and thus the Paul John single malts were created. 

Why did you choose to establish a whisky distillery in Goa, and not some other part of India?

Paul John Dist: The quality of water in Goa is extremely good and we believed this would be suitable for the perfect maturation of our single malts. Also the tropical climes [sic] of Goa assists in the speedy maturation of the single malts. Moreover Goa is a favourite destination of Mr Paul, he loves the cuisine and the beaches there, so it seemed only apt that he start his malt plant in Goa.

Your website says that you ‘called in experts from the UK to install a set of traditionally designed copper pot stills’. Has the UK, and in particular Scotland, had any other influences on Paul John single malt?

Paul John Dist: No.

Why did Paul John whisky choose to follow the Scottish whisky making tradition (I.e: making new make from malted barley and ageing it in used bourbon and sherry casks)?

Paul John Dist: We were following age old traditions because we were chartering into unknown territories, so we didn’t take too much risk in the process of the known age old making of the single malts. Going forward we may look at creating whiskies from other grains. 

How would you describe your distillate’s character? By this I mean, what qualities and flavours do you look for in the spirit that you select to age into whisky (the “cut”)?

Paul John Dist: For our single malts, we use 6 row Indian barley and we try to retain the original 6 row barley grain character, this also delivers a high amount of sweet tropical fruit character.

Your website says that you choose an ‘exceptionally selective small ‘cut’’ when distilling. Can you elaborate on this “cut” and why you chose to make such a “cut”?   
Paul John Dist: The smaller cut yields higher quality. its not just the cut but even the pace of distillation is slow, hence ensuring we get quality new make.

What is the benefit of using Indian six row barley to make your whisky? What taste or flavours does this barley impart to the whisky, and how is this different to what other barley might impart to whisky?

Paul John Dist: Wanting to create a unique Indian single malt, with every ingredient imparting its own character to the liquid, we use six row barley unlike most countries where two row barley is used. The higher protein and enzyme content of the six row barley gives lot more character and body to the whisky, making the whisky a lot more creamier.  We do not chill filter our single malts which also helps us to retain most of the congeners which are essential for the taste of single malts.

Your website says ‘[f]or maturing our malts, we use carefully selected American white oak casks, and store them in an underground temperature-controlled cellar.’ How does Goa’s climate influence the maturation process of your single malt if your whisky is aged in temperature controlled cellars? What is the temperature of the cellars? Why do you use these cellars? What impact does this environment have on your whisky’s maturation? 

Paul John Dist: Because of its tropical environment, Goa is warm and humid, and this allows whisky to interact with wood very rapidly, hence the temperature within the warehouse is better suited to extract a high amount of lactone from the barley.

Your website says ‘[t]he angel’s share of our Single Malts is around 8% per annum.’ What is your oldest single malt? How much whisky was left in the barrel?

Paul John Dist: We lose 8% every year, including both water and alcohol, and by end of 8th year we have approximately 120 litres left in our oldest casks.

Most of your whiskies are aged in ex-bourbon barrels. Which distilleries do you source your barrels from?  

Paul John Dist: We pick our casks from various distilleries including JD, Jim Beam, BT, Four Roses etc..

Paul John has peated whisky. Paul John imports its peat from Scotland. Where does this peat come from in Scotland, and why do you source your peat from there? What flavours does the peat impart into your peated single malts? 

Paul John Dist: We use peat from Islay and Aberdeen. India does not have peat hence we chose to pick peat from the place it’s best got from. 

How much whisky do you produce each year?

Paul John Dist: At present we produce 60,000 litres per month but we are in the process of doubling our malt plant capacities and hope to double production within the next few months. 

What are your major export markets?

Paul John Dist: We export our single malts to over 28 countries across the world, and the major export markets are the US, UK, France, Germany and Taiwan. 

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