The Indian single malt whisky hoping to break into the UK market

THE well-told narrative of whisky is that Scotch is dominant. We ship it to all corners of the globe, particularly the booming countries of China and India, and that wherever it lays down its malty roots the aspiring classes ensure its growth.

Paul John's single malts are looking to break into the UK market. Picture: submitted
Paul John's single malts are looking to break into the UK market. Picture: submitted

The not so well told tale is how whisky produced in these countries fares both in its origin country and when it is sent overseas.

Go into any quality whisky bar and you’ll will find a good range of Japanese whisky but you’ll have to look a bit harder at the shelves to find a bottle of Indian whisky and harder still to find an Indian single malt.

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Step forward a Paul John.

A Goa produced single malt that is making tentative steps to break into the UK whisky market.

The baby of Indian uber-distillers John Distilleries PVT Ltd, whose Original Choice blend sells 1 million cases a month, it’s Brilliance and Edited bottlings have already been well received.

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible awarded the distiller Liquid Gold certification with a score of 94.5.

They may lack the lyrical genius employed in the naming of some Scotch bottlings but they can go toe-to-toe on the taste front.

The Brilliance is an apertif whisky that would provide a fresh blast after a meal, there is a rainbow of pleasurable light zesty flavours to chew on.

The Edited however is a find - that rare malt that successfully trapezes the fine line between peat and sweet in the mould of an Ardmore.

The unique flavour of these whiskies is as like Scotch influenced by where they are produced.

Like Jura, matured by the sea in a gulf stream, they are light whiskies.

However the lightness is accelerated by the fact that John’s casks are matured by the sea in Goa temperatures that average 40 degrees.

Maturing at his heat means that there are some very drunk angels with 12 per cent lost out of the barrel every year (Angel’s Share).

It’s little wonder that John Distilleries don’t want to keep their spirit in the cask for too long - their two single malt bottlings are made up of spirit with a maximum age of 7 years .

As India is not known for its peat, the company ship it over from Islay and burn it over their own Indian grown barley .

Executive Vice President of Overseas Operations said the decision to target the Uk market, taken in 2006, wasn’t one that was taken lightly.

“We were not trying to create something as a rival to Scotch whisky - we are in awe of it - we wanted to create something different.

“I think we’ve achieved that.”

Brilliance tasting notes

Nose: Fresh grain – wheat and cornflakes, sweet butter, soured cream, sweet lemon, a malty background and a touch of minerality.

Palate: Sharp apple at first, leading into sweet mango and cream, sweet fruit, honey and a tingle of cinnamon spice. Water softens some of the cinnamon heat and brings out even more apple and sweet cream.

Finish: Sweet cream, green apple, cinnamon toast and hints of bitter charcoal.

Comment: A fruity whisky that has some bite and good concentrated flavour at 46%. For me a drop of water does wonders, taking the edge off and revealing even more fruit, but for those who like their whisky intense this will work straight out of the bottle.

Edited tasting notes

Nose: Soft and sweet with hints of coal smoke, green leaves and damp forests. Honey and malty grain dominate the palate, but behind is a light medicinal touch and a background of earthy peat.

Palate: Sweet, spiced apple and green mangos up front, along with some damp ferns. Light smokiness comes in, tending more towards bandage-like medicinal notes than a bonfire, along with some tannic apple skin, butter and cinnamon. Water brings out more cream and sweetness, as well as some dark and earthy chocolate notes.

Finish: Coal smoke and apple peel, ferns and a forest after a rainstorm. Light tingly spice and a hint of custard.

Comment: Only lightly smoky but with a good earthy peat underneath, contributing both a medicinal hit and a rich muddiness that turns towards chocolate with water. A darker and richer whisky, although still relatively light compared to the peat monsters of the world.