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Liquid gold from the Indian Subcontinent – Paul John vs. Indri Whisky

While it might not necessarily be prominently featured on the map of the common whisky aficionado, India has evolved to become a veritable hotbed for sophisticated, young upstarts distilleries that have changed and altered the perception of what great and affordable distinctive liquid gold can be.


Originally based in Bangalore and incepted in 1992, John Distilleries was originally known for molasses-based spirits, before it launched Paul John Single Malts eleven years ago at a new location in the former Portuguese and party enclave of Goa on the west coast of India.


Given the unique tropical micro-climate of the region, whisky matures not only at an accelerated pace but a phenomenon that could be best described as “angel’s share in reverse” taking place, i.e. the heat lets more H2O than alcohol evaporate and thereby results in a higher ABV.


Paul John’s Select Cask range is – as the name suggests – comprised of carefully curated and selectively chosen select cask profiles, which as per word around the campfire are matured in subterranean climate controlled callers, thereby creating prolonged retention of the spirit within the cask, consequently prolonged interaction between cask and spirit, creating greater intensity in depth and flavour.


Based on locally sourced six row barley from the foothills of the Himalaya, which is grown during the colder months and harvested in summer, Paul John’s Classic Select Cask expression is an unpeated single malt variant, which has been matured in ex-Bourbon barrels and bottled without chill-filtration at cask strength.


What tickles the nostrils upon approach and what we instantaneously fell in love with are the bold big meaty nuances of bacon, which are backed by singed golden barley, molasses, mildew, stewed apples and salty, briny highlights.


On the palate, oaky honey serves as the silky rich foundation on which clove, cinnamon and spicy notes dance against a backdrop of dark chocolate.


The finish is dominated by a juicy, honey sweetness, which is rounded out by wafts of drying oak and sweet grain. What we found remarkable is that despite the cask strength ABV of 55.2%, the heat is never overpowering and is building gently at a pleasant pace towards the finish with a pop of spicy warmth.


So far, so good.


Stepping things up a notch or two is the pièce de résistance, i.e. the dark golden hued Paul John’ Peated Select Cask, which not unlike the aforementioned Classic expression dials in at cask strength.


The nose wins me over straight away with a bewitching aroma of malted barley, earthy moss, nuts, mango, a tannic spiciness and petrichor.


Things get interesting on the palate with sweet, peaty, tangy and spicy components forming a melange reminiscent of barbeque meats set against hints of dark chilli chocolate, tropical fruit juice, melons and pineapple.


Via the elongated, elegantly deep finish sweet meats peat as vanilla melted caramel and fruit roasted on a barbeque.


Summa summarum, if you like cleverly distilled whisky, especially of the peated variety, you would do yourself a disservice if you did not try the masterfully calibrated expressions Paul John has to offer, especially if you like it more subtle than what the Islay greats are known for.


The fact that Paul John’s Select Cask expressions are housed in lovely sleek and slender bottles that live within stylish magnetic boxes only adds to the appeal.


Indri-cacies of Indian Whisky


Having waxed lyrically about my love for Indian whiskies during a recent stint in London, a friend of mine commented that I must love Indri.


Claiming that he appeared perplexed and borderline offended when he realized I had never heard of the distillery, he poured me a dram of Indri’s Trini The Three Wood expression and it won me over straight away.


Having done some research, Indri is one of the more recent single malt brands to emerge from India that focus on production as per the specifications of Scottish standards and has quickly managed to establish itself via a meteoritic rise as an accolade decorated distillery that has become a favourite with connoisseurs and aficionados of world whiskies.


Situated in India’s Northern part, i.e. the state of Haryana, the local climate presents its challenges yet also adds to the unique appeal by bringing the signature flavour of Indri’s DNA to the fore.


Trini The Three Wood is, not unlike most crafted whiskies from the subcontinent, based on locally grown six-row barley variety and after being floor malted and peated, as the name suggests, is comprised of a double distilled blend of spirits that have enjoyed maturation in three different casks, i.e. Ex-Pedro Ximénez Sherry, first fill Bourbon and ex-French wine ones.


Clocking in at 46% ABV and coppery amber in appearance, Trini – The Three Wood reels one in via its complex aromas: Centred around caramel, baking spice and vanilla stewed quince, honeyed leather and berry scents with some cake notes and whipped cream unfold a complex array of nuances on the nose.


On the top of the mouth things start out on the sweeter and juicier end of the spectrum via sliced peaches, cherries, bananas and apples, to then artfully transition via tropical fruits, cinnamon and raisins into rich, buttery territory with toasted almond highlights.

The finish adds a distinguished depth with layers of peppery spice, molasses and a hit of gingery heat that is framed by a pronounced oakiness, the faintest whisper of smoke, butterscotch and sweet, nutty almond flavours.


Indri The Three Wood lives up to its name and is bound to delight any lover of the Speyside greats in search of a certain je-ne-sais-quoi as the three casks and maturation in the local sweltering climate result in a well-calibrated smorgasbord of complex shades and a multi-layered composition without ever running danger of one nuance eclipsing another.


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Words by AW.

Photos courtesy of Paul John and Indri Whisky.


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