Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Paul John. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Given the stringency of definition in well-known whiskey categories, the broad variety of spirits grouped under the heading “world whisky” is quite surprising. The term is a sort of catch-all for whiskies produced outside of Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the U.S, and Japan. The result is a loose grouping of still more loosely defined products that are not evenly distributed amongst various countries’ beverage markets. This can make it difficult for consumers to understand the products that do make it onto the shelves at their local stores. Casual whiskey drinkers in the United States, for example, may be surprised to learn both that they are being drunk under the table by Indian whisky drinkers and that Indian distilleries are producing award-winning single malt whisky.
Among the Indian products more readily available to the American consumer, Paul John is a name worth getting to know. Paul P. John was already established in the alcohol and hospitality industries when he decided to pursue the creation of an Indian single malt whisky. The economic success of popular brands produced at the John Distillery, opened in 1996, created the necessary space to experiment.
Today, master distiller Michael D’Souza and John Distilleries produce a critically recognized single malt, launched under the name Paul John in 2012. Production is informed by classic Scottish distillation practices but ingredients are sourced from India. The backbone of the mash is 6-row barley and water from the water table of coastal Goa. A two-stage distillation process in long-necked copper pot-stills produces spirits which are aged in Goa’s tropical climate, accelerating aspects of the aging process.
In addition to their core range, Paul John regularly releases limited or special edition single malts such as their Zodiac and Christmas series. The distinguishing touch in Paul John’s 2021 Christmas Edition Single Malt comes from a combination of cask finishes, bringing together single malt whisky that has spent time in ex-bourbon, Port, and Madeira casks. The lingering influence of the dessert wines in the finishing process impart fruit and spice flavors with yuletide associations, balanced with light peat smokiness. This year’s offering marks Paul John’s fourth release of holiday spirits.
Tasting Notes: Paul John Christmas Edition 2021
Vital Stats: With no age statement provided, the 2021 bottling of Paul John Christmas Edition Single Malt is 92 proof with a suggested retail price of $85 for 750 mL. Goa, India.
Appearance: The liquid is dense and a bit oily with a reddish copper color.
Nose: The wine casks are assertive on the nose with aromas of fruitcake, berry jam, and butterscotch.
Palate: Gentle peat smoke ties together cocoa and sweet cereal flavors transitioning through spices to a rich, pleasant finish that repeats the deep sweetness of the nose before fading into peaty astringency. The mouthfeel is a little on the thick side, which fits pretty well with the jam/marmalade notes.
This was my first experience with Paul John and with an Indian single malt in general and it certainly has me eager for my next opportunity to try something in this category. With an interesting combination of complementary flavors, the bottle seems appropriately priced given its solid quality and limited quantity. The combination of a very light peat smoke with the wine cask finishing works really well and produces a rich dram that rewards your attention.