Search
Close this search box.

Paul John and Rampur Indian Whisky – Everything You Need To Know About These Indian Whisky Titans

Welcome to part two of a three-part series on the biggest Indian whisky brands. Today, we take a look at the history and development of Paul John and Rampur. Read part one here

India became as the UK’s largest market for Scotch whisky by volume in 2022, importing 219 million bottles according to figures published by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). Surprisingly, Scotch whisky imports comprise only 2% of the Indian whisky market, as India is also amongst the world’s major whisky manufacturers, producing 189 million cases of whisky in 2019. 

The majority of Indian spirits labeled as ‘whisky’ are closer to rum due to being distilled from molasses, falling within a category of alcohol termed as Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), and are marketed to domestic Indian consumers. 

Historically, India’s malt whisky distillation occurred only on a small scale, as the production of alcohol from barley proved controversial in an era of widespread poverty and grain shortages. 

Inspired by the continually expanding single malt market forged by the Scotch whisky industry, India’s distillers have aspired to release their own premium single malt whiskies, demonstrating the quality and unique character whisky gains in India’s tropical climate.

 A trilogy of articles explores the history and development of India’s four largest brands which have gained international recognition for Indian single malt whisky. 

The second article examines the multi-award-winning Paul John brand of Goa, alongside India’s oldest malt-producing distillery, Rampur.

A History of John Distilleries and Paul John Whisky  

John Distilleries was founded by Paul P. John in 1996, as part of John’s expanding interests in the hospitality industry. As the son of a sugar cane plantation and liquor manufacturer, Paul P. John recognized the profitability in distilling establishing John Distilleries first distillery in Bangalore, Karnataka in 1996. 

Within months, John Distilleries had launched ‘Original Choice’ whisky, which quickly became one of the most successful IMFL brands dominating a large segment of the domestic Indian whisky market, selling 4 million cases annually by 2005. 

In 2008, John Distilleries began distilling single malt whisky at the company’s Goa distillery, with an aim of entering the premium international whisky market. The Paul John distillery uses indigenous Indian six-row barley, grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and harvested at the height of summer to ensure perfect maturity, believing this will infuse the whisky with characteristics of its Indian origin during distillation. Utilizing pure spring water, distillation at the Paul John distillery uses copper pot stills crafted in India featuring distinctive long necks to produce a fruitier spirit. 

A Home In Goa 

Paul John Distillery

Goa, the small, southwestern Indian state famed for its golden beaches and tourism, was specifically chosen as the location for the Paul John Distillery due to a tropical monsoon climate. In Goa’s tropical climate maturation occurs faster, with Paul John master distiller, Micheal D’Souza estimating a maturation of 4-5 years is equivalent to a Scotch whisky aged for 15 years. 

The Paul John distillery uses a combination of warehouses and a climate-controlled cellar complex with a capacity for 10,000 barrels for maturation.

Paul John’s First Whisky Releases 

Paul John Single Cask 161 Whisky.

The first bottling of Paul John single malt Indian whisky, ‘Paul John Single Cask 161 Whisky’ was officially launched at the Capital Hotel, Knightsbridge, London on 4th October 2012. The ‘Paul John Single Cask 161 Whisky’ expression was bottled at a cask strength of 57% ABV, and numbered only 150 bottles, originally sold exclusively by The Whisky Exchange for £60. 

The Paul John brand quickly gained recognition when whisky writer, Jim Murray, awarded the ‘Paul John Single Cask 161 Whisky’ 94.5 points and the ‘Liquid Gold’ award in his Whisky Bible. In May 2013, the Paul John single malt Indian whisky core range was launched for the international market, a trio of Paul John bottlings named ‘Brilliance’, ‘Edited’, and ‘Bold’, with the range including unpeated and peated expressions. 

The Paul John distillery has subsequently experimented with cask finishes including Oloroso and PX sherry, while limited-edition releases include the annual Paul John Christmas Edition, first released in 2018.  A commemorative bottling, Paul John ‘Mars Orbiter’ was released in 2018, in celebration of India’s successful space mission launching a probe to Mars. 

A History of Rampur Distillery / Radico Khaitan Limited 

An image of Rampur distillery visitors centre
Rampur Distillery

Located in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Rampur Distillery & Chemical Company Ltd was established at Rampur, Uttar Pradesh in 1943, originally producing industrial alcohol, extra neutral alcohol (ENA), and bulk liquor for several Indian liquor companies, including Mohan Meakin. 

In 1972, G. N. Khaitan purchased the loss-making Rampur distillery for 1.6 million rupees. Whilst G. N. Khaitan was a lifelong teetotaller, he acquired the Rampur distillery as an asset of Radico Khaitan Ltd recognizing the potential profitability in alcohol manufacturing and expanded production including establishing a malt plant during the Rampur distillery modernization in 1991. 

After G. N. Khaitan passed away in 1995, the Radico Khaitan Ltd assets were divided between his four sons, with Lalit Khaitan inheriting the company’s liquor division including the Rampur distillery. 

From 1996, Lalit Khaitan’s son, Abhishek Khaitan, joined Radico Khaitan Ltd, as the company planned to launch a budget blended whisky brand building upon the growing popularity of Scotch whisky in India. 

Radico Khaitan’s First Whisky Release 

An image of the 'After Dark' whisky from Rampur
The ‘After Dark’ Indian Whisky.

Radico Khaitan Ltd.’s first domestic IMFL whisky brand, ‘8PM Whisky’ was launched in 1998, with Abhishek Khaitan stating the brand name was chosen as people often start drinking at 8 PM in India. 

The ‘8PM Whisky’ is thought to be a blend of grain whisky, spirit distilled from molasses, along with spices and flavorings. However, Radico Khaitan Ltd. has not revealed the exact makeup of the whisky. In September 2011, Radico Khaitan Ltd. launched the ‘After Dark Whisky’; a 100% grain-based whisky brand that is produced at the Rampur Distillery. 

Rampur/ Radico Khaitan In The Modern Day 

In 2016, Radico Khaitan Ltd launched ‘Rampur Single Malt Indian Whisky’ for the international market, named for the Rampur distillery where the whisky is distilled. Building upon 80 years of alcohol distillation experience, Rampur single malt whisky is distilled in traditional copper pot stills crafted in India. Although, the Rampur distillery has established a reputation for sustainable and environmentally neutral production, generating additional steam power during distillation, while waste byproducts are used to create bio-compost. 

For maturation, Rampur’s proximity to the Himalayas provides the polar opposite climate conditions throughout the year; cold winters and Indian summers combine to give Rampur’s malt a richer depth and full-bodied dimension. 

The Rampur single malt range has expanded through a variety of maturation and cask finishes, including PX sherry, double cask, and triple cask, as well as single cask bottlings. A limited-edition single cask bottling, Rampur Indian Single Malt Whisky Signature Reserve, was released to celebrate 75 years of distilling at the Rampur distillery in 2018.

A Timeline of John Distilleries/Paul John Indian Whisky  

1996                John Distilleries is founded by Paul P. John, with the company’s first distillery established in Bangalore, Karnataka. John Distilleries launches Original Choice whisky, which quickly becomes one of the most successful IMFL brands in the domestic Indian whisky market.

2008                John Distilleries begins distilling single malt whisky at the company’s Goa distillery, in an effort to enter the premium market, opting to use Indian barley to give the whisky characteristics from its country of origin.

2012                The first bottling of Paul John single malt whisky ‘Paul John Single Cask 161 Whisky’ is officially launched at the Capital Hotel, Knightsbridge, London on 4th October 2012. Jim Murray awards ‘Paul John Single Cask 161 Whisky’ 94.5 points and the ‘Liquid Gold’ award in his Whisky Bible.

2013                In May 2013, the Paul John single malt whisky core range is launched, Paul John Brilliance, Paul John Edited, and Paul John Bold.

2018                The first annual Paul John Christmas Edition bottling is released.  Paul John ‘Mars Orbiter’ a commemorative bottling to celebrate India’s successful space mission launching a probe to Mars is released.

A Timeline of Rampur Distillery/Radico Khaitan Limited Indian Whisky

1943                The Rampur Distillery & Chemical Company Ltd is established at Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, originally producing industrial alcohol and bulk liquor for several Indian liquor companies.

1972                The loss-making Rampur Distillery is purchased by G. N. Khaitan for Rs. 1.6 million, becoming part of the Radico Khaitan group.

1991                Radico Khaitan Ltd establishes a malt spirit plant whilst modernizing the Rampur Distillery.

1995                G. N. Khaitan divides business assets and divisions between his four sons, with Lalit Khaitan inheriting the liquor division including the Rampur Distillery.

1996                Dr Lalit Khaitan’s son, Abhishek Khaitan, joins Radico Khaitan Ltd.

1998                Radico Khaitan Ltd launches the first domestic IMFL brand, ‘8PM Whisky’.

2011                In September 2011, Radico Khaitan Ltd launches ‘After Dark’, a grain-based IMFL whisky produced at the Rampur Distillery.

2016                Radico Khaitan Ltd launches ‘Rampur Single Malt Indian Whisky’ for the international market, expanding the range with a variety of cask finishes including PX sherry, double cask, and triple cask, as well as single cask bottlings.

2018                Rampur Indian Single Malt Whisky Signature Reserve single cask bottling is released to celebrate 75 years of distilling at the Rampur Distillery.

Mark Bostock

Since joining Mark Littler LTD as a freelance article contributor in 2019, Mark Bostock has become an integral part of our UK content writing team. His enthusiasm for whisky, particularly independent bottlings, drives him to deepen his knowledge through frequent attendance at tasting events and the thoughtful expansion of his own whisky collection. This dedication not only fuels his passion but also enriches his contributions to our platform, blending expertise with a genuine love for the subject.

All Posts
Search
  • Latest News
  • Latest Reviews