A Dram Without Suffering – Paul John Nirvana

I am so happy it’s Wednesday. As much as I love the Monday and Friday articles I have starting putting out they can sometimes be a bit of a drag and a tad boring, but World Whisky Wednesday is always fun. So, I stuck my arms behind the curtain and grabbed a random bottle of whisky, as variety is the spice of life and I just put my whisky behind some curtains so I could have a fun surprise for each dram. Today we’re looking at the Paul John Nirvana.

India has been known on the whisky scene for some time now. Often people talk about the whisky producing countries of the world as Scotland, Ireland, Japan, America and Canada but India has been edging in since with the advent of distilleries such as Paul John, Amrut and Rampur. but the country has a history of whisky far older.

It was in 1820 that Mr Edward Abraham Dyer started the Kasauli Distillery, and of course talking about Indian whisky without mentioning Officers Choice, the worlds largest selling whisky (over taking Johnnie Walker in 2013) can’t really be done. Seriously, those things are juice boxes filled with whisky, but Paul John is the whisky on everyone’s lips now, for good reason.

Paul John whisky comes to us from John Distilleries PvT Ltd, founded by Paul P John in 1992. While John Distilleries is in Bangalore the distillery is in Goa, southwestern India, and the whisky came onto the market in 2012. As you can imagine the geography and climate of India is different to that of Scotland, so the folk at Paul John have had to deal with a few little kinks along the way.

The distillery uses as much Indian ingredients as possible to craft their whisky. A six row Indian barley is used for malting, whereas most Scottish distilleries use a two row barley. The difference here is that two row barley contains a lower protein content with more starch that makes for increased alcohol after fermentation. Two row also holds more consistent grain sizes making it easier for malting, though six row barleys higher protein content means for a faster malting time.

Master Distiller Michael D’Souza also aims for a much lower abv of his wash than that of most distilleries, choosing a 5% abv wash over the normal 8% to help make the end product sweeter. What Paul John is arguably most well known for however is their angels share.

While in European countries distilleries will face an evaporation of roughly 2%, the Goan location, with its long hot summer, relatively short warm winters, monsoon season and high humidity make for a whopping 10-12% evaporation. To solve this Paul John have constructed a climate controlled underground cellar for their maturation, though I’ve not been able to discover how low this can get their angels share.

To top everything off Paul John have arguably the worlds best and nicest person serving as their Regional Manager for International Markets. Shilton Almeida is a face well known amongst the whisky circuits and within the industry, with his charming face always happy to answer questions. I managed to hold my first Malts with Mates with him many weeks ago, and I promise those are coming back soon.

So what goes into the Nirvana?

It’s fairly simple, an unpeated expression, created from the six row barley, matured in charred American Oak casks and bottled at 40%. Short simple and to the point, the whisky was released to introduce people to single malts for the first time, and its always great to see a company bringing new folk into the fold. Let’s rip the cork off and get to nosing.

It starts warm and buttery, a mix of pecans and hazelnuts falling down before being ground down to almost a paste. Said paste is soon joined by dried mango and dark chocolate dipped goji berries, before being mixed into a cake with caramel, all spice and topped with slight burnt marshmallows. A touch of eucalyptus comes through and the nose finishes with a nice glass of coconut milk.

That coconut water continues slightly sweet on the palate, becoming more tart and feeling of almonds lightly puckering with some orange juice. Mango comes back, nice and plump straight off the tree, sweetness starts again but is more fruit than confectionary, toffee apples is the peak of sugar sweetness while the fruit driven is more nectarines, peaches and crystallised orange flesh. Good fruit juice of the aforementioned, lemon grass tea, and just the barest hint of anise coming through there.

Long lived and puckering, its all orange juice, caramel bites, lemon grass and anise, rounds it out quite nicely.

I like this whisky. It’s not the best of Paul Johns impressive line up, but I love the thought of giving this to a new single malt drinker as it could really open their eyes in a number of ways, India makes single malt, single malt whisky holds a huge variety of flavours within it and single malt whisky does not need to cost an arm and a leg. Speaking of that, for just over £30 the whisky represents some huge savings for the consumer.

For the experienced drinking I think it could surprise you, it’s nice to try whiskies such as this as they always hold flavours we weren’t expecting and can always challenge you in new ways. It also helps to taste the drams that new entrants are drinking as these can lay the foundations for future whiskies.

As a random aside, as I was finishing my glass my partner passed me a rosemary and salted biscuit. The pairing of the two is quite amazing, so if Paul John is reading this then maybe give that a try. Rosemary and salt Ryvita biscuits. Damn amazing.

Based on all that, yes I’d buy it again at £30-40, maybe even £45, but I wouldn’t go any higher. Tastes great and challenging enough to the senses, my only gripe is that I’d love to see a cask strength version as it got a bit too much like juice for me at one point, but beggars can’t be choosers.

The entire time when I was drinking this though it seemed as such a wonderful expression of joy to be giving this to a new single malt drinker that I couldn’t help but compare it to the song that got me into The Beatles, Tomorrow Never Knows. A classic for new entrants and something that always surprises, now there’s a fantastic song pairing.

If you want to learn more about Paul John you can click here, and view their range by clicking here.

This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any whisky or distillery, Paul John or otherwise, and is entirely the thoughts and opinions of the authors Somewhiskybloke.

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