Paul John “Brilliance” (46%, OB, Batch 2, 2016)

Today the Paul John range of Whiskies has three entry-level Malts. The unpeated “Brilliance” of which I’m about to review batch #2 (released in 2016). The very lightly peated (8-10 ppm) “Edited” of which I already reviewed batch #1 way back in 2013. The lightly peated style is achieved by blending peated and unpeated Whisky. For Edited, Aberdeen & Islay peat was used. Both Brilliance and Edited were introduced in 2013. In 2015 the third expression was released, called “Bold”, where all Whisky used in the blend is peated. The names speak for themselves. Edited is a slightly tweaked version of Brilliance, tweaked with a little peat (8-10 ppm in the final product), and Bold is bolder in the use of peat (25-30 ppm in the final product). Where Edited contained Aberdeen & Islay peat, Bold is made with Islay peat only). When I wrote the last review, there was not a lot more Paul John around besides “Brilliance” and “Edited”. Back then only three single casks were issued (The P1’s).

Today the core range has more members than the original two. Apart from the addition of “Bold”, in come two more additions; The Classic Select Cask and the Peated Select Cask, both are cask strength Whiskies (released in 2013), so not really entry-level any more. All other bottlings, and there are quite a few by now, are single cask bottlings, some of which were released for particular countries alone.

Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Fruity and fresh. Nice barley aroma. Fruit cake. Sugared yellow fruits with a hint of smoke. Very, very appetizing. Extremely fruity and floral as well. Fruity first, floral second. Vanilla third. Dry powdered vanilla. Dusty and silent. I imagine a hot day. Next some glue and paint which only broadens the aromatic palate. Warm soft wet wood. Definitely summer in the air. What a wonderful nose. This works perfectly for me. Sure this may be a young Indian Whisky, but it already shows a lot of evolution. Ghanging and growing in my glass.

Taste: Barley and some sweetness, again with a bit of smoke. Incence, smoke from burning herbs. More exotic than the nose. Nice soft wood again and a bit of cardboard. Vanilla, so definitely American oak. Oak bitterness (and herbs) come next, giving the Whisky character and backbone. Both aroma’s are coated with vanilla ice-cream. How’s that for balance?

So this is entry-level Whisky. Wow! I’m not sure about you, but this is right up my alley. It differs from other Whiskies. Its exotic and it is definitely high quality stuff. Amrut already has a fan-club (Amrutfever), but I believe its time someone should start a fan club for Paul John as well.

By the way, reading back my review of the first batch of Paul John “Edited”, also shows me how much the Whisky world has changed in the three and a half years that have passed since then. In 2013, it seems, Whisky was just starting to get global, and today it seems every country in the world already has at least ten distilleries producing Whisky.

Points: 87

Many thanks go out to Shilton (Paul John brand ambassador), for your patience answering all my questions, and for the quickest response-time in the industry!

Amrut 4yo 2009/2013 (60%, OB, Single Cask, for Europe, Virgin Oak & First Fill Bourbon Barrel #3445, 172 bottles)

Maybe Amrut is a true Malternative, because it’s another Malt Whisky. If you love Scottish Single Malts best, why look at other distillates? They are just different. Other distillates can broaden your horizon, but will not replace your Single Malt that has become too expensive. For instance look outside of Scotland.

Looking back I seem to like Amrut. This is now the third review, and after the Intermediate Sherry (87 points) and the Portonova (88points), this is something of a speciality. Maybe I should take that back. Most Amruts are in fact specialities. Something out of the box is often done. Maturing on two continents, or blending many different casks together, to name but a few of things Amrut does.

This time a single cask bottling. Often, you will have a Whisky that has matured in a first fill or second fill Bourbon cask, barrel or hogshead, but no, Amrut had to do it differently. This particular example was first matured in charred virgin oak and then transferred into a first fill Bourbon barrel. Barrels being the original casks Bourbon matures in, where hogsheads are remade casks from the staves of barrels. Hogsheads are bigger than barrels. Most barrels are shipped in staves anyway.

There is some additional useful information on the label as well. I like that. In the four years this Whisky has been maturing, 42% has evaporated over time, as compared to around 8% in that evaporates is Scotland over the same period of time. By the way, unpeated (six row) Indian barley was used.

Amrut Single Cask #3445Color: Gold.

Nose: The first whiff that enters my nose is of virgin oak. Creamy sawdust and vanilla. Although only four years old, at the fast forward maturation rate, this can be called a woody Whisky. The typical American oak notes are here, but I actually miss the typical Amrut spiciness. Amrut is indian, and Indian Whisky should be a bit exotic, not just another copy of Scottish Whisky. This Amrut does hide it Indian. After some vigorous movement in the glass and some patience, there is exotic spice emerging and apart from that the Whisky becomes a bit dusty.

Taste: Initially hot and then an explosion of sweet Vanilla. When the thick vanilla, travels down, quite some (virgin) oak, emerges here in the taste as well. So we have wood and vanilla. What else? Over the top vanilla combined with hot butter. Just as with the nose this needs air to show some exotic spices. Luckily it’s Indian-ness is here at last. Spicy hot sawdust from Massaranduba. A very hard tropical wood. It’s so hard in fact that you can’t cut it without the saw charring the wood. This slightly sour odour is very similar to the spiciness of this Whisky, especially in the taste of it.

I mentioned decanting Whisky before. This Amrut is one that needs a lot of air as well to fully blossom. This is still a pretty full bottle, but already there is a difference to the first taste of the freshly opened bottle. I will score it now (after lots of air in the glass), but I feel this will grow even better and more balanced over time. This may very well be an example of a Whisky where the last drop from the bottle will be the best drop.

Points: 86

Amrut Portonova (62.1%, OB, Batch 5, 2014)

Ahhh, another Amrut. Nice. I had the pleasure to try some Amruts in the past and was very nicely surprised by the Intermediate Sherry (which I then bought) a Single PX Sherry Cask #2699 (which I then bought) and the Kadhambam (which I have yet to buy). I also tried the “plain” cask strength version, and although pretty nice, I preferred the former ones. Now this Portonova crosses my path. This time a Port finished Amrut, and yes, I have high hopes for this one too…

Amrut Portonova Batch 5Color: Light orange gold. No typical Port pinkishness.

Nose: Although this has a huge ABV, this doesn’t leap out of the glass. Give it some time and some dust and cinnamon emerges. Wow. Cookie spices, dried plums and raisins. Exotic and Christmas in a bottle. Fresh air after rain. Creamy and soft oak. Hot metal. Barley, but different from barley you get from (young) Scottish Whisky. Sweet milk chocolate and red fruit juice. Apart from this all, it has a sweet and deep feel. Exotic spices, curry, cardamom, but where is the Port? I already missed the pink hue, but I also miss its smell. Complex stuff this because there is even a lot more happening in the nose than what I noted here.

Taste: Condensed red fruits. Thick, but initially simpler than the complex nose promised. Obviously quite hot with this high ABV. The wood tastes more like paper and cardboard, than any kind of wood. Not a lot of the wealth of spices shine through on the palate, and that’s a shame. Its more a fruity Whisky with maybe some faint hints of Port. Vanilla comes next. With time if becomes more outspoken and creamy. Nice evolution though. Hints of banana in the aftertaste. Lovely.

First I have to air a disappointment. This would be a stellar malt if the spices from the nose were noticeable so more in the taste as well, without being overpowering of course. Missing the spices on the palate makes the taste of this Whisky a bit simpler than it could have been. Now that we have that out-of-the-way. The whole is still an utterly good Whisky. Very much recommended. An excellent winter warmer I would say. I will have to get me one of these soon.

Points: 88

Amrut Intermediate Sherry (57.1%, OB)

Amrut (अमृत) means something in between elixir of life and nectar of the gods. Amrut Single Malt Whisky is made by Amrut Distilleries which was founded in 1948, but just as with Paul John, it took them some time (untill 2004) to release their first Single Malt Whisky, with that, they were the first indian distillery to do so. In 2004 Amrut released its first Single Malt Whisky in Glasgow Scotland, (in the lion’s den you might say). Today and that isn’t even a decade later, Amrut already released a lot of different Single Malt Whiskies. Peated and non-peated, matured in Bourbon, Sherry, Brandy, Cognac, Port and all sorts of different casks. Amrut have even released in one bottle, Whisky matured in India and in Europe, or using malts from different continents. Lots of thinking out-of-the-box.

Amrut Intermediate SherryColor: Full ocher gold.

Nose: Sweet, buttery and creamy at first. Hints of malt and yoghurt. Even smaller hints of licorice and tar. Big bold fruity Whisky. Extremely likeable nose. I’m guessing this particular Sherry cask did some good work. But there is more, it also has a flowery element mixed in with the vanilla. Quite sweet and has a little smoky bite. Nice and complex, well balanced nose. Sometimes vegetal and smells of a little piece of lit cedar (to light a cigar with). Pencil shavings. The floral part gives of whiffs of floral soap, which adds to the complexity without making the Whisky soapy. The nose gives away the Indian origin.

Taste: Sweet, sherried, fruity and has a bite given by the high ABV, but I still won’t water this down, far too nice already. Fruity and cookie dough. The sweetness dissipates and gets more drying towards the oak. Sherried and toffee. Cask toast. Good long fruity finish, with a slight hint of bitter wood, which fits perfectly to the initial sweetness this Whisky has. A little bit less balanced, so it could have been even better than it already is!

Again a perfect example of the level the Indians got to. The Paul John Edited is already a great Whisky, and shows how a relative newcomer can make good Whisky. So I’m guessing the still is a lot of room for improvement there. Amrut is at it for a longer time, but as a Single Malt Whisky producer not even 10 years. Amrut are showing with this Sherried Intermediate that they already are giving a lot of Scottish Whiskies a run for their money. I consider this one is a must buy, I already secured myself a bottle. Great Whisky. I’m expecting great things from this distillery (as well as from John Paul). Way to go India!

Points: 87

Thanks Ashok Chokalingham for the sample, unfortunately I only had one sample bottle with me…

Paul John “Edited” (46%, OB, Batch 1, 2013)

Being a big fan of the Scottish tipple, I somehow ignored the products made in other countries for a long time. OK, I started out with Whiskey from the United States and very early on, some stuff from Ireland and Canada made its way onto my lectern, but that’s about it. If I tasted something else, I didn’t like it very much back then. Yes, back in the day the Whiskies from other countries, just weren’t all that good. More than a decade has passed now, and visiting the odd Whisky Show, I’m more and more exposed to whiskies from those “other countries” and guess what, they actually became pretty good! As we all have read earlier, Cyril Yates made some pretty good Whisky in New Zealand and here we have a Whisky from India. Whisky is getting really global!

Paul John Single Malt Whisky is made at the John Distillery in Goa, India. The distillery only started in 1992 and in just 20+ years became a big player on the Indian Whisky market. Paul John Single Malt Whisky is a more recent addition (presented to the world on the 4th of October 2012 in London, England) to the portfolio that also contains the regional brand Original Choice, which sells 10.000.000 cases annually. The company also sells another brand of Whisky, but also Brandy and Wine. According to the distillery they only have one thing in mind doing business, to make the best product possible…

The core range of Paul John Single Malt Whiskies consists of the unpeated “Brilliance”, this lightly peated “Edited” and up untill now three Single Casks. The peat for the Whisky I’m reviewing here was sourced from Aberdeen and Islay, and I guess there is no better island to source one’s peat from than Islay! 25 to 30% of the Whisky in this vatting is peated to a level of 35 ppm (parts per million) of phenols, resulting in a Whisky that is has a peating level of 8 to 10 ppm. Yes, that’s lightly peated alright. The Whisky has matured for 4 to 5 years in first fill American oak. If you are expecting a (heavily) peated Indian Whisky than this is not for you. If you’re open to a peated whisky where the peat is not about…in-your-face peat, then you’re in for a treat, if you let it.

Paul John EditedColor: Light ocher gold.

Nose: Malty and the slightest hint of peat. Perfumy and needs the warmth of your hand holding the glass. Hints of oily sowing machines. Powdery. Hints of citrus and vanilla ice-cream. A wee bit of drying wood, but when it gets to the right temperature is shows great balance. The powdery element is connected to some late fruitiness, that reminds me of vanilla yoghurt with apricots and mango. Mellow.

Taste: Malty again, and here the perfect sweetness does show up with toffee, mocha and vanilla. It was less sweet on the nose. This is nice! Extremely drinkable and 46% seems perfect for the profile. The ABV delivers a nice bite, but not alcoholic. Again a little bit of wood, but not typical oak, more like cedar or even plywood. I know this does sound horrible here, but it absolutely isn’t. The wood is in a curious way spicy and it delivers another type of bite or character, that sets it apart from most Scottish Whiskies. In the (medium) finish a little bit of paper and smoke appears (not peat).

Elegant stuff with a lot of potential. It is already a great start for Paul John, but I have a feeling they will make this even better over time. It’s time for the Scottish to wake up. The days of extreme pricing might soon be over and the consumer will wise up and turn to other whiskies, like Paul John and Amrut from India, amongst many, many others.

Points: 86