For a long time, the only name in true Indian single malt was Amrut, and I think it’s fair to say that Amrut introduced the world to Indian Single Malt Whisky and single-handedly created the category. Shortly after in 2012, former producer of molasses-based blended “whiskies”, John Distilleries (based in Bangalore, India) launched its Paul John single-malt whisky at a separate distillery in Goa.
As Goa is located squarely in the tropics, high heat causes barrel strength to increase in the cask as more water than alcohol evaporates. This sort of “reverse Angel’s Share” also occurs in other parts of the world, such as Kentucky in the USA, and isn’t as simple as it sounds. If you’re interested in the physics of it, this is a great overview. Like other hot areas of the world, whisky matures much faster in India (and Taiwan, and Kentucky) than in Scotland.
“Brilliance” is distilled from Himalayan 6-row barley and aged in ex-bourbon barrels for around 6 years, and is bottled at 46% ABV without chill filtration or added color. Remember that since whisky ages faster in India, 3 – 5 years is equivalent to 10 – 15 years in Scotland.
Nose: Earthy, spiced fragrance that reminds me of patchouli. Caramelized roasted plantains, buttered popcorn, and butterscotch. Nutty, with buttery peanuts, cashews, and sweetened dried coconut. Flan with caramel sauce. Unusual, but compelling.
Palate: Rich, syrupy body. A mild tongue burn is followed by deeply sweet butterscotch candies, nougat, and cardamom.
Finish: Medium-long. Spiced again, with cinnamon, clove, dates, and pistachios. Fades with some oaky resin.
With Water: Several drops of water muddy the aroma, requiring a rest in the glass. The water pulls out a banana note and seems to mute some of the complexity. The palate is a little livelier, as is the finish. I’d skip the water here.
Overall: A very unusual dram. It is distinctly Indian whisky, with notes that I’ve never encountered in Scottish single malts before. The overall impression is of richness and sweetness, with exotic spices and nutty, earthy flavors dotted throughout.
Special Holiday Edition of ScotchNoob: See my review of Paul John “Christmas Edition” 2021!