KWM 2022 Whisky Calendar Day 3: Paul John PX Select Cask
Posted on December 3, 2022
It is time to see what sits behind door number three in the 2022 KWM Whisky Calendar. Behind the portal, you will find a bottle of Paul John PX Select Cask Indian Single Malt!
This marks our first excursion outside of Scotland in this year’s calendar. This is not the only time we have headed to India if you have had some of our past Whisky Calendars though. The more well-known Amrut Distillery has been featured previously, though you have to go all the way back to 2015 to find the Amrut Fusion in the calendar. It is a bit surprising that we haven’t featured the highly touted Amrut more since then…
The same goes for Paul John – we originally planned for this bottle to be in last year’s 2021 KWM Whisky Calendar. Thanks to the catch phase of that year - shipping delays – we didn’t receive these bottles until the 2021 Calendar was already sold out and entirely built. Luckily it allowed us to get a jump start on the 2022 Calendar instead…
Paul John is perhaps not yet a household name at least in whisky terms. If you are a Beatles fan, I am sure the name resonates with you, though I don’t believe that was planned with the branding. John Distillery resides in Cuncolim; a city in the southwestern coastal state of Goa, India. The distillery was founded in 1992 by Paul P. John and it originally focused on a different style of “whisky” that is only recognized as such in India itself.
This Indian Whisky is made primarily from molasses to a high enough alcohol level to make it essentially neutral, with only a small amount of grain whisky added. The Indian Whisky category has historically far outstripped the sales of true grain or malt-based whisky within India itself, with some labels easily outselling the likes of Johnnie Walker and Jack Daniels on the global stage. The whisky brands of McDowell’s, Officer’s Choice, Imperial Blue, and Royal Stag may not even be seen on the shelves in Alberta but they are powerhouses in India, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.
John Distilleries itself still makes this style of Indian whisky today, with their Original Choice brand made from a combination of distilled molasses and malt whisky. It sells around 150 million bottles per year within India alone, according to the Malt Whisky Yearbook. To put that in perspective: Johnnie Walker is the best-selling Scotch whisky brand and currently sells around 230 million bottles per year.
This neutral molasses-spirit-driven style of “whisky” is not what is in the bottle of Paul John PX though. This is bonafide single malt whisky made from 100% malted barley, distilled in pot stills at Paul John’s Goa distillery. The pot stills were installed in 2007, and mark the beginning of the Paul John brand that hits our shelves and others internationally. The first Paul John single malt was released in 2012 and the original core range consisted of the unpeated Brilliance, The lightly peated Edited and the heavily pated Bold. The PX bottling that we will be tasting is from the Select range of slightly more limited runs.
All Paul John Single Malts are made using locally-grown six-row barley which is harvested from farmland in the more northern Indian states of Rajasthan and Haryana and into the foothills of India’s side of the Himalayan mountain range. The peat used for the peated releases in the Paul John Single Malt range is imported from Aberdeen and Islay in Scotland. The Peat is then kilned in the traditional manner and used to dry the barley within the John Distillery’s own complex.
Like Amrut and the Taiwanese Kavalan Single Malt Whiskies, Paul John boasts a high angel’s share thanks to the tropical climate that its warehouses reside in. According to Paul John’s own website, the average evaporation in the cask is around 8-10%. For reference, the average in the cooler climate of Scotland is roughly 2-4%. This results in what many like to call an “accelerated maturation”. I don’t really like that term, but regardless of my own feelings the aging whisky definitely lives a more volatile and oak-influenced maturation before bottling thanks to its more tumultuous activity in the cask.
Pedro Ximenez Sherry is a sweet, dessert-like style of Sherry. That decadence should contribute a great deal to this single malt whisky. Shall we give this Paul John a taste and find out?
The Paul John Pedro Ximenez is an unpeated single malt made using India-grown six-row barley, which tends to contain more starch than four-row barley typically used in making Single Malt Scotch. The PX is finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks and bottled without chill-filtration or added colouring at 48% ABV.
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: Pralines and beer nuts, Caramilk bars, apple chips, dried apricots, oatmeal with brown sugar, shortbread with cinnamon sugar topping, and a touch of Tawny Port.
Palate: Big rich sherry notes, though it doesn’t go into full maple syrup mode like some PX finishes seem to. Very starchy and nutty with more praline notes. More of an Oh Henry bar note on the palate. Sponge toffee and Coffee Crisp notes in there as well as some dates and dried mango.
Finish: Long, nutty and just a touch drying with a hint of amaro-like bitterness.
Comment: This is a wonderfully decadent single malt with plenty of chocolate, toffee and nut notes. Somehow it manages to be rich without being cloying which is impressive. I want another dram of this already, and my glass isn’t even emptied yet.
With Paul John out of the way, will a Ringo George Single Malt be in store for tomorrow so that we can complete the Beatles set? Probably not, but what will day four bring us? Only time will tell!
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