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Paul John Single Malt Whiskies From India


We still get a few raised eyebrows when punters peruse the Indian section of our single malt whisky range in store at the Oak Barrel. It becomes evident pretty quickly, however, that the quality is nothing to be questioning.

Bangalore’s Amrut has been the trailblazer for Indian whiskies in the global export market but the category has recently been bolstered by the arrival of Paul John, based in Goa.

John Distilleries Limited has been active since 1992 and their domestic whisky – Original Choice – moves over 10 million cases per year. They’ve also got popular brandy and wine labels in their home market.

But their Paul John Single Malt Whisky range, something they began producing in 2006, is a completely different beast.

Aimed at the export markets, the same quality controls that you see in the Scottish whisky industry are applied at all stages of production. This is whilst the team maintains a distinctly ‘new world’ approach – getting the best product they can as efficiently as they can.

The biggest difference Indian whiskies have to most of the world’s production is something they have in common with Australian distilleries – the climate. Goa is not highland Scotland and the heat and humidity differences speed up the maturation process inside oak casks. What you get is richly flavoured whiskies in a fraction of the time. There’s also a necessity to bottle earlier thanks to an increased angel’s share – there might not be anything left in the barrel after ten years if you’re losing up to 13 percent of volume per annum.

In real terms that quicker maturation doesn’t just affect flavour, it helps keep the price down as well.

Paul John, under the guidance of master distiller Michael John, use a fair bit of peat in their production, which is sourced from Scotland (as Amrut also do) as it does not form in India. One aspect of production that is uniquely Indian, though, is the barley.

Using a Himalayan six-row strain of barley rather than Scotland’s traditional two-row, the higher-protein six-row doesn’t provide as high an alcohol yield but helps in the structure and flavour retention of the whiskies.

The distillery uses American oak to mature their spirit as well as in the Goa climate French and other European oak varieties would impart too many tannins in the final product.

The Oak Barrel has, in years past, sourced bottlings of the Paul John single malts via the UK market but now the brand is establishing a strong presence in Australia/New Zealand.

In store now are four complex and different expressions from the distillery at impressive ABVs and extremely well priced.

Fruity and spicy when unpeated and powerful when peated, the Edited (lightly peated) and Bold (heavily peated) are fantastic rich expressions under the $100 mark. Their Select Cask offerings are aged longer, up to seven years, and bottled around the 55%. 


A broad, deep, peated expression, 46%. $99.95 or $89.96 for members.



Rich with sweet barley and milk chocolate, 46%. $99.95 or $89.96 for members.


A very fruity dram with deep sugars, 55.2% $122 or $109.80 for members.


Intense but delicate dry smoke, 55.5%. $125 or $112.50 for members.


Scott Fitzsimons