This last weekend I was at the Whisky Live show in London, being one of the main whisky festivals held in the UK I was looking forward to going. This enthusiasm wasn’t just for the show, I had been asked by Shilton Almeida if I would like to meet Mr Paul John himself. That was it my ticket was booked and travel arrangements made, this was an opportunity I was not going to miss.
So I arrived at the show early full of enthusiasm and also feeling a little nervous. After meeting up with Shilton and having a quick catch up the show started. I helped out on the stand while I was waiting for my opportunity to meet Mr John, it wasn’t long before Shilton introduced me to the man himself and Asa the head of communication and PR for Paul John. It was so nice to final meet Asa who has been a wealth of information and help, she has been very supportive in passing on any information I asked for when doing my blogs.
Asa lead myself and Mr John to a quiet area of the show so we could sit down and have the meeting. Now I originally had a set of questions I wanted to ask and get the answers for, it wasn’t long before this went out of the window in a good way. The meeting turned so quickly into a informal chat, almost a catch up between friends that hadn’t seen each other in a while. Both Paul John and Asa set me at easy instantly and were as interested in what I had to say about the industry and how I preceived Paul John whisky as I was with them.
During the chat I got to find out the history of Paul John Single Malt, now I know about how Mr John started working for his dad’s business. Which in turn lead to the him setting up his own company John Distilleries Ltd, which with his drive and passion has grown into a very successful company. With a portfolio of brands that include Mônt Castle brandy, Big Banyan wines and the hugely successful Original Choice blended whisky. So when he started to talk to me about the journey he took to research the possibility of a single malt being made in India, I was struck by the passion he had for this instantly. The numerous trips to distilleries to research the process and see what the difference would be between them, taking the results of this research to confirm to himself that India could make a single malt just like those produced in Scotland.
So when he decided he could make a single malt in India, this wasn’t about commercial gain but about the passion to make something that was world class. This was something that during the conversation with him I could see was still very much the case. He told me about how even though they were not bound by the rules set by the SWA, he wanted to make his single malt the same way. Now I know that they use ingredients that are sourced from India with the exception of the peat (imported from Scotland), but I didn’t know that the distillery pot still was made in India with Indian copper. It was theses little details that I learned from him that were making this conversation better than me just asking a few questions, getting to hear from Mr John directly about his commitment to the brand. How he wants to have a single malt that can rival a malt produce in any country, but not price it out of the range of all whisky fans.
I obviously wanted to ask about future releases having just tried and bought the limited Oloroso single cask from Paul John, we talked about the casks maturing in the warehouse in Goa and how Mr John won’t let any cask leave for bottling unless he would be willing to purchase it himself. As for the future releases there are some very exciting expressions coming up, I had the opportunity to try two that are due for release this year.
The first is called “Kanya” a unpeated limited release at 50% abv. This was a lovely dram with the nose being very delicate considering the abv, the palate was rich with fruit and spice and full bodied with out being overpowering. This was such an easy dram to drink the second is another limited release but this one is peated and bottled at 56.9% abv. It is called “Mars Orbiter” to celebrate the launch of the Mars probe by India in 2013, this one was my favourite and I will say anyone who gets hold of it will be very lucky to have something so sublime. I could have spent all my time at the show with my nose in the glass with this one, it was so complex and enthralling. Then the palate just raised what was already a great experience to whole new level, I would have bought one there and then if it was available.
Even though I got to try these new expressions and talked about future releases, with possibilities of more Sherry casks and even some wine ones too. What was most refreshing for me was that these new expressions and any future ones are important to Mr John, but they are not as important as maintaining the standard he has for the core range. He was very animated about his commitment to maintaining this standard and that his whisky should be available to everyone who enjoys it. With that in mind he has doubled production at the distillery, he thinks he is taking a gamble but feels he will need the increased production. I personally don’t see this as a gamble with the quality that is coming out of the distillery, I think that he will certainly need that extra production to keep up with demand.
After talking to Mr John for a while I then had the pleasure of seeing him work on the stand with myself, Shilton and Benjamin. His enthusiasm for meeting and talking to people interested in his single malts never once waned. This is a man on a mission, I believe he has the drive and determination to make Paul John Single Malt a class leading whisky to rival any malt in the world.
I would like to say a big thank you to Shilton Almeida for the opportunity to meet Mr Paul John and Asa. It was a great day and experience for me.