An Original Choice

by Sandeep Arora | Whisky Magazine
Paul John whisky from Goa

The first time I tasted Paul John whisky was in Bengaluru, in November 2013. My first impressions were good and I was knocked out with the shape of the bottle which was tall, regal and very attractive.

I then enjoyed the first dram and found the whisky quite expressive. After several drams, I appreciated the whisky more and more and felt myself enjoying this Indian single malt. Many months later, I held my first serious discussion about the whisky, when I was introduced to the Paul John collection at a private tasting, hosted by the Chairman Paul John and Michael D’Souza the Master Distiller. The tasting was hosted at an Indian festival, so was followed, of course, by a traditional 36 course lunch. It was a truly wonderful afternoon.

Established in 1992, John Distilleries Pvt. Ltd is one of India’s largest organised alcobev companies that has grown under the commanding guidance of Paul P John, a first generation entrepreneur.

Over the last two decades, the company has established itself as one of India’s leading spirits companies with a strong portfolio of brands, leadership in key south Indian states, a market presence in eight states across the country, and employing 2,000 employees. The company’s diverse portfolio includes whiskies (Original Choice, Black Pelican), brandy (Mont Castle, Roulette) and wine (Goanas, Big Banyan, Ampersand). Today the flagship brand of the company, Original Choice, is one of the top selling brands in India with sales exceeding ten million cases a year.

A path to a new future was laid when Paul launched a premium brand in the whisky portfolio in 2012. Below is an extract explaining how the award-winning single malt whisky came into being, in the Chairman’s words:

“My travels over the years and having lived in the USA for a while, introduced me to the fascinating world of wine and single malts. I soon discovered a particular passion for single malts. It wasn’t much later that the question occurred to me – why not make my own single malts? The thought stayed with me and eventually I decided to pursue it.” Thus, was born the eponymous Paul John Indian single malt.

A precious offering from the John Distilleries family, created in the warm, tropical, surroundings of Goa with its beautiful beaches and peaceful environs leads to almost eight per cent loss of this golden liquid annually as ‘Angel’s Share.’ Each and every process is meticulously planned by the young and talented team of distillers, brewers and chemists working under the watchful eyes of Master Distiller, Michael D’Souza. The six row barley used in the whisky is especially grown in cold weather and harvested in summer to achieve just the right maturity. The whisky owes its distinctive smokiness and taste to this special barley.

John Distilleries is surrounded by mountains where the rain water is caught and filtered by rocks. This water is free of magnesium salts which is essential for quality whisky making. All the water used is drawn from underground water sources and nearby streams. This water is also sweet in character.

The Goa region also contributes to the soft texture of the whisky, with its warm climate, strong winds and relatively low rainfall monsoons.

The Paul John range has a few well placed products, and it is now considering launching a super premium whisky, in the next few months. The brand feels that it needs to raise the bar with an aged whisky, which captures the soul of the brand.


Malt: Unpeated and peated barley.
Expressions: BOLD is peated to around 30ppm, EDITED is with a hint of peat to around 10ppm, BRILLIANCE is unpeated.
Mashing: Stainless steel mash tun – 2 tons mash – every 6 hours.
Fermentation: 8 stainless steel wash backs.
Wash backs: 15,000 litre capacity 50–60 hour fermentations, 10 additional hours of resting.
Distillation: 1 wash still (15,000 litres capacity). 1 spirit still (6,000 litres capacity).
Distillery capacity: 0.7 million lpa.


Brilliance 46% ABV
Non peated
Nose: A complex amalgam of nougat and orange blossom honey, with vanilla spinning tangled webs just beneath. Honey is captured as the Bourbon element expands and a delicate grist ushers in a freshness to the custard tart.
Taste: The mouthfeel exudes star quality with the barley generating all kinds of juicy riches and the light demerara sugars form an elegant accompaniment. A coppery spine carries the barley in varied forms while a gorgeous cocoa sub-strata heralds in the spices that buzz the taste buds at will.
Finish: Beautifully relaxed. A light tingle from the spices pulses contentedly and the vanillas gather in deeper intensity.

Edited 46% ABV
With a hint of peat
Nose: Chocolate mint evolves from the delicate peats that sit beautifully with the lesser oaky theme; a comfortable, yet always complex, nose with the smoke soft and relaxed and refusing to bully the
juicier barley.
Taste: Grassy barley shows first, but then slowly gives way as those most gentle peat notes dissolve onto the palate and begins to build momentum and intensity. Again there is a chocolate mint/mocha theme, which injects all the sweetness required.
Finish: Long, helped by to-die-for oils, some hints of spice and now some tannins, plus the vanilla. But all is beautifully weighted, patient and poised. Oh, and did I mention the chocolate mint?

Bold 46% ABV
Heavily peated
Nose: The smoke tries to rule the roost, but it is not allowed; a dizzying array of manuka honey, prickly spice and Bourbonesque red liquorice.
Taste: Melt in the mouth malt. A silky delivery – what else do you expect from India? This whisky is
shaped by oak studded honey but just as it begins to break up on the palate and lighten, a hefty second wave of spice and then thick cloudy smoke, coat the roof of the mouth, leaving tide marks of dry molasses, peaty soot and a degree of copper in its wake. Absolutely delicious.
Finish: A tad lighter on the finish with the copper really now making an impact.

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