Indian single malts: when the Himalayas craft whisky by The Hindu

Indian single malts: when the Himalayas craft whisky by The Hindu

Published by The Hindu, India, on Jul 16, 2021.

A maverick crop of Indian distillers is achieving world rankings and sweeping international awards, with proudly Indian single malts made by barley grown in Himalayan belts

Yet another chapter in the Indian single malt script, has been written with flourish, by John Distilleries. Its operations have straddled eight manufacturing units spread over seven states since 1996, when Paul P John set up a distillery in Goa to primarily focus on single malts.

The formula is simple: six-row barley, harvested in summer at the foothills of the Himalayas, blended with Goan water assisted by locally sourced yeast. With Indian copper pot-stills, specially designed with long necks to create fruitier spirits, the malts are matured in American white oak barrels.

The warm Goan weather helps the malts mature faster. “It takes a minimum of three years to make our youngest single malts, and the oldest are seven years or above. As the liquid evolves, we work to give it the identity it deserves,” says master distiller Michael DSouza.

Nirvana, a bestseller, has a whiff of caramel pudding, with a salt-edged barley and honey on the palate and a lingering finish of vanilla.

The Zodiac Series, with two launches so far, Kanya and Mithuna, looks to the skies for inspiration. Mithuna, the world’s third finest whiskey this year, is named after Gemini, proffering a palate of mocha, tinged with orange peel and delicate spices, that ride on active tannins, gentle oils and dark cocoa tones.

“We have close to three million litres of single malt being matured in various casks from one to 12 years. What drives our prices is the uniqueness, coupled with awards and duty structures,” adds Michael.

Paul John’s Nirvana retails at ₹2,499 and prices are on the uptick for newer launches, available across 18 Indian states including Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra, as well across 45 countries.

Vikram Achanta, CEO, Tulleho, which dabbles in beverage education and consultancy, sums it up: “Indian single malts offer a unique experience; the interplay of Indian temperatures and six-row barley offers more protein and less starch than two-row barley used in Scotland, and finally the inventiveness of our master distillers that makes up the magic.”

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