Published by Noor Anand, Everything Experiential on 02-Jun-2022.
Connoisseurs of the finer things in life will tell you that the best single malt whisky comes from Scotland, and nothing else passes muster. Yet, looking at this long-held belief in the face is the tremendous success of Japanese whiskies. And now India is catching up too. Goa-based Paul John Whisky, an award-winning single malt made by John Distilleries, is making a name for itself in the country and around the world.
In a freewheeling chat with Everything Experiential, Paul P John, the brand’s Founder and Chairman, says, “Years of research and study on the act of distillation as well as the country’s whisky culture, convinced me that I could create a single malt that would present the innumerable hues of India - a single malt made in India for Indians to relish and for the whole world to experience. I call it ‘The Great Indian Single Malt’.”
A passion for spirits:
Founded in 1996, John Distilleries is the manufacturer of the world’s sixth-largest whisky brand called Original Choice. Its other brands include Bangalore Malt, Black Pelican Fine Whisky, Mont Castle French Grape Brandy and Big Banyan Wines. Paul John, a single malt whisky made by John Distilleries, was released in 2012 to cater to a niche market.
It was Paul’s singular passion to create a world-class whisky in India. With the skill of his Master Distiller Michael D’Souza, he was able to do so. He declares with pride, “My father was in the business of trading alcohol and I had worked with him while I was still studying. When I completed my education, it felt natural to make whiskies. I launched Original Choice in 1995 and today it’s one of the top ten largest selling whiskies in the world. Paul John Single Malts were launched in 2012 and are now available in across 40 countries. They have won over 285 globally acclaimed awards. In fact, they are the most awarded Indian single malt today. With each sip of every expression, one can relish with fervour the rich flavours of India.”
John Distilleries stands apart from other local distilleries as they offer a wide array of choices to suit every palate and preference. They are particular about their use of six row barley that is sourced from the northern regions of India, owing to its high quality. Due to its high fibre and protein content, the six row barley offers a distinct and bold depth of character to the spirit. The more proteins and tannins in the barley the higher the concentration of fatty acids to add to the whisky’s robust character.
It is this attention to detail that made Sazerac, the second-largest family-owned spirits company in the US, take a strategic investment in John Distilleries.
What’s on offer:
John Distilleries makes whiskies in every segment, including Original Choice which is a mass brand IMFL whisky. They recently launched a premium peated blended malt whisky called Roulette Premium Whisky. Specifically, in the Paul John Indian Single Malt range, they have a large array of expressions. The Paul John single malts offer unpeated and peated variants as well as special sherry cask finished malts and the occasional limited edition.
Their single malt distillery is located in Goa. The team believes that the tropical climate of the region as well as the water sourced from there, has an influence on the intrinsic character of their whiskies.
Paul explains, “Goa was specially chosen as the home of our single malts, not just for its unique micro-climate but also because the destination holds a special place in my heart. Having always enjoyed the beaches, food and the warmth of its people, Goa was the perfect choice to set up the malt plant. Water is one of the most important ingredients in the making of whisky and the pure underground table of water in Goa, along with rain-fed water sources and water flowing through the Western Ghats that are naturally filtered through the Goan wetlands, ensures the high quality of our whiskies with the perfect balance of minerals.”
Another unique point in favour of Paul John Whisky is the fact that it is made in custom-made copper pot-stills, specially designed with long necks to create fruitier spirits. Further, copper helps remove impurities by reacting with the sulphuric compounds present in the newly distilled spirit, giving a smooth, clear finish to the unaged whisky.
Paul elucidates, “The underground warehouse at Paul John Whisky has a capacity of 4,000 casks with a comfortable temperature and is less humid. The upper warehouses are warmer at ground level and house about 12,000 casks. Once used American oak bourbon barrels from the United States are used to age the new spirit. Goa’s tropical climate matures Paul John whisky faster. Plus, high temperatures are believed to accelerate the creation of intense flavours as the whisky matures in oak barrels. A whisky develops different compositions of flavours at different temperatures, so the Indian single malt whisky has its own unique configuration of flavours.”
Growth in numbers:
Paul has faced a number of challenges over the years - from licensing to raising funds, to getting the product on the shelves to competing with other large, established companies and brands in the industry. However, he claims that sheer focus, dedication, and passion for what he does has been his biggest motivation.
Having started out with an investment in the liquor industry of around Rs 50 lakhs, John Distilleries has seen phenomenal growth. An example of this is the fact that in the financial year 2021-22, they touched over 19 million cases for Paul John Whisky.
According to the latest data available on expertmarketresearch.com, the Indian whiskey market reached a volume of 1.35 billion litres in 2020. In the forecast period of 2022-2027, the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17 per cent to reach 2.82 billion litres by 2026. As the producer of India’s foremost single malt whisky, Paul John Whisky is placed to do well.
Paul John Single Malts are available across 18 states in India and in Central Securities Depository (CSD) as well. They are also available internationally in over 40 countries including USA, UK, Germany, France, Australia, and others.
Prices vary from state to state in India, ranging from Rs 3500 onwards for the flagship expressions, while Paul John Nirvana, which is the entry level premium single malt, is priced at approximately Rs 1800. Next on the cards is the launch of their own range of premium gin, which is set to happen soon.
When asked about direct competition, Paul believes there is none. He categorically says each whisky is different from the other as it has its own identity and loyal customers.
“We market our whiskies across various media including digital platforms, on-ground events, tastings, reviews, and associations with single malt and whisky connoisseurs. It’s been an honour and a privilege to create great single malts that are enjoyed and appreciated across the country and the world,” he said.
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