For anyone staying in North Goa who has looked on Google and seen the distance is 60km and thought 'that should take about an hour and a quarter', think again. Two and a half hours after setting from Candolim off in a cab we arrived at the gates. Do not let this put you off visiting, it gives you the chance to see a bit more of Goa on route. Alternatively, just holiday in the South from where the journey is a little easier.
Greeted by Pankaj, who was showing us around, at the entrance you are welcomed by 2 sculpted elephants who are holding bells in their trunks. This visitor centre has an old colonial feel to it with tiled floors and lovely high arched windows letting in lots of light, completely in keeping with its environment, and has a sanctum like feel to it. If this is a temple to Indian Single Malt whisky then i am a pilgrim.
On to look at the stills and the distilling process, interestingly this distillery has no lock on their spirit safe. For anybody who has traveled in India and experienced Indian bureaucracy this was a big surprise. We were invited to try the new make spirit and i have to say it is uncommonly sippable. Whether this is to do with the use of 6 row barley from the foothills of the Himalayas or not i am unsure but it certainly is a sweeter, smoother spirit than any i have tried before.
Next was a visit to the warehouses where over 8000 casks are currently maturing (and at a rate that Scottish distillerys can only dream of achieving due to the climate, i am told 1 year ageing here is equivalent to 4 in Scotland) we saw predominantly bourbon casks but also sherry and i am sure i also spotted the odd wine cask. I couldn't tell you what wine it was but look forward to seeing if it makes its way into a bottle in future. There also appears to be building work going on to increase the warehouse capacity.
Lastly a visit to the tasting room where you can see me standing behind the bar in the picture wishing that was my actual job, where we were invited to taste the range. It was a little early in the day to do the complete flight so i plumped to try the Brilliance, The Bold, the Classic Select Cask and the Xmas Edition 2018.
Xmas Edition 2018
A blend of peated and unpeated malts finished in Oloroso. Whilst this is no 'Sherry Bomb' the Oloroso characteristics are definitely there. Honeyed on the nose, dried fruits and citrus hints that seem to be consistent across the whole Paul John range. An exquisite almost oily coating on the palate, the taste is absolutely festive, xmas pud, more dried fruits and waxy orange peel followed by a strong finish of gentle spice. I will definitely be sharing a bottle of this with my guests over Christmas and can heartily recommend.
The other 3 whiskies have been reviewed plenty but for my brief tuppence worth...
The Brilliance 46%
I would call this the entry level whisky of the range and if i ever am invited around to any of your houses and you offer me a dram of this i would be more than happy. For my wife Dolly, who has not drunk whisky since as a 7 year old she downed a glass thinking it was apple juice (and after having been dragged around more than the odd distillery), this was her first taste of whisky for many years. I think she accepted out of politeness but... Hallelujah, she enjoyed it!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you Paul John for sewing the first seeds of conversion.
Select Cask Paul John Classic 55.2%
Sweet fruit on the nose, memories of foam candy sweets from childhood. Taste, more fruits and hints of chocolate, lots of honeyed sweetness with lovely peppery spice. I love it.
The Bold 46%
Peated but i would say gently peated. This is no Octomore. The nose reminds me of cleaning out the hearth the day after a wood fire. Toast, orange peel and demerara. Tastes fruity, sweet and spicy. Very pleasant but not 'Bold' enough for my liking.
So, a truly memorable day at Paul John distillery, we are very grateful to Shilton Almeida for organising for us and for Pankaj for his wonderful hosting. The visitor centre officially opens at the end of December i believe and if you need any more reason to visit beautiful Goa, aside from the amazing beaches, wonderful sunsets, fantastic winter climate and mouth watering food this place is it. Be a pilgrim, make the pilgrimage. You will not regret or forget it.”