Door number 9 of the 2018 Boutique-y Advent calendar reveals a whisky I’ve seen and tasted a fair number of times whilst on my travels – Paul John 6 year old Batch 3. Boutique-y bottled this Indian whisky back in 2016, and with just 822 bottles, it’s a little surprising to see that not only is there still enough liquid left to dram up and pack this year’s calendar with, but there’s still whole bottles available for sale. Perhaps that might be something to do with the price, or indeed fickle consumer trends…
Boutique-y’s 3rd batch of Paul John was released in November 2016 – 822 bottles delivered at 52.9%. As you’ll see from my notes, its tasty whisky – but to my mind, the sticker price makes this a really tough sale. £97.95 will get you 50cl of 6 year old whisky. Ouch. The reputation of Indian whisky is growing – particularly that of Paul John (hugely bolstered in the UK by the tireless work of brand reps Shilton and Craig who I don’t think have missed the opportunity to attend a whisky show, well, ever) who have built up an impressive selection of peated and unpeated expressions that demonstrate the growing quality of Indian whisky - which is made under much higher temperatures and humidity.
And that’s the rub – 6 years of maturation in India is not the same as 6 years of maturation in Scotland. Whether you believe in the old adage of ‘low and slow’ or not, maturation and extractive processes happen much quicker in warmer climates. But, to the uneducated whisky consumer 6 is simply a small number. It’s worth noting the sheer number of NAS expressions that are processed by distilleries who operate in similar climates – have you ever seen an age-statement on a Kavalan bottling? Age transparency is admirable, but sometimes you wonder if it holds brands back for greater sales?
Boutique-y's Paul John is expensive stuff, but then so too are each and every single cask/small batch Paul John – especially the distillery’s original bottlings. Whilst there’s growing interest in whisky of all types, the market is still largely obsessed with age-statements – the best part of £100 for a 6 year old whisky is on the one hand refreshingly transparent, but at the same time, probably off-putting to a large number of potential buyers. Amusingly though, a 6 year old Japanese whisky would no doubt fly off the shelf at this price. Reputation and trends are everything – and no one ever said that the market behaved sensibly.
Nose: Hickory chips and maple smoked bacon are joined by stewed apples and pears, cinnamon swirl buns and singed sappy ‘green’ wood. Incense and cedar both add some deep aromats, that play off against a building minerality that intensifies with resting. The addition of water adds interesting savour aromas – cream crackers, and burnt pastry.
Taste: An interplay of traditional bourbon flavours with mineral-forward peat smoke and intense cask influence. Vanilla and custard sit with maple syrup, cinnamon, cherries and molasses. Sharp smoke (less than on the nose) delivers burnt pastries, singed oak and touches of tar. There’s intense pepperiness here – it builds into a near wall of piquant spiciness that’s both drying, and a little jarring. Reduction is your friend here – just a few drops of water transforms this whisky – integrating both smoke and cask spice, whilst allowing orchard fruits (apple and pear) to shine through.
Finish: Long, highly peppery with chilli spice and a background lingering sweetness.
Out of the bottle this Paul John is a little jagged – it’s by no means raw or under-developed – but the spiciness of pepper is thunderous. Reduced, this is a completely different story, with good integration, improved balance and a real juiciness. Indeed, I found it to be both impressive and tasty once ‘rectified’. This makes for a whisky that’s hard to rate – a lower score neat, a higher one reduced. I’ll go straight down the middle of two.
Review calendar provided by Boutique-y Whisky