Paul John Master Distiller Michael D’Souza has talked to The Shout about Indian whisky, explaining why Australia’s bars are key to its growth as well as explaining some of the misconceptions around Indian whisky and why he doesn’t use age statements.

Michael also talked about the Paul John Nirvana Whisky, now available in Australia, which is a single malt Indian whisky, created for bartenders to use, have fun with and create cocktails.

“Nirvana is the youngest whisky in our portfolio and it comes from ex-Bourbon casks. It’s bottled at 40 per cent and that means Nirvana is chill-filtered,” he told The Shout. “We don’t promote bartenders using expensive single malts for cocktails. So Nirvana can be used in cocktails and also, this particular whisky is for those who are in transition from blended whisky to single malt.”

So while bartenders can understand the flavour profiles of whisky and create cocktails that play to those flavours, Paul John also needs to engage the consumer into the concept of Indian whisky, and once again that is an area where bars work well for this whisky.

“In Australia we are focusing on the bars. That is where people get to taste whisky and we believe in liquid to lips. Single malt is not cheap any more and especially people who are wanting to try things they cannot experiment by spending lots of dollars. So the best for them to try is in bars and we will always try to promote our products in bars.”

Paul John is supported and distributed by SouthTrade International in Australia, so it has a strong team who understand whisky, understand bars and understand growing brands in this country supporting it. Arguably Paul John and Indian whisky are sitting now where Japanese whisky was 10 years ago, with consumers unsure about the product, but once they sampled it they can appreciate how good it is.

Michael explained that while there are some misconceptions around Indian whisky, things have changed over the last decade.

“India is one of the leading alcohol consuming countries in the world and that includes all liquor,” he said. “The magnitude of the consumption and affordability is because India has very lenient regulations when it comes to alcohol. We have two categories of alcohol, one is known as IMFL, which stands for Indian made foreign liquor and the other one is proper whiskies.

“When it comes to IMFL this is unmatured spirit, which depending on the category two, 20 or 40 per cent of mature spirit is added as part of blending. Until 2010, not many people knew that India also made single malt whisky. The very first distillery was set up by the British 100 years ago and prior to Amrut and Paul John there were already 20 distilleries making single malt, but they were using their liquid to make blended whisky and no-one had tried launching their own single malt brand.

“Because of IMFL there was a very bad perception about Indian whisky across the board, people thought India made whisky from molasses, but we are making excellent single malt whisky now and people understand that.”

Australia is now one of the major markets for Paul John and the distillery has four different categories in its portfolio first is Nirvana, the entry level single malt. The second one is flagship which comprises three different expressions: Brilliant which is unpeated, Edited has a hint of peat and Bold which is completely peated and each of those are bottled at 46 per cent.

Then comes Select Cask, with six different expressions from ex-Bourbon to Spanish Oak and Portuguese Oak, these are limited editions bottled between 48 and 55 per cent. The comes the Zodiac series, which so far has two expressions, Kanya, which is Virgo in English and the second is Mithuna, or Gemini. Paul John has won over 250 awards in eight years and Michael says he wants to develop whiskies that each have their own character and quality, but he is not driven by age statements.

“We don’t believe in age statements at Paul John, I believe for the customer age is not a priority any more. When I started drinking whisky, I always saw an age statement on Scottish bottles and today even traditional distilleries have started bottling without age statements. So for me age is not a criteria, what you need is the right balance of flavours.

“Older is not better in India, the amount of extraction we get is quite high so we say one year of extraction in India is equal to four years of extraction in other regions. We started in 2008 and we do have whiskies close to 13 years old that are in a healthy condition, but we also lose a substantial amount of alcohol to the angel’s share.”

Australia is seeing a growing swell of consumers trying Indian whisky and also consumers who are looking to try new high quality whiskies. So to help you answer the ‘I want to try a whisky I haven’t tried before’ conundrum, contact your local SouthTrade representative and ask them to take you through Paul John and understand why liquid on lips is so important.

This story was first published on Bars and Clubs, click here to subscribe to the weekly newsletter.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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