If you haven`t heard about whisky from India then it might come as a surprise that the country that drinks the most whisky, by a vast margin, is India! Paul John’s distillery is in the state of Goa, located on the western coastline stretching along the Arabian Sea. The company has been making blended whisky since its foundation in 1996 and decided to make single malt whisky in 2008 with the first bottles landing in the UK in 2012. They operate with two sets of Indian-made copper pot stills that can produce around 6000 litres a day. The most obvious difference is the temperature; it rarely drops below 20 degrees in “winter” and can hit 40 in the summer with very high levels of humidity. We have been fortunate to interview Shilton Almeida from Paul John Distillery and to ask him a few more questions.
WDF: Hi Shilton. Thanks very much for your time today. For those who don't know you ... Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself: Where do you come from – career background etc. And how did you end up working for Paul John?
Shilton: I am originally from Goa, India. Born in the “party capital of India”, so you know what to expect. I kicked off my career from the hospitality industry in Goa itself and then worked for 5 years in travel retail in the Middle-east. This is when I was first introduced to the world of whiskies. But again, selling whiskies in the Middle-east was like “ you can see & touch but you cannot try”;) So I moved back to Goa in 2012 when I came across this opportunity to join Paul John distillery into sales in the local market. In 2015, I moved into UK looking after the UK market for the company and today I look after UK & Northern European markets for Paul John. It’s the passion that drove me here and I enjoyed every bit of my journey.
WDF: The award-winning, Paul John Indian Single Malt has won over 200 prestigious international awards in such a short span of time. The portfolio includes 3 flagship expressions – BRILLIANCE, EDITED and BOLD, 2 Select Cask expressions – CLASSIC and PEATED, and the occasional limited edition like the OLOROSO and the KANYA. What makes the whisky so unique (apart from the fact that it is from India)?
Shilton: Every whisky is unique and different in its own way. When it comes to Paul John, 100% Indian ingredients and the wonderful tropical climate in Goa where the distillery is located, makes it even more unique. 6 row Indian malted barley gives Paul John its sweet and creamy texture. The tropical hot and humid climate makes the whisky more mineral in character. And a high amount of extraction from the wood during maturation makes Paul John a BOLD & VIBRANT whisky. WDF: Looking into the distilleries flagship products we find 4 expressions (Brilliance, Edited, Bold and Nirvana) three bottled at 46% ABV and one at 40% ABV. Do you find that the Paul John spirit is developing as its best at this range? Shilton: We want to cater to every palate so our range of Paul John whiskies are bottled from 40% (chill-filtered) up to 60%(non-Chill-filtered). Nirvana at 40% ABV is an easy sipping entry level whisky. Brilliance with higher ABV has more flavours and a longer finish, Edited is lightly peated and is a delightful introduction to peated whiskies while Bold is a well-rounded peated whisky perfect for peat lovers. These high-volume flagships are bottled at 46% ABV. Most of the Limited releases are bottled at higher ABV, especially the single casks which are bottled at 60% ABV.
WDF: Within the Select Cask range, we notice a Peated expression. Please explain to us where you source the peat from and how and how often PJ operates the production of peated whisky.
Shilton: Peat is imported from Scotland, and is sourced from Islay and the Highlands. Of our total production, 30% is Peated single Malt.
WDF: For our enthusiast for sherry cask matured whisky, please explain where you source your sherry (Oloroso & PX) casks from and how does the humidity in India reflects the maturing process?
Shilton: The sherry casks are sourced from Montilla in southern Spain. Because of the warm and humid climatic conditions in Goa, we get more extraction from the casks and this makes the whisky more robust.
WDF: The Kanya expression got awarded as BEST ASIAN WHISKY 2018 from JIM MURRAY, WHISKY BIBLE. Can you explain what makes this whisky so special?
Shilton: Kanya by Paul John is the first release of our zodiac series. The series will own expressions named after the Indian counterpart of each Zodiac sign and will have characteristics similar to the traits of the concerned zodiac sign. In this series the oldest whisky is drawn for bottling based on the specific characteristic of the zodiac sign. Kanya by Paul John is a 7 year old limited release edition, with soft sensuous aromas and flavours and hence was aptly named Kanya, the Indian counterpart of the zodiac sign Virgo. Not more than 5000 bottles of each expression in this series are made and sold globally. These casks are not used for our regular expressions.
WDF: What markets are the strongest for you?
Shilton: India is a big market for us and is fast growing, while USA, France, Germany and UK are our other big markets.
WDF: Pushing the news alert button a bit further .... Can you tell us what we will be able to expect in 2020/21 in regard to new releases or projects?
Shilton: Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso finish select casks were released early this year. We hope to be able to release the second in line of the Zodiac series and Christmas Edition 2020 later this year if all goes well.
WDF: Can we expect Paul John Distillery attending different shows for 2020/2021 in Europe?
Shilton: Yes! Once life gets back to normal for all of us, you’ll definitely see Paul John at a lot of shows across Europe.
WDF: How did the global pandemic Covid19 affect your job and what did change?
Shilton: The pandemic has put a halt to all of us I believe. And for me who used to travel once every week or two, it is a complete change. But the show must go on! So working from home and attending virtual festivals and tastings with different customers over the internet. Thanks to the technology, it made life easier.
WDF: As you might know... WeeDramFife will be hosting different sorts of whisky experiences once the lockdown is over. Could you see Paul John Distillery taking part in special multi-sensory events in Germany and also releasing a special bottling for the German market?
Shilton: Yes, for sure! We will be happy to participate in your events in the future. We do have single casks exclusively bottled only for the German market before (Paul John Cask #4914 available in stores) and there will be more coming out soon.
WDF: Last but not least ... What is your all-time favourite dram?
Shilton: I love peated whiskies more. Paul John Bold is my go to whisky from the range. But it all depends on the mood that I am in and I love to try different styles too. So I would end up having one expression from every distillery as a favourite
WDF: In addition to that... I am wondering if you would be interested in an online tasting session via Zoom to represent Paul John Whisky. We would love to chat about the distillery, the making process but also the maturing process from Paul John Whisky. We are planning whisky events in Germany shortly and it would be great if we could work with Paul john Whisky on this as well. Shilton: Absolutely! I would love to be a part of this.
WDF: Thanks very much and see you soon in Germany! :)