A Lovely Tour in Rainy Goa
It was a rainy monsoon day in Goa when I arrived at the airport. Dominic picked me up and drove me to the Paul John Distillery. Little did I know that I would be directly led to the Master Distiller’s cabin! I was immediately brought to meet Michael D’Souza, Master Distiller, Paul John Distillery.
Michael was a cool, calm and collected gentleman that exuded an easy, casual air about himself. I later learned that style about himself was wonderfully reflected in the whiskies he’s created.
Michael introduced me to his philosophy to spirits and the distillery. His golden statement seemed to be, ‘Whisky making is 50% science and 50% art.’ Michael had been distilling spirits for over 20 years and his whiskies show his knowledge of both the science and art.
Michael gave me an overview of their whisky making process over a cup of coffee in his office. He told me how they use Indian barley for their whiskies due to the higher carbohydrate content. Most of the new make whisky is matured in American Oak, both virgin oak and ex-bourbon casks. At Paul John, they follow the international convention of maturing their whiskies for a minimum of 3 years before being bottled- but most releases are between 5 to 7 years old. All of their releases are non-chill filtered with no color added and are bottled at 46% ABV or above.
The Paul John Whisky Distillery has a very interesting set up in that it has 2 warehouses to mature the whiskies- one being above ground and one below ground. This gives them the ability to create two very different whiskies. The warehouse below is cooler and protected from the elements and produces more elegant whiskies. The above ground warehouse is subject to Goa’s climate and its proximity to the ocean and produces whiskies with more robust character- lots of mineral notes, salt, etc.
Paul John Single Malt has 3 flagship expressions. Brilliance, Edited, and Bold. Brilliance is floral and elegant. Edited has some peat notes within. Bold is a heavily peated whisky. There is something for everyone with the 3 flagship expressions.
They also have limited runs of their selected cask range, “Selected from the best of the barrels”. Classic is 100% unpeated. And there is Select Cask Peat which is obviously peated. Michael had me try a sample of a limited run that, I swear to you, tasted like Christmas Cake in a glass! When I exclaimed after tasting it, Michael just smiled. Cool, calm and collected. “50% art and 50% science”, he says. “When you produce the whisky, it’s science. Once it goes into the barrel, you take over. You create what you want. It’s art.” In a year, Paul John has about 6-10 limited release casks. They are currently working on growing this project.
Michael says, “For me, any product or anything, you should have originality. You have to stick to fundamentals and then improvise. Stick to the basics and launch from there.” And this is how he approached peated whiskies at Paul John.
The distillery imports peat from Scotland, particularly Aberdeen and Islay. The peats are mellow and sharp in profile respectively. The Paul John Bold expression is made with Islay peat. Edited and select casks use a mix of both peats to increase the complexity. Peat being a plant material is difficult to import. This of course adds to the costs of the whiskies.
If you’ve read this far, I just want to say thank you very much for doing so. It is because of readers like you that encourage me to research places like Paul John. If you know of anyone that would like to read and learn about whiskies, please share this newsletter and blog with them. And if you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, I highly encourage you do so. Okay, let’s get back to the story…
Michael then took me on a tour of the facility. It was just amazing. I was awe-struck most of the time. He gave me a sample from one of their casks. He went over the construction of the still. He told me their plans of expansion and the development of a visitors’ center. And finally the tour culminated in the tasting of the different expressions.
But the tasting notes will have to come in another post… I was able to appreciate the ‘art’ that Michael told me about! Until next time everyone, have a great week and weekend. Please drink responsibly.
PS- A big thank you goes to Asa Abraham, Shilton Almeida, Ajay Bhoja, and of course, Michael D’Souza for making this distillery tour possible. And a special thanks goes to my wife for supporting me in pursing this passion of mine!