This event with Paul John, and the amazing Koray, is something we’ve talked about in the group for a while and it seemed like there was no better time to do it than a Pandemic. We needed good whisky and friendly faces and this promised to have both in droves… and that promise was delivered. It was a great night, my second favorite Malt Nuts of 2020 and exactly what we needed; a fun and surprising event. Fun because Koray is freaking awesome and surprising because many of the Malt Nuts got to experience Paul John for the first time that night.
Here are how the rounds broke down, but before we dig into the tasting notes I have a couple of quick notes about my notes…
- Round 1: Paul John focused on ex-bourbon casks and no peat
- Round 2: Paul John focused on ex-sherry casks
- Round 3: Paul John focused on peat
Since I’ve already had most of these multiple times at multiple Paul John tastings it was easier for me to remember what was in each round, unlike the rest of the Malt Nuts tastings where I pretty much forget after the bottling is done. Because of that, and knowing Nirvana was whisky 1A, I wanted to focus on the differences between the all refill barrel aged Nirvana as a baseline and, well, everything else.
So, armed with a quad pour (2 oz) of Nirvana from my own review bottle, I spent most of the night A:B sniffing and sipping between whatever was in the lineup and the Nirvana. It was fun and exciting. I’ve attended several PJ tastings, but this is the first time I’ve been able to do this kind of a mass-scale A:B with this epic of a semi-blind lineup. So when you’re looking at the notes on OB (original bottler) releases below, keep this in mind.
If you want to see my full tasting notes for any of the OBs, along with age and cask details, I linked out to the TWJ posts in the name of the whisky. Anything that isn’t an OB, like the G&M, or a new OB release I haven’t done a proper review of yet, like the X-mas 2020, there will be full notes and no link. Now, let’s dissect some Paul John.
Round 1: Paul John focused on ex-bourbon casks and no peat
1A: Paul John Nirvana: 40%
- Nose: Pear juice, malt (tad farmy), honey, dried apricots, touch toffee and saltwater taffy.
- Palate: Cheerios, dried orchard fruit, vanilla, malty sweet, honey and tad grassy and spicy.
- Finish: Short -> Malty, hay-like and sweetly honied.
- Overall: (2.5 / 5) It’s okay, and during this evaluation, I think I maybe should have given it a 2 in my formal review and I’m not throwing shade. It’s ok for it to just be okay. It’s not meant to be a serious sipper like the rest of their line. It’s meant to be a great single malt mixer… and it is! It makes excellent cocktails.
1B: Paul John Brilliance: 46%
- Nose: More dried fruit and warmer candy sweetness.
- Palate: Touch more floral and more maltiness.
- Finish: Gets a bit maltier as it fades and a tad fruitier.
- Overall: (2.5 / 5) On a similar level oddly enough, but noticeably richer and more “in tune” with what you want from a sipper. Marked it as a 2.5+ that night (almost a 3).
1C: Paul John Classic: 55.2%
- Nose: Much more honied fruit and a heavier malty elegance.
- Palate: Much more buttery and again more malty sweetness, fruit and distinct candy sweetness.
- Finish: Bit more of a cereal grain sweetness popping through.
- Overall: (4 / 5) Just delightful. It’s a big full malt that’s made for sipping and savoring.
1D: Paul John Kanya: 50%
- Nose: Pear-heavy orchard fruit popping through with some heavier toffee notes.
- Palate: Deep, dark, Manuka honey sweetness mixed with muscovado brown sugar and oak, a MUCH deeper delivery.
- Finish: Nutty coffeecake on top of a richer malty profile.
- Overall: (4.5 / 5) DAMN I LOVE KANYA!!! Ooph, it’s just so good and it pulls through an overall nuttier profile that’s just deeper, richer and more luxurious.
1E: Paul John G&M Single Barrel 4611: 60% – ex-Bourbon
- Nose: Toffee, oily char, brown sugar, malty sweet and nuts.
- Palate: OAK, toffee, baking spices, brown sugar, malty sweet and nutty.
- Finish: Med-long -> Malty and a touch floral with some citrus pith.
- Overall: (4 / 5) A touch tannic, but super interesting with a heavy dried fruit note coming through more and more as it opens.
All-in-all the Nirvana isn’t bad and it showed remarkably well next to the heavyweights in this round. Yes, they smashed it into the ground in the areas of complexity and richness, but for being younger, all refill ex-Bourbon, lower ABV AND chill-filtered (the rest all NCF) it did remarkably well. A true testament to what they’re doing there in Goa.
Round 2: Paul John focused on ex-sherry casks
2A: Paul John Oloroso: 48%
- Nose: Darker, stickier with heavy dark fruit layers.
- Palate: Wow, so much prunes and plums interchanging with a nutty spiciness.
- Finish: Touch tannic in comparison and obviously sweeter.
- Overall: (4 / 5) It’s kinda sick how good this is and it’s only going to get better as they work with the casks and their process.
2B: Paul John PX: 48%
- Nose: Deep dark sweetness that’s fruity but also… maple-like and more oily.
- Palate: Dessert sweetness with an oaky layer and some tannic tartness.
- Finish: Touch more cloying and nutty oily.
- Overall: (3 / 5) Tannic dry with a pervasive olde candy sweetness like Smarties or Necco wafers.
2C: Paul John X-mas Edition 2019: 46%
- Nose: Sweetly fruity, oaky, smoky and a touch more dessert sweetness.
- Palate: Smoky BBQ notes and some cocoa and heavier, more complex, fruit.
- Finish: Charcoal and dark dried fruits.
- Overall: (4.5 / 5) I. Just. Love. This. Whisky. It’s so unique and fun and tasty. It’s hard to find anything this dynamic on the market today… unless you can score an X-Mas 2018.
2D: Paul John X-mas Edition 2020: 46%
- Nose: BBQ smoke, chewy dried fruits, nutty brittle and malt.
- Palate: Grilled fruit, oak, chewy dried fruits and complex dark sweets.
- Finish: Long -> Lightly charred nuts, fruit and oil.
- Overall: (4 / 5) It has this odd oily goodness to it that’s just… good. I’m loving the subtle citrus pops and light earthiness. I bet it opens well with time.
Let’s be clear, the 2018 Paul John Christmas Edition still reigns supreme in PJ X-mas land, but neither the 2019 or 2020 are slouches and worth every penny. Now, let’s quickly chat about the sherried elephant in the room before jumping into round 3.
Yes, I know it seems a tad odd to compare a whisky that’s younger, chill-filtered, unpeated and made from 2nd and 3rd fill ex-Bourbon casks to whiskies that are sherried, NCF, older and peated (2C&2D). But that’s the point of what I’m looking at here. Take something that’s about as spirit-driven as you can be this side of new make and see how these different factors affect the spirit. This could dovetail into a whole whisky terroir discussion and barrel influence being outsized, but who has the time for that?
Round 3: Paul John focused on peat
3A: Paul John Edited: 46%
- Nose: Smoky chalky sweetness.
- Palate: A sweetness that’s almost cocoa-like and a touch coppery and smoky.
- Finish: Smoke.
- Overall: (3 / 5) A richer, smoky Nirvana.
3B: Paul John Bold: 46%
- Nose: Crisp honied apples, smoked meat and bakery sweet.
- Palate: Smoke, malt, fruit.
- Finish: Smoke and fruit.
- Overall: (3.5 / 5) The fruitiness really pops here and the peat makes it more apparent.
3C: Paul John Peated: 55.5%
- Nose: Sweet orchard fruit, smoke, malt and nuts.
- Palate: Sweet orchard fruit, smoke, malt and nuts.
- Finish:Sweet orchard fruit, smoke, malt and nuts.
- Overall: (4 / 5) The same notes keep popping and showing heavier and richer giving this whisky LIFE!
3D: Paul John Malts of India 5 years (09-15): 58% – ex-Bourbon
- Nose: SweetTarts, oak, smoke, dried fruit, freeze-dried strawberries and toasted malt.
- Palate: SweetTarts, fire-roasted corn, oak, smoke, dried fruit and toasted malt.
- Finish: Long -> Smoke, SweetTarts and oak.
- Overall: (3 / 5) Wow this is oaky, and not in the deep awesome way. It doesn’t sit fully balanced and as it opens it becomes more dominant, pulling in this astringent quality that only gets more prominent with water.
3E: Paul John Mars Orbiter: 57.8%
- Nose: Smoke, oak, candy sweetness, dark sweets and fruit.
- Palate: Oak, smoke, Brazil Nuts, dark sweets and Pixie Stix.
- Finish: Smoke, oak, fruit and nuts.
- Overall: (4.5 / 5) Amazing. It’s a deeper, heavier, more brooding version of the Nirvana. It smokes in the boy’s room and doesn’t care who knows. Probably wears a leather jacket too… and possibly carries a switchblade. This jumped the shark quick – anyways, the whisky is awesome.
3F: Paul John Boutique-y Single Barrel 6 Years: 52.9%
- Nose: Orchard fruit, malt, leather, nuts and a hint of smoke.
- Palate: Orchard fruit, tropical fruit, malt, leather, nuts and a hint of smoke.
- Finish: Medium -> Malt, leather, nuts.
- Overall: (3.5 / 5) Weird, I get some smoke notes everywhere but the finish and instead I get this roasted nuts profile that dominates as it fades.
This was an exceptional tasting filled with fantastic conversation and a dynamic back-and-forth with the presenter. It was a great time and I’d like to thank everyone who attended and especially to Barry and Koray for coordinating and making this happen.