When I was 22 and sprightly, Goa to me was the fastest escape from city life. Good food, cheap booze and an excuse to abstain from pants altogether. At 28, Goa is still the fastest escape from city life. But now, it’s a culinary Mecca for the global Indian and expat alike. As far as food and beverage go, Goa does both with elan. From the cough syrup bottled Kings Beer, the (in)famous Cashew Feni to the homegrown range of Agave spirits by Desmonji, there is something for every palate and pocket. But there is one spirit that you’re unlikely to associate Goa with – Single Malt.
Paul John has been putting India on the malt map since 2012. In just one year of production, Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible bestowed it with several awards, opening the floodgates to worldwide attention. Today, it is available in over 25 countries and six cities in India. But after asking around, I am surprised to see very few Indians have heard of this brand, even fewer have tried it. Let’s change that, shall we?
In a dusty plot of Cuncolim lies an oasis of ‘Malt Paradise’ where I meet with Paul John’s Master Distiller, Michael D’Souza. I can’t help but ask, why Goa? “Two reasons”, says Michael as he shows me a pile of Barley that just arrived from North India. “The water is of a superior quality and as compared to countries with a cooler climate, the tropical climate here helps the whisky mature faster and better.” Advantage India.
The distillation happens in traditional Copper-Pot stills that lend themselves to slow fermentation. When matured in American oak barrels, it results in whisky that is rich and creamy with a mineral character.
The weather, however, is a double edged sword. While it works in favour of flavour, the aging process is fairly aggressive. A good amount is lost to ‘angel’s share’, which is the amount of alcohol that evaporates from the cask during maturation.
Paul John’s portfolio has a versatile selection of unpeated, mild and peated whiskies. This includes the unpeated ‘Brilliance’, mildly peated ‘Edited’ and heavily peated ‘Bold’. It also has a ‘Select Cask’ series which is bottled at cask strength. Michael suggested that I start with Edited as an introduction to the series. After spending a few months with the whisky, I was ready to take our relationship to the next level.
‘Edited’ by Paul John is the kind of Single Malt you want to come home to. It starts off with a nose of honey, floral and a hint of smoke. Just as you loosen your tie and get comfortable, you’ll discover subtle chocolate and mint that give into gentle peated notes.
It’s how I imagine George Clooney would taste in a rocks glass.
I met up with experimental mixologist Pankaj Balachandran of the Bar Back Collective, who also happens to be one of brains behind my favourite ‘Sunday and Chill space’- Perch. After a little brainstorming and tasting, we decided to make a classic Penicllin Cocktail, which brings together whisky, honey and ginger to make a gentle, sippable drink after a long day at the mines.
The star of the drink, without a doubt is Paul John’s Edited. But with a buttery twist. Enter ‘Fat Wash’ or the technique of adding savoury fat to a spirit. Pankaj uses simple salted table butter which he melts and mixes into the whisky. He then freezes it for 24 hours, which he suggests is the minimum.
The result is a light buttery cocktail with a gingery finish. The drink enhances the whisky’s own honey and floral notes making it a winner in my book. The cocktail is well balanced with just a hint of spice. Top it with dehydrated ginger for an extra zing and the quickest ticket to a moonlight beach.
Penicillin on the Beach
Notes: Smoky, Spicy and Sexy
For the Fat Wash
- 100ml Paul John Edited Whisky
- 20ml Salted Butter
- Melt the butter over a double boiler (avoid direct flame cause it tends to brown the butter)
- Pour the whisky into a glass and mix in the melted butter.
- Refrigerate for atleast 24 hours.
- 100ml Ginger Juice
- 100ml Honey
- Stir the two together till well combined.
For the Cocktail
- 50ml Butter Washed Whisky
- 5ml Lime Juice
- 15 ml Ginger + Honey Syrup
- 5ml Paul John Bold
- Lime/Lemon Peel or Dehydrated Ginger for garnish
- Combine the butter washed whisky, lime juice, and syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice; shake vigorously and double strain into a glass over fresh ice.
- Use the back of a spoon to float Paul John Bold. Garnish and serve.
Paul John is available in Bangalore, Mumbai, Goa, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Pune and will be launching in Delhi soon.
All Images by Ishita Thakur