I’ve been struggling with peated whisky recently. That’s not to say I don’t like it, I do I love it and have enjoyed many fabulous bottles on many occasions. However of late I’ve found that I’ve been consistently gravitating to un-peated whisky and I can’t really explain why.
You could argue this is down to the changing of the seasons as personally I prefer those thick, heavy and smoky notes in the colder months. They remind me of open fires and coming back home from long and wet winter walks with the smell of fallen leaves and damp earth still in the nostrils. But to get to the point, the season hasn’t really changed where I live. Temperatures have topped out at around 13c today for example as I write this and provided another uneventful and boringly overcast grey filter on the local world.
Have my tastes changed? Not permanently no, at least I hope not but I can’t deny that I’ve been finding more enjoyment and sense of fulfillment from some of the un-peated paths less travelled. About half of my collection that’s readily available (read; isn’t in boxes in various parts of the house) is made up of peated whisky in some way shape or form. This has meant that I’ve been making much more of a dent in the whiskies that haven’t been introduced to the partially decayed vegetation that plays such a vital role both in local bio diversity, climate change prevention, and of course the whisky industry.
For a really good read on peat specifically, check out Claire Vokin’s blog on the subject here.
I’ve already outlined my drinking patterns seem to coincide with the weather, which given I live in Northern England you’d think I’d be drinking peated whisky all year round. In stark contrast to today’s 13c, the temperature in Panaji – Goa, is 33c. Don’t get me wrong, it’s raining which is weirdly reassuring but still that’s one hell of a difference. Panaji is home to the Paul John distillery, a whisky distillery owned by Indian drinks company John Distilleries. The parent company doesn’t just produce whisky, but also distills brandy as well as owning vineyards for a range of Indian wines overseen by Italian winemaker Lucio Matricardi.
Paul John has been gaining more and more attention as the years have progressed. If you go back to when I started drinking whisky around 14 years ago, the thought of an Indian whisky in any capacity would likely have received many pairs of raised eyebrows. Happily this is no longer the case and the raft of distilleries across the globe and ever increasing world whisky boom is a pleasure to witness.
Given the average temperature in Goa sits at around 33c in the daytime and a balmy 25c at night (often higher), producing whisky in the region is an interesting concept. Angel’s share sits at a whopping 8-10% meaning that’s 10% of your spirit lost off the bat. The average in Scotland being anywhere from 2.5% to 4% over longer periods and that’s one hell of a difference. On the flip side, the higher temperatures when coupled with wood interaction arguably gives Paul John whisky a more mature profile in less time when compared to their Scottish counterparts with an altogether different profile.
I’ve never really been one for star signs or astrology however it plays a significant part in Indian culture. Mithuna, named after the 3rd zodiac sign in Indian astrology, is the counterpart of Gemini and marks the start of the monsoon season in the country. It is also the name of Paul John’s latest release.
Paul John Mithuna Indian Single Malt Whisky – 58% Un-Chill Filtered – Natural Colour – RRP £200+
Mithuna is matured in first fill American oak and finished in first fill ex bourbon casks so the deep copper colour is indicating some potential richness off the bat considering the cask types not normally associated with such a deep hue.
Bottled at 58% and presented at natural colour without chill filtration, the Mithuna is priced at a hefty £200+ RRP.
The colour in the glass is a deep copper with very oily and slow legs on the side of the glass.
On the nose there’s an instant floral note to it. I was going to say orange zest but it’s really more orange blossom water which sounds ridiculous but it’s something used in baking quite often in this house. Things become instantly richer with fruit cake, toasted nuts, cinnamon, ancho chili and hot chocolate. With water there are more oily nuts alongside honey and vanilla.
The palate announces itself instantly with a lovely rich spice. Orange zest this time, saffron, cinnamon swirls and Cadbury’s fruit and nut. Over time there is a little warmth as well as toffee, cardamom and chai tea. This is dangerously drinkable at the strength with little to no harshness or alcohol burn. With water things soften but become darker with treacle, sultanas and dark chocolate.
This leads into a long, sweet and warming finish with more of that chocolate, honey and spice.
Overall this is a lovely dram and certainly managed to transport me to warmer climbs, albeit temporarily. You may read through some of these notes and think cardamom? Chai? Bit coincidental? Not at all. In fact I really enjoy it when I get more localised tasting notes from someone’s whisky. I even shared this sample bottle with my wife who shouted ‘Cardamom!’ within seconds of trying this dram which was reassuring as she has a much better palate and nose than I do.
My only concern is the price, not many will be able to afford this release and if they can then there are many other well aged alternatives. However there is no denying that this is a high quality and thoroughly enjoyable spirit.
Fancy some tunes? The Malt Music for this whisky just feels right both given the style and name! In this case it’s Gemini Rising with The Future. Here the LA based trio put out a really nice rich mix of 80’s style back beat with a strong vocal performance all offset with a great catchy melody.
Holy Grail – Indiana Jones himself can only hope to find such a treasure.
Unbelievable – Among the best I’ve ever had. Must be tried at all costs.
Outstanding – One you should try to get hold of. Qualities in abundance.
Very Good – One to have on the shelf regularly. Provides consistent enjoyment.
Good – I’d happily drink this. One to buy at the right price.
Solid – No particular flaws but no wow factor either.
Fine – There to take the edge off. Good for highballs and won’t need much thought.
Meh – Somewhat flawed. More of a chore than a pleasure.
Oh Dear – Consistent flaws. Gets you where you’re going at the speed you want to get there.
Please Make it Stop – Not one to seek out. Hope for a gift receipt.