Most people associate Goa with Russian drug dealers but there’s also a distillery there. It’s apparently been around since 1992, which makes it far younger than Amrut. They’re also more recent to the single malt game but this doesn’t stop them from labeling their product “The Great Indian Single Malt”. Oh, in case you’re wondering about the name, the company is named for its chairman, Paul John, a man who the company’s website informs us is “[G]uided by his singular passion, tomes of wisdom and the extraordinary skill of his Master Distiller”. This Master Distiller is one Michael John—presumably a relation. It’s not clear from the website, however, where he acquired his experience—homegrown? abroad? Their barley is homegrown—give or take a couple of thousand kilometres (it’s Himalayan)—but the casks they mature their spirit in are made of American white oak, and I *think* these are all ex-bourbon. The equipment was set up by “experts from the UK” who must also have conveyed the importance of empty marketing blather: nosing and tasting their malts will apparently “bring alive the many facets of Goa”, “will truly transport you to Goa”, enable you to “[S]avour Goa by taking the tiniest of sips” and so forth. They may be new but in some ways they already seem very familiar.
Their core offering seems to consist of five malts: Brilliance, Edited, Bold, Select Cask Classic, Select Cask Peated and there’s also a series of single cask releases that are peated and unpeated (as with Amrut they’re all NAS). The Select Cask and Single Cask releases are at cask strength (the others are at 46%). And with that I’m done providing useful information for a change (it’s all taken from the official website).
I opened this bottle of the Select Cask Classic at my local group’s April tasting and we all liked the nose a lot and really did not like the palate or finish which we found way too sharply woody. These notes are being taken a week later, with the bottle near the halfway mark. Let’s see what I make of it now.
Paul John Select Cask Classic (55.2%; 2013 release; bourbon cask matured; from my own bottle)
Nose: Toasted oak, light caramel, cinnamon, orange peel: very bourbonny. Some honey as well on the second sniff and then the wood gets dustier. Gets fruitier as it sits with some apricot and a hint of peach poking out from under the wood. The wood gets knocked back a bit more with a few drops of water.
Palate: Starts out with bright citrus and then takes a turn towards sharp wood, but wait, it’s far less sharp now than when the bottle was first opened; in fact, it’s not offensive at all now. Alas, with time the wood begins to get more insistent and more raw and talks over the citrus and the sweeter notes (fruit and toffee) below it. Water knocks the wood back here too and pulls out more of the sweeter fruit.
Finish: Long. No new development except the wood turning more plywoody and astringent. As on the nose and palate with water.
Comments: The nose is quite lovely (and will appeal to bourbon drinkers) but the palate, while far more approachable than when the bottle was first opened, is not quite at its level. I don’t know how old this is or where they got their bourbon casks from but the wood notes are just a bit too raw for my liking (though water does tamp it down somewhat). I’d recommend trying this before buying—and I don’t think I’d get another bottle.
Rating: 82 points.