S6E1 - Yoichi Distillery

A brand new series kicks off with a slightly different style of episode, we start with a documentary piece on Stu's trip to the Yoichi distillery in Japan in November last year. This is followed by a tasting of the Single Malt Yoichi Whisky, and a comparison to the distillery exclusive "Peaty & Salty" expression.

As always, we score the whisky for the Dramier League table, and play some Japanese music to go with the Japanese whisky. Have a listen to the episode on all good podcast apps, and here:

The music played on the episode can be found in this Spotify playlist:

...and here is a transcript of the documentary element of this episode:

I travelled to Japan with my wife in November 2018 to explore the incredible culture and cost some Japanese distilleries to find out more about the whiskies which I had grown to love from the Far East. We landed in Tokyo, and spent 4 crazy days wondering around a city of non stop lights and noise from all angles, it’s crazy, exciting and intimidating.

IMG_0813.JPG

We fell in love with it but felt completely exhausted after days of exploring and jet lag, so it was a welcome relief to catch a flight to Hokkaido - the most northern of Japan’s main islands. Japan is an island of extreme’s, technology juxtoposed with tradition, temples next to skyscrapers, innovation crossed with historic attitudes, and these competing extremes are reflected in the difference between a manic and buzzing Tokyo, compared to the quiet and serene Hokkaido. This calm island with landscape reminiscent of parts of Scotland, is where we would find Nikka’s Yoichi distillery, nestled in a small town on the west coast of Hokkaido.

The Yoichi distillery is located by the sea in the small town of Yoichi in Hokkaido, which has distinctly Scottish feel, and the island even has its own peat from the nearby Ishikari valley.

The distillery is beautiful, the .leach of the indivdual parts of the distillery are housed in traditional Japanese buildings looking like Pagodas and surrounded by fields, trees and gardens. It is here we found out about the fascinating character of Masataka Taketsuru, his loyal wife Rita, and their labour of love at the Yoichi distillery.

IMG_0954.JPG

Masataka Taketsuru was 19 when he moved to Scotland to learn about the craft of creating scotch whisky. He spent 18 months in Scotland - working at 3 distilleries in that time and painstakingly documenting the process of distilling and maturing whisky, but perhaps just as significantly met the love of his life, Rita Cowan. After her fiancé died in world war 1, Takestsuru was a chance of a different life and new world. Taketsuru offered to stay in Glasgow with Rita, but knowing his passion was in Japan, Rita insisted they move to Japan - against the best wishes of her family. So Taketsuru and Rita returned to Japan, complete with an in depth knowledge of making that spirit we all know and love... whisky

The Japanese whisky industry has two major players, Suntory created by Shinjiro Torii (the last two syllables of company and founder being the same is no coincidence)... and Nikka founded by the aforementioned Masataka Taketsuru. However, Taketsuru started his career working for Suntory and helping to set up Japan’s first ever whisky distillery, Yamazaki, in 1923. Taketsuru left to set up his own distillery in Yoichi in 1933 due to “creative differences”, and Nikka was born. This may not have been possible were it not for the influence of his Scottish wife, Rita, once again. She was instrumental (quite literally) in raising the funds to set up the Yoichi distillery, as she taught Piano in Kyoto to the children of the eventual wealthy investors of the distillery.

The distillery may be a trek to get to, but once you’re there you are rewarded with free entry to the distillery, as you make your way around each building at your own pace. One of the most fascinating sights is not far from the entrance, where the distillery workers are shovelling coal into their coal fired pot stills, a traditional method which we believe is now unique to the distillery, as all other distilleries worldwide have moved onto more modern methods. `insert sound of coal shovelling` The skill required to keep the still at the correct temperature using a coal fire is a difficult one to master. The reward for doing so though, is a extra element of flavour which is now unique to Yoichi and Nikka. The coal fire give variations in temperatures and hot spots, which gives additional roasted flavours. But the skill is to stop it from burning.

IMG_6506.jpg

The distillery also has a small warehouse, fascinating museum, and whisky bar complete with an opportunity to buy a dram of many hard to find expressions of Japanese whisky. Unfortunately for me, I was the designated driver due to an “admin error” in my wife’s international drivers permit... note to anyone visiting Japan who is planning to drive ... make sure you get the drivers permit in the UK before you go, and make sure they’ve stamped the right bloody things on it! We were close to resorting to my wife driving me to the distillery on the back of a motorbike... which in fairness, may appeal to some of you out there! Perhaps the only disappointing part of the distillery tour was the tasting at the end. This is perhaps due to the fact it is completely free ... which is remarkable in fairness so I shouldn’t complain... but the opportunity to pay for some more interesting expressions with someone to talk you through the tasting would have been welcome. You have to resort to the pricey whisky bar if you want to geek out! The gift shop has some interesting distillery only versions of the Yoichi single malt, including a sherried version, and the “peaty and salty” version I picked up. These are much sought after given you can only get them at the distillery and I can highly recommend them.

IMG_6473.jpg

We finished our tour reflecting on the incredible impact of Rita Cowan on this distillery and her husband. Growing up in an age where women could easily take a back seat, it’s fascinating to hear how important Rita was to the success of Nikka, and how much she sacrificed for the ambitions of her husband. 

Rita’s story is so popular, that there has even been a recent fictionalised soap opera of her relationship with Taketsuru, broadcast on Japan’s main TV station, called asadora. Many fans of Rita make an annual pilgrimage to the distillery to pay their respects. 

IMG_1001.JPG

So there it is. Yoichi distillery. A place that has a fascinating story, of love, loyalty, ambition and tradition. Given my love of whisky, it was worth the ambitious long trip to the far north of Japan to experience it, and I encourage any Japanese whisky fan out there to do the same if you get the opportunity. Surrounded by serenity in Hokkaido, it is a truly unique experience. We raise a glass to Masataka Taketsuru, and his inspirational Scottish wife, Rita Cowan.

S5E3 - Johnnie Walker Black Label

In this episode, we tackle the goliath brand of the Whisky industry - Johnnie Walker! We taste the Black Label 12 year old blended whisky (fitting within our budget range of £20-£40) and play some UK No 1 hits to accompany this No1 best selling whisky brand - finding No 1 songs that didn't harm our "impeccable" (...ahem) reputation was somewhat challenging, but we certainly embraced it!

S5E2 - Monkey Shoulder

In the second episode of our budget whisky series, we review the well known blended malt Monkey Shoulder, and create a playlist of songs about Monkeys to go with it! Feel free to add your favourite monkey songs to our collaborative playlist on Spotify.

Please add your favourite monkey related songs to this playlist (or tweet us if you don't have spotify and we'll add it for you!):

Get in touch with us by contacting us on twitter or instagram @thisismydram, or go to our website thisismydram.com for all our podcasts, playlist and blogs. Cheers!

S4E4 - Hibiki 17

This episode marks the satisfying conclusion to a sacred quest, for the holy grail (or indeed, unicorn) that is an affordable bottle of Hibiki 17. Stu tracked a bottle down for a very reasonable price (excluding the cost of flights, board and accommodation) in a recent holiday in Japan, just in time for the first breaths of 2018 so we could look back on a year of fantastic music and enjoy a dram of the rare stuff. 

It's all pretty well explained in the podcast. Tell you what, while you wait for it to download here are some lovely new words that made it into the dictionary (OED, naturally) in 2017:

1. Buggerlug (n.) - An affectionate term for a child, particularly when it isn't listening to the adult.
2. Spooge (n. formal) - Any sealant or lubricant applied during the assembly of electronic equipment.
3. Throat Sing (v.) - To perform throat singing.
4. Ginkgolide (n.) - Any of a group of bitter compounds present in the leaves and roots of the ginkgo tree.
5. Zyzzyva (n.) - A genus of tropical weevils native to South America.
6. Belyando spew (n. informal) - Any illness marked by bouts of vomiting.

Anyway, to music! The six, yes six, tracks that feature on the podcast, in full, are:

Stu’s 1st selection: Rolling Blackouts Coast Fever  - French Press
Andy’s 1st selection: Public Service Broadcasting - They Gave Me A Lamp

Stu’s 2nd selection: Melanie De Biasio - Afro Blue
Andy’s 2nd selection: Richard Dawson - Soldier


Stu’s 3rd selection: Colin Stetson - Like wolves on the fold
Andy’s 3rd selection: Hurray For The Riff Raff - Living In The City

For the playlist, we gave runner-up nods to King Krule, Phoenix, Arca, Four Tet, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Les Amazone d'Afrique (Dombolo)...Have a listen to the full playlist here:

Don't forget to follow us on twitter, subscribe to the podcast on your trusty podable devices and even leave a satisfying 5-star review, which helps us get new listeners and frees the Princess from the haunted castle.

S4E1 pt.2 - Glen Moray 1994 sherry cask finish

Something a little different for this episode with a format where the This Is My Dram boys don't actually say very much for once. Well you can stop subscribing in unprecedented numbers because we'll very much be back talking your ears off the side of your head in the next episode. You'll just have to enjoy this brief moment of respite.

We were led into battle on this occasion by Sorren Krebs a.k.a @ocdwhisky who is a fountain of whisky knowledge and long-time Friend of the Pod. We were treated to an exclusive tasting of a special dram - Glen Moray 1994 Sherry Cask Finish - which Sorren had collected both in honour of the year of his daughter's birth and because it is quite frankly a superb bottle of whisky. You can read Sorren's in depth review of the full 1994 range from Glen Moray on his fantastic blog.

We were joined by Ed Milner a.k.a. @MrEdwardMilner and his mate Tom. We don't know much about Tom but we can speculate. I reckon he's a venture capitalist with a keen eye for an investment opportunity and was in attendance to scope out a couple of distilleries ripe for a hostile takeover. I might be wrong.

We made sure to retain an element of our modus operandi (that's Geordie for a dubious reputation) by including a couple of song choices from the very obvious year of 1994, which we soon found to be a golden year for fantastic music and not just fantastic whisky. Don't forget to follow us on twitter, get in touch with feedback and suggestions and send us locks of your hair in the post.

S3E5 - Aberlour A'bunadh (batch 57)

"It's an absolute sherry bomb. We have to podcast it!", said Stu.
"Yeah cool.", replied Andy

Such is the level of planning and forethought that goes into producing each episode of The Is My Dram. Still, Stu was on the money with Aberlour A'bunadh Batch 57, a cask-strength corker crafted from largely sherry-cask finish, ranging from what is estimated to be between 5 and 25 year old, whiskies. Andy and Stu were in full agreement about the quality attributes of this particular batch; the nose is sweet and comforting, the palate is warm and comforting, the finish is sweet, warm and comforting. Never mind message in a bottle, this is a full-scale embrace with a thoughtful love poem and gift certificate for a spa weekend in a bottle. It's increasingly difficult to source a bottle of Batch 57 and the general consensus seems to be that current release, Batch 58, is less impressive so don't spare the horses if you want to try this one.

Our playlist theme for this episode was first singles released by bands or artists, taking our cue from Aberlour's "origin" theme with A'bunadh. Stu selected some rock-out nostalgia from his formative years to perfectly compliment the shoulder massage in a glass we were sipping on while Andy explored the origin theme with a near-tedious history lesson on the pioneers of jazz and blues. No prizes for guessing which of our presenters you'd rather be cornered by at a party...

The tracks that feature on the podcast, in full, are:

Stu’s 1st selection: Eels - Novocaine For The Soui
Andy’s 1st selection: King Oliver's Creole Band - Chimes Blues

Stu’s 2nd selection: Weezer - Undone (The Sweater Song)
Andy’s 2nd selection: Muddy Waters - Country Blues (No.1)

For the playlist, we had some more 90s throwback indie and grunge as well as infectious beats, blues organ and Feist-y vocals. Have a listen to the full podcast here:

Don't forget to follow us on twitter, subscribe to the podcast on your trusty podable devices and even leave a tasty 5-star review, which helps us get new listeners and most importantly tends to our fragile egos. Keep your eyes peeled for a special bonus pod in the next few days, delaying the sad end of another series (don't worry, it'll just be like a 3 week break or something) of This Is My Dram. 

S3E4 - Gordon & MacPhail (Bunnahabhain Cask Strength 2009)

After featuring Gordon & MacPhail-owned Benromach 10 100 Proof back in Series 2, it was only matter of time until we took a punt on one of their independently-bottled, or independently-matured we should say, drops of whisky. Following a chance encounter at a tasting event in the wild outer reaches of the North-East coast with Gordon & MacPhail sales rep and Mr A-Dram-A-Day himself, Ben Bowers, we were able to set up a live guest-related plot twist for this episode. We were delighted to be joined across the dramming table by Ben, who brought with him an exclusive not-on-the-shelves Bunnahabhain Cask Strength whisky to review, produced in 2009 and as we later learn, matured until March of this year in first-fill sherry casks.

At the time of going to press, this whisky is currently sold out on Master of Malt but you may be able to source a bottle at one of the many independent whisky merchants who stock Gordon & MacPhail whiskies. Hey, why not check out our #buylocaltimd map to see if there's one near you.

Our playlist theme was, at Ben's suggestion, covers and remixes to reflect Gordon & MacPhail's philosophy of taking a spirit produced at another distillery and seeing what their maturation experts can come up with in their mad science lab of cask-finished creations. This was the sort of playlist theme that we have begun to recognise as seeming simple enough at first glance then increasingly and fiendishly difficult to choose a valid and worthy selection. We do think, however, that we pulled it out of the bag between us... 

The tracks that feature on the podcast, in full, are:

Andy’s 1st selection: Hackney Colliery Band - No Diggity (a cover of the Blackstreet song)
Ben's 1st selection: Hybrid - If I Survive (VIP Mix)
Stu’s 1st selection: Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah (a cover of the Leonard Cohen song)

Andy’s 2nd selection: The Fall - Lost In Music (a cover of the Sister Sledge song)
Ben’s 2nd selection: Peter Gabriel - Mirrorball (a cover of the Elbow song)
Stu’s 2nd selection: Johnny Cash - Hurt (a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song)

For the playlist, we had a nice mix of New Orleans brass, classic rock, soulful folk...and a Soulwax remix, sitting awkwardly in the corner of the party not speaking to anyone.

We also subjected ourselves to the masochistic ritual of the Relegation Dram, this time a Japanese contender from the foothills of Mount Fuji - the infamous Fujikai.  Opinions ranged from anger to fury, with Andy drifting off into apocalyptic visions normally reserved for a David Lynch movie. It did not, it's fair to say, score very highly. 

Thanks very much to Ben for joining us on this episode and do visit his fundraising page to make a donation to a wonderful cause. Let us know if you can find a bottle of that Bunnahabhain anywhere... 

S3E3 - Kilkerran (12yr & 8yr cask strength)

Some whiskies are superstars. You see them on every shelf, at every tasting event and all too often, on your bank statement too. Other drams are a little more hidden, the gleeful reserve of those in the know - until of course word gets around and suddenly everybody wants a slice. Kilkerran whisky trickled out slowly as a series of Work In Progress bottlings since re-opening in 2004 - the newest, old distillery in Campbelltown as they say - before the core bottling 12 Year finally arrived in 2016 to notable whispers of approval. A year later, Kilkerran 8 Year Cask Strength was released and the secret was very much now, out. Thanks to the keen shelf-eye of Stu, we were fortunate to have both the 12 Year and the 8 Year CS to enjoy on this episode. We were also joined by David Allen, Regional Sales Manager at Springbank and Glengyle Distilleries who was able to give us the lowdown on current and future plans for the Kilkerran range.

Our playlist theme was the needlessly convoluted and militantly regulated niche of records by musicians or bands who have released music under a different name that they're less well known for. Sorry Reg, Elton can't come in. This was inspired by the fact that unusually for single malt Scotch, Kilkerran is actually produced at Campbelltown's historically famous Glengyle distillery. 

The tracks that feature on the podcast, in full, are:

Stu’s 1st selection: Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) – Redbone
Andy’s 1st selection: Grinderman (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) – Palaces of Montezuma

Stu’s 2nd selection: New Order (Joy Division) – Bizarre Love Triangle
Andy’s 2nd selection: Gorillaz (Damon Albarn) – Clint Eastwood

For the playlist, Andy and Stu selected some more masked heroes and caped crusaders including Bowie as Ziggy, a different shade of Green Day, Dylan of the family Wilbury and Aphex Twin as well, Aphex Twin essentially. 

We also launched our #buylocaltimd campaign to encourage listeners to seek out bottles from their local whisky dealer. Check out the interactive map and get in touch on twitter with your own suggestions. Stu pointed out that we've been producing podcasts for a whole year at the time of recording and we stumbled through an incoherent yet heartfelt thank you to all our wonderful listeners. 

Thanks very much to David Allen for joining us on this episode and check out our Dramier League scores for both delicious bottlings from Kilkerran. 

S3E2 - Mackmyra Ten Years

A big challenge facing the ever-growing and evolving whisky industry is that of overcoming those pesky stereotypes. Some stereotypes are welcomed, even celebrated, by the subject. As Stephen King once said to an interviewer enquiring if he was a drinker or not, “Of course, I just said I was a writer.”  Other stereotypes are less helpful, especially for countries not traditionally associated with the production of whisky – Sweden perhaps being fairly high up that list. Swedes are known for a fondness of a drop of Akvavit (if you think that spelling bears some resemblance to aqua vitae – the “water of life” – you’d be right) or a seasonal snifter of Snaps but whisky isn’t part of that tradition – yet.

Sweden is still a land of few distilleries as far as whisky production goes but the quality of what is produced is not going unnoticed, and Mackmyra (mack-meera, people! Don’t make the same mistake we did) are leading the charge. Mackmyra will reach its 20th anniversary as a working distillery next year and produces a celebrated core range of peated and unpeated whisky, as well as several limited editions.

In this episode, we review the hot-off-the-shelves Mackmyra 10 Year and create a playlist of songs relating to the pop heaven that is Sweden. We were  joined by Mackmyra Master Blender, Angela D’Orazio (@AngelasShare) who was kind enough to join us for a chat over Skype during a family holiday in Italy. Never let it be said This Is My Dram don’t know how to frankly impose themselves to an unreasonable extent on anyone who agrees to speak to them. Angela talked about her day-to-day work as a Master Blender (or Chief Nose Officer!), the thought process that went into creating Mackmyra 10 and what’s next for the Swedish producer at its fascinating visitor-focused distilleries.

The tracks that feature on the podcast, in full, are:

Andy’s 1st selection: The Knife – Heartbeats
Stu’s 1st selection: Robyn – Dancing on my Own

Angela D’Orazio’s selection: Annis Brander – Grace

Andy’s 2nd selection: Miike Snow – My Trigger
Stu’s 2nd selection: The Radio Dept. – Ewan

For the playlist, Andy and Stu selected some more glistening indie pop to sugarcoat your ears from the likes of The Cardigans, Movits! and Lykke Li. 

We also cack-handedly selected and announced the winner of the first ever This Is My Dram Competition, with a fine prize of five drams from recent episodes of the podcast; Big Peat Christmas Edition 2016 , Nikka Pure Malt Black, Paul John Peated Select Cask, Nikka from the Barrel and Laphroaig Triple Wood.  We hope the lucky winner enjoys their drams! Andy and Stu were thanking their own lucky stars, as the randomly selected, yet pleasingly local winner saved them a few quid on postage and packaging.

Thanks very much to Angela D’Orazio for joining us on this episode and frankly for producing a knockout whisky in the Mackmyra 10 Year. 

S3E1 - Cù Bòcan 2005 (You say Tomatin, I say Tom-A-tin)

Series 3. With the creation of this episode, This Is My Dram have surpassed timeless classics such as Fawlty Towers, The Office and Spaced – in staying power at least, if not in comedic value. Thank you to everyone who has listened, downloaded, got in touch on Twitter, swapped drams or just sipped along to the podcast. We owe each and every one you a massive round of drams!*

This episode also marks another watershed for the team.  Having followed proper song licencing procedures (a brief case of cash to an imposing man with a prominent facial scar in a dark alleyway, right?) the podcast can now include FULL TRACKS.

In this episode, wereview Cù Bòcan 2005 Vintage and create a playlist of songs relating to “mythical creatures”. Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Cù Bòcan is produced at Tomatin Distillery in the Scottish Highlands and takes its name from a ghostly black dog that has haunted the village for centuries. In researching this tale, Andy may have even had an encounter with the fearsome creature. Either that or he’s discovered the sound effects bank in the editing software…

(* Figuratively speaking, of course)

We were also joined again via FaceTime by Tomatin experts and “notorious peat fans”, Sorren (OCD Whisky) and Craig (Craig Watson) to talk us through the Cù Bòcan and a few other gems from the Tomatin range. Sorren and Craig identified how the light smoke marries perfectly with the trademark Tomatin tropical sweetness in the 2005 Vintage to create a memorable dram.

Stu also secured an interview with Tom from Tom Forest who talked about his musical influences, the themes in their upcoming album and searching for new drams on trips to Scotland. He was even good enough to indulge Stu’s interviewing style as it slowly descended from Jeremy Paxman to Jeremy Clarkson to Jeremy Beadle. You can find Tom Forest on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud and Spotify or even catch them live at Greenbelt Festival in August.

The tracks that feature on the podcast, in their glorious totality are:

Stu’s 1st selection: TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me
Andy’s 1st selection: The Specials – Ghost Town
Stu’s 2nd selection: Tom Forest – Monster
Andy’s 2nd selection: The Black Dog – Sleep Deprivation

In terms of the playlist, we will continue to select a few other songs to go on Spotify, for the extra eager music fans.  For this playlist, we selected some suitably spooky tracks featuring ghosts, monsters, hounds and other assorted creatures.

A prize selection

A prize selection

This episode also saw the exciting introduction of the first ever This Is My Dram Competition, where we offered listeners the chance to win a selection of five drams from previous episodes; Big Peat Christmas Edition 2016 , Nikka Pure Malt Black, Paul John Peated Select Cask, Nikka from the Barrel and Laphroaig Triple Wood. One lucky winner will be announced on the next episode of the podcast.

Thanks very much as always to Sorren and Craig and also to Tom from Tom Forest for joining us on this episode. Please do like and subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to listen, get in touch with Andy and Stu on Twitter and follow the playlists on Spotify.

S2E6 - Oban Distillers Edition

We’ve all been there. Maybe you were cooking up a world-class menu in the kitchen, or applying the finishing touches to a watercolour masterpiece. Perhaps you were agonising over the paintwork design on that vintage motorbike you restored or sanding another surface layer off that handmade pinewood table. At some point we’ve all turned our hand to a craft and sooner or later, we have to ask ourselves the inevitable question – is it finished now? Will another twist here, a dab there or a sprig of that turn something good into something great?

This is principally the dilemma which we grapple with in this episode of the podcast. Firstly, with a look at the Distiller’s Edition release from Oban Distillery, one of Diageo’s Classic Malts of Scotland range treated to an extended curtain call in a Montilla Fino wine cask. The second, more personal dilemma, was whether or not to attempt the counterintuitive, some might say sacrilegious combination of Lagavulin 16 and Coca Cola, as recommended in The Whisky Manual by eminent whisky writer, Dave Broom.

First, The Oban. Diageo’s maturation expert, Jim Beveridge explained the philosophy behind the Distillers Edition range to Gavin Smith at Whisky Pages back in 2006.

“The critical thing is the flavour of the Classic Malts. We must remain true to their core character. For example, you always recognise Distillers Edition Oban as Oban. It still has the classic Oban flavour. This is the main driver behind the choice of casks we use, and each whisky has an optimum time to be in the secondary cask. 

We use a full-bodied Pedro Ximinez sherry cask for Lagavulin, but there’s no way you’d want to use that for Oban, for example. It’s not about the discernible sherry but about the overall impact. We use more powerful sherries for more powerful whiskies such as Lagavulin and Talisker. It’s about matching the flavours in the sherry to the whisky. The Distillers Editions win lots of prizes, so we do seem to be getting it right!”

For the playlist we selected tracks from a range of “limited edition” records, albums where a little something extra has been added to the basic product, whether its a new mix, some gimmicky packaging or a restricted print run. The selections include songs that were re-worked to appease an angry internet, intimate live versions, songs that were also computer games and songs that were blasted into space. 

Also on the podcast, an exclusive taste test of iheartwhisky‘s magnificent Caol Ila fudge. We also subjected ourselves to a challenging “blind” Relegation Zone dram sent to us with kind generosity by No Nonsense Whisky.

Thanks very much to Sarah (@iheartwhisky) for producing such excellent whisky fudge and Vin (@NNWhisky) for supplying the Relegation Zone dram. Please do like and subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to listen, get in touch with Andy and Stu on Twitter and follow the playlists on Spotify.

S2E5 - Paul John Peated Select Cask

One of the factors of whisky production that can’t have escaped the notice of any serious drammer in recent years is the emergence of various new producers of premium-standard malt whisky from countries not traditionally associated with the craft. One such country with a high quality output of single malts right now is India, and no distillery from the sub-continent is making more of a noise than Paul John Whiskies, nestled a few miles inland from the Goan coastline on India’s own answer to Route 66.

In fact, the Paul John Peated Select Cask expression we reviewed in this episode has just won the Best Indian Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards to set alongside a host of other selections and commendations.

We were first introduced to this whisky at Newcastle Whisky Festival 2017 in March this year by brand exhibitors, Sorren Krebs and Craig Watson, who were kind enough to join us for a virtual tasting and general whisky chat over FaceTime for this podcast.  

We were also delighted to have some input into this episode from Shilton Almeida, UK Regional Manager for Paul John Whiskies, who gave us some fantastic insight over email into what goes into making peated whisky in Goa.

“We are perhaps the first to use peat from two different regions of Scotland, from Islay and Aberdeen, adding several dimensions to the character of our whiskies. Of course due to the environment in India whisky matures differently. The uniform temperature through the year helps the whisky interact with wood rapidly. Every region has its own pros and cons, and in India, especially in Goa, we lose much alcohol as angel share, yet at the same time the whisky is ready for bottling after just 4 years.”

For the playlist we selected – amongst others – some Indian-inspired jazz, The Beatles (Paul John accounting for half the line-up after all), a Rajasthani brass band, Australian-Indian rock and Goan pop.

The conversation with Shilton Almeida, UK Regional Manager for Paul John Whiskies continues…

TIMD: We understand some of your casks are kept above ground, and some below ground. What difference in taste does this provide?
Shilton: In order to provide two different environments within the distillery we have two warehouses at different levels. The underground cellar is cooler and less humid compared to the one at ground level. Whiskies from the underground cellar are elegant and easy drinkable ones, whilst the whisky matured in the upper warehouse is more robust and with a mineral character.

TIMD: The Peated select cask is a NAS whisky – can you give us any idea as to how old the whisky is, and what was behind the decision to go without an age statement?
Shilton: The Peated Select Cask is a 7 YO whisky. In general, whisky consumers tend to compare whiskies, and 7 years is sometimes considered pretty low when it comes to maturation, but what consumers are unaware of is the fact that one year in India is almost equivalent to 4 years in Scotland in terms of maturation.

TIMD: Are there any new or exciting Paul John expressions planned for the near future?
Shilton: After the success of the Oloroso cask release, we plan to have more sherry releases in the future.  Also, there are two new limited edition releases to hit the market later this year. 

TIMD: What is your personal favourite of the Paul John whisky range of expressions?
Shilton: Being a peat freak, my personal favourite is the Bold. For me its a very well balanced peated whisky.

TIMD: As part of our podcast, we like to create playlists to go with the whiskies we review. This episode will feature a playlist of Indian music. Do you have any suggestions of Indian music for us to add to the playlist?
Shilton: Coming from Goa, I would definitely suggest some Goan folk music. Well, I enjoy this with my whiskies.

Thanks very much to Shilton, Sorren and Craig for taking the time to bring us up to speed with Paul John Whiskies and for their generous input to this podcast.