Cadenhead Paul John 2011


If you have been trying to keep up with Cadenheads throughout 2017 with their relentless 175th Anniversary release programme, then I feel your pain. I’ve driven to that cliff edge and looked down into the abyss trying to imagine what life was like prior to the monthly outturns and the glimmer of light that 2018 with its sanctuary offers.

Take my debit card for instance. It now features a healthy crack and the contactless payment chip has stopped working. Whilst I’d like to blame Cadenheads for the chip, I know whiskies under the £30 are few and far between even with their affordable prices. However, it has seen extensive use this year in their shop! Sometime during July the whisky-shock feeling really hit home. Fuelled by the excellent 30th Anniversary Edinburgh Tasting, where attendees had the option to purchase bottles from the warehouse casks this meant just an additional 6 bottles to my stockpile including that sublime Kilkerran. Then as I type this, the prospect of exclusive shop bottlings as part of the Anniversary celebration including one for Aberdeen (the original site of Cadenheads) along with I reckon another Festival bottling… it’s a celebration we won’t see the likes of again for at least 25 years.

I’ve stopped going out socially, I’m living on a diet of beans on toast and I keep to a constant efficient speed of 55mph even on the motorway. All to enable further whiskies discoveries and enjoyment. Is it worth the effort? Yes, and that’s the beauty of whisky when you become fully immersed in the genre. Some evenings I’d rather have a decent conversation with a half empty bottle of Glen Keith than venture outside.

Seriously though, monthly outturns are a difficult scenario for the shop staff and consumers. It’s pretty obvious when the list lands as a Cadenhead Club member what the AAA releases are, but quite often it’s the hidden gems that sway me. That Knockdhu 10-year-old for instance, I really enjoyed the recent 11-year-old Teaninich whilst I missed out on the 23-year-old Glenlossie. You cannot help to catch ‘em all unless you have really deep pockets or a healthy credit card. There has to be some financial responsibility although looking at some of the auctions as I type this, folk are buying anything single cask with a view to putting it online. Crazy and stupid.

Throughout the year I’ll have missed a couple of gems I’m sure, but overall it’s not been too bad. A little bit of maturity sinks in and word of mouth directs you towards something you may have overlooked. Such was the case – albeit I was already somewhat interested – when I was given a sample blind of this Paul John 5-year-old by one of the YCT (Young Cadenhead Team) who inhabit the Edinburgh store. First impressions were very favourable and with a whisky such as this, the experience does the sales pitch. Positive reaction aside, it shows that Paul John are doing something worthwhile in Goa and given the hot climate, the rate of evaporation means in Scottish terms this whisky is around 15-years-old.

This is the first Paul John or Indian whisky bottled by Cadenheads and I had heard stories about it being decanted into bottles then flown over with the cask to be reacquainted in a Campbeltown warehouse. I’m sure other releases will follow and we’re starting to see more independent bottlings from Paul John as its reputation grows. It’s a brand I haven’t had too much experience with, as it’s hard enough keeping up with Scottish releases nowadays however since John Distilleries established a pot-still distillery in Goa to produce traditional single malt it’s been a rollercoaster. First hitting the shelves in 2012, awards and recognition have soon followed. Arguably the greatest accolade is being bottled by Cadenheads?

The Paul John was distilled in 2011, before being bottled at a robust 57.4% strength from a bourbon hogshead. With an outturn of 360 bottles, I know this has gone down extremely well with the London and Edinburgh stores resulting in a sell-out. Price was around £85, which compares well to other independent releases. It’s still out there if you want to hunt it down, or prepare for the next bottling…

Colour: apricot
Nose: punchy with tropical fruits initially, let’s give it a little longer in the glass. Now it’s a dry tobacco with cardamom, caraway seed and cloves. Yes, there’s a peppery aspect moving into treacle-like density and yet when you return there’s that initial fruit burst. A brief sparkle of red berries then you’re into the spicing before being left with traces of cumin seed. In-between there’s a nutty aspect with a light caramel and plenty of delight to be had here.  
Taste: chocolate is my initial impression before this transfers into warmed peppercorns and then a mild mustard. Again, it’s the spicing with each ingredient toasted to a certain degree. Caramel, pepper, walnuts and more tobacco laced with a really dry cinnamon.

Overall: this is a whisky you can sit down with, really enjoy and appreciate on many levels. The nose is the most memorable part once you delve in, with the palate closely behind. I suppose some may get hung up on the fact it’s not from Scotland, or just 5-years-old but the proof is very much in the tasting. 

Many thanks to Just Whisky for kindly providing the photograph used in this review.  

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