India drinks a lot of whisky. The country is the biggest consumer in the world, slugging over 1.5 billion liters of the stuff a year (according to 2014 numbers, the latest we have). But they're not just drinking whisky — there are 88 large distilleries around the country, most of them dedicated to filling the demand for domestic thirst.
That's about to change. Two of the biggest producers in the country, Amrut and Paul John Whisky recently landed on American soil, bringing a dozen or so Indian single malts to the U.S., along with a message: India is setting itself up to be a serious international player in whisky.
“All in all, we have the resources and the ability to create and deliver exotic, premium-quality products,” says Paul John, Chairman and founder of Goa, India-based Paul John Whisky. After all, the country is already one of the largest producers of quality barley, and has a climate that is just right for aging whisky all year round.
Unlike most places where single malts are made from two-row barley, Paul John Whiskies use six-row barley sourced from the foothills of the Himalayas. “The higher protein and enzyme content of this particular barley gives a lot more character and body to the whisky,” says Paul John master distiller Michael D'Souza.
The warm weather of coastal Goa is another major advantage: It helps their whiskies mature faster, and the tropical climate of Goa remains almost the same throughout the year, providing the distillers with more uniform maturation across all levels of the warehouse. “We do not have to rotate the barrels as Americans do,” says D'Souza. Furthermore, the above average humidity and temperature allows the whisky to mature faster, and the extraction of barrel flavor compounds are high. “This rapid reaction creates intense colored, rich and flavorful whisky.”
So how does Paul John whisky compare to scotch? “We wouldn’t say it’s fair to compare whiskies, as every single malt has a unique character and is different from each other,” says D'Souza. “Having said that, we have been highly rated internationally in comparison to scotch, and in most cases we have been honored to have been rated higher than them.” (We wouldn't say most cases, but this recent Whisky Lounge faceoff did show that Indian whiskies can hold their own). Americans in just over a dozen states can now judge for themselves.
A Taste of India: The Bottles You Can Now Buy in the U.S.
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- Single Malt, Cask Strength
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