Whisky adventurers of the internet, hear me: Kanya by Paul John is the one new experience you’ll want to have this year, especially if you’ve never tried Indian whisky. And also, especially, if you have.
When a good whisky comes out of an unfamiliar market, it’s often released in such small volumes that the average drinker never gets to try it. Look at Japan: even decades after the world took notice of Suntory, its whiskies are nearly impossible to find in American markets—especially at the higher age and price points.
That’s exactly what happened with Indian whisky a couple years ago, with the release of Amrut Fusion: a whisky that could have energized the U.S. into devouring India’s bottles voraciously.
Now with Paul John’s latest limited edition about to hit markets here, we’re getting another chance.
Paul John and its competitors making single malts should be congratulated; India is a hard place to make whisky. Your barrels lose a lot of water from evaporation, so you can fill fewer bottles. Two-row barley doesn’t grow well there, so they use six-row. Indian whisky can be an unregulated field with widely varying qualities, in part because the majority of whisky consumed in the country is actually a hybrid of rum and whiskey that mixes beer and molasses to distill a final product.
But brands like Paul John have done amazing things with their products—even turning some of the disadvantages into benefits. Take India’s climate: because the former Portuguese colony of Goa’s climate is so much more constant and its temperature so much warmer, the whisky ages faster and extracts significantly more flavor from wood barrels in a shorter time.
Kanya is worth getting on your radar if only because of how unique it is. Paul John was launched in 2004 and makes its single malt from six-row Indian barley, which is a shorter, heartier version of the two-row we’re used to here in the U.S. for whiskey and beer. They distill their malt unpeated, in copper pot stills, and age it for a minimum of 7 years in American oak.
Once it’s done aging, it’s non-chill filtered, and no color is added.
The result is a delight to drink. It’s bold and deep in flavor, and compared to its Scottish cousins it definitely has a pronounced dryness. But it is also devilishly sweet and syrupy. Paul John calls it “sensual,” which isn’t typically a word we’d associate with whisky, and yet if there were a flavor that mimicked bedroom eyes, it might be something like this.
Jim Murray gave 96 out of 100 and made it his 2018 Asian Whisky of the Year a couple months ago. Why are we just writing about it now? Until a few weeks ago no one was sure that the U.S. was ever going to receive any bottles. Of the 1,500 made for the world market, a substantial number stayed in Asia and something like a third went to the United Kingdom. Paul John is distributed in 35 countries at the moment, so that doesn’t leave much to try and break into our market.
We’re glad they found a few.
Paul John will be available in limited quantities in the U.S. in the next few weeks. If you find a bottle grab it immediately, and let it make love to your palate (It’s much more enjoyable than it sounds).