Dedication, passion and a love for doing things right can do wonders even for an amateur, something which echoes very strongly with the folks at the John Paul Distillery. They’re entry into the world of Single Malt whisky was quite recent; 2012 in UK, 2013 in Goa and much later in Bangalore. Within this short span of time they’ve amassed quite a few commendable awards, and their recent aggressive ad campaigns seem to suggest how serious they are in expanding on and offshore.
Goa is where they call home and most if not all the ingredients are sourced locally be it the barley from the foothills of the Himalayas to the water from underwater wells. The Peat however is sourced from Scotland and their spirits are matured in ex-bourbon casks from anywhere between 4-5 years (the Brilliance mind you isn’t peated though!).
The juvenile nature of the whisky does show when you swirl it around; thin, long legs with low viscosity descending swiftly along the tulip shaped glass walls. But ironically, its characteristics exhibit a lot more maturity and complexity; thanks to the play of Goa’s tropical weather and the Oak barrels. In many ways it might as well be just this that enabled Jim Murray to give the Brilliance a weighty score of 94.5! Hopefully by the end of the review, we too shall see how this ‘new kid on the block’ fares!
Starting with the physical characteristics; the bottle is tall and curvaceous with a flat waistline and a fuller frame on either side; almost ladylike. The makers have clearly made efforts to ensure that the young, vibrant and animated nature of the spirit reflects similarly on the bottle’s physical profile. Definitely a sight for sore eyes!
Eyes: 22 carat Gold.
Nose: Initially you get introduced to a sweet, malty caramel toffee followed by hints of burnt charcoal, pepper and nutmeg. You then encounter sour grapes and citrus along with oak and an almost moist earthy like feel (not peat, but more like earth meets rain). Subsequent whiffs uncover light, creamy milk chocolate, with brine and leathery underscores.
Taste: The liquor is mildly sweet with the woody oakiness flowing through. This sweetness is slowly replaced by a host of Indian spices; cardamom and black pepper with raisins and a pinch of salt that appears closer to the finish. I could also faintly taste bits of dark chocolate; which might explain why my tongue was left with a slight waxy feel.
Finish: Brandy like aftertaste with the Indian spices slowly tapering off.
I’ll be honest, the first time I sipped the Brilliance I really didn’t find that wow factor. But as I spent more time with the whisky, I began to enjoy the experience this tropical tipple had to offer. It truly did capture the spirit of Goa, be it the salty mist from the ocean waves, the moist earth post monsoonal showers to the various tropical spices. It might not have been as in your face as I thought it would be but it definitely holds its ground!
Bottom line, the John Paul Brilliance is yet another one of those new admissions into the world of whisky and with the right amount of sweetness, along with its Goan heritage it so tightly clings onto does seem to please. Definitely one of those drinks I would savor neat or with an itsy bitsy bit of water (couple of drops).
PS: A very special thanks to Gautam for the bottle! 🙂