5 June 2013

Whisky Insiders Interview - Michael John

Paul John Single Malt

Master Distiller


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
My first job in the whisky industry was actually with John Distilleries when I was just 21, and I’m proud to say that I have been with then now for over 20 years. It’s quite unbelievable to think that I joined as a mere assistant to the Master Distiller and now I have achieved the pinnacle of my profession by earning this role myself.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
John Distilleries, the parent company of Paul John Single Malt is actually the world’s sixth largest whisky distiller, with over 11m cases of our Original Choice brand whisky produced per year.  Whilst this whisky is aimed at the Indian economy segment, I take great satisfaction in creating a whisky that is enjoyed by so many people in a market with so many other brands.

However, undoubtedly my biggest career highlight is the launch of our flagship range Edited and Brilliance.  The dream of any master distiller is for their whiskies to be appreciated by whisky enthusiasts around the world, something I believe we have achieved with these new whiskies.  Moreover, I feel this is a particularly special achievement given India’s limited reputation for making premium whiskies.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
One of my earliest Scotch memories was trying a Glenlivet Single Malt with our then Master Distiller early on in my career. Coming from a culture where Blended whisky (Chivas and Johnnie Walker in particular) dominate the premium sector, it was the first time I had really sat down to understand and appreciate single malt Scotch. I remember being completely mesmerised by how Single Malt whisky could be so interesting and appealing.

What does whisky mean to you?
Whisky is quite simply my life. Whisky has been my passion since my youth and opportunities in India to work for a premium whisky brand are few and far between.  To say that I have lived my dream with a company I joined 20 years ago is unbelievable.  With the launch of our Flagship range, I feel that I have begun a new educational journey and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
I hope to have established a range of whiskies that are just as appreciated as the great Scotch brands.

What was your last dram?
I recently picked up a bottle of Balvenie Triple Cask 16 Year Old on my way home from England.  I’ve only had a small drop so far and it’s got me quite excited. So I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with it, particularly to understand how the triple cask maturation works to create such a delicious flavour profile.

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
With our warm climate, whisky is often consumed tall with a refreshing drop of soda.  Alongside some fresh grilled seafood, it’s a delicious combination. However, I was really intrigued by some of combinations being promoted in England, including matching with cheese, chocolate and my favourite, fruit cake!

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
To most people the idea of sitting with a dram on the golden beaches of Goa as the sun goes down is heaven, this is just daily life for me though! I however recently had my first experience of visiting various Scotch distilleries and I can say with absolute certainty that a dram overlooking the rolling hills of Scotland with the intoxicating aroma of whisky in the air was by far the best experience I’ve ever had.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
Undoubtedly, the next big thing on the whisky horizon is the large-scale acceptance of World Whiskies alongside Scotch and other traditional styles of whisky.

Japanese Whisky should be lauded for almost single-handedly creating and maintaining this category over the last decade.  However the rest of the world is clearly now ready to join the party and it’s great to see so many exciting new brands from countries as far and wide as Belgium, Taiwan and of course India.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
It has to be Lagavulin 16 Year Old. A juicy, fruity and a fantastically rounded peated whisky.

Many thanks to Michael John. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!