Ever since discovering the Paul John range, I’ve made it a personal mission to ensure I always have a bottle of Edited secreted away in my
sock drawer whisky cupboard. Edited, along with Brilliance (unpeated) and Bold (heavily peated) all formed the basic core range, and rather than being staggered in price were refreshingly standardised around the R650 mark. All exceptional drams, well priced and ticking the usual whisky-nerd boxes.
But now there’s a new kid on the block – a bright eyed expression from our favorite Indian enterprise, designed to claw away some of that coveted Glenfiddich/livet/morangie entry-level territory. It’s called Nirvana.
First up – like Brilliance and the Classic Select Cask – Nirvana is explicitly unpeated. The goal of Nirvana is accessibility, and much of the marketing uses terms like “beginner” and “newcomer” to describe the ideal drinker. And I suppose the idea is that peat scares newcomers away.
In the same vein, Nirvana also dials down the alcohol to make it a little easier to sip – the first mainstream Paul John expression below 46%, now at a ho-hum standard 43% ABV (or 40% if you’re unlucky enough to live in the first world). I have it on good authority that although batches are significantly more limited, Nirvana is in fact made using younger whisky on average than the Brilliance.
However, you still get that same all-Indian 6-row barley, some charred American oak barrels and a strong commitment to natural colour and lack of chill filtration. They even present it in semi-opaque glass to hide the cloudiness that can occur in non-chill filtered, lower ABV bottles. Nice. Let’s hit it!
My first impression was “blend”. Which is not a pejorative, but rather that Nirvana has a remarkably “grainy”, dilute-bourbon style twang – something I get from the likes of J&B and Johnnie Walker Red. A few minutes of oxygen reveals a soft golden syrup, whipped cream, bananas, white bread and the subtlest vanilla aroma. Something musty in there as well, ‘less my nose hairs deceive me.
Yep, easy drinking. Not quite as chuggable as Glenmo 10 – breakfast of champions – but nevertheless one of those “I’ll drink this while you drink wine” type whiskies.
The taste reminds me of the other benchmark “creamy” drams – Glenfiddich Founder’s Reserve, Gold Label Reserve. You get that butterscotch, caramel and chocolate mousse thing going on, but here mixed with a dose of Maker’s Mark in the form of a (bizarrely) single grain-like taste. The combination works really well, although there’s not much to unpack.
I was a little disappointed with the finish, unfortunately. On the wrong side of “a little bitter”, and shallow. Strangely, I don’t feel as though a higher bottling strength would do any favours – 43% is just right – but rather it’s the flavour profile itself that is just, well, short and simple. Too simple to be interesting.
I struggled with this one for a long time, and eventually realised I was fighting some bias. I wanted this to be as exceptional as its slightly pricier brothers – for Paul John to continue to feature nothing but exceptional whisky, rather than have a single bottle that rocks the boat.
But, it is what it is. Nirvana is a relatively easy, tasty, simple single malt. But not as easy as Glenmorangie 10, or tempting as Dewar’s 15, and miles away from Three Ships 5 at less than half the price. When it comes to understanding what this distillery is capable of, I highly recommend starting with the Brilliance and then discovering the sheer joy that is the Edited. Cheers!