This is the third in a series of interviews with the people who will be presenting whisky master classes at the 2018 Whisky & Spirits Live Festival being held in Johannesburg from 31 Oct – 2 Nov. Consider it a primer for the actual master class itself!
Please put your hands together for Michael D’Souza…
WTF: Hi Michael, can you give my readers a bit of background into who you are, how you got into whisky and what your role is currently in the industry?
MDS: I am working as a whisky maker for John Distilleries-India. I started my career in 1993 working under a few senior whisky blenders for several years. I always had a fascination for distillation, and the big break through came in the 2003 where I got the opportunity to become a distiller in one of the molasses/grain distilleries that the company owned. I continued in this role until 2008, and in 2008 I was given the task of setting up the single malt distillation in Goa. Since then I am into single malt distillation and perform the roles of Master Distiller / Master Blender at the Paul John Distillery in Goa.
WTF: This is your first time to South Africa right? What are you hoping to experience when you’re here?
MDS: Yes! This is my first visit to SA. I travel all over the world, and I always cherish meeting whisky experts, drinkers and the traders in different countries. I get to learn so much when it comes to the drinking culture, palate and local beverages.
WTF: Can you give us a brief overview of the Paul John expressions currently available in South Africa?
MDS: At present we have got Brilliance, Edited and Bold -all flagship whiskies bottled at 46% ABV – then there is the Select Cask Classic and Peated which are limited editions bottled at 55% ABV. And finally we have some special releases like KANYA (the Indian version of the Virgo Zodiac sign) which is bottled at 50% ABV and recently won the title of Best Asian Whisky of the Year in the 2018 Whisky Bible by Jim Murray. (WTF: We also currently have a Paul John Single Cask 1742 available in SA as an exclusive.)
WTF: Is this range going to be expanded upon locally?
MDS: Yes! Maybe Oloroso and PX cask finished whiskies in the future. (WTF: I’ve heard from the SA distributors of Paul John that they will try to bottle at least 1 Single Cask per year for SA, and they have been given a small allocation of Mars Orbiter and Xmas 2018, which should be available mid November.)
WTF: What is your favourite Paul John expression and why?
MDS: I always found Select Cask Classic to be more complex and suitable for my palate, also as a whisky maker I feel it’s technically challenging to make such a clean and elegant whisky.
WTF: What can we expect from your master class at Whisky Live?
MDS: As always, I try to keep things simple by giving more time for the people to enjoy our whiskies. My main subject would be the usage of Indian ingredients and the climate where the whisky matures, and my main intention is to draw peoples attention towards Indian whiskies.
Michael’s master class takes place on Wednesday, 31st Oct 2018 at 20:00. To book, head on over to www.ticketpros.co.za and search for “Paul John”. Tickets cost R160.
WTF: Are you bringing any special whiskies along with you? Those secretive, “under the counter” drams?
MDS: Yes! hopefully we should have at-least one or two secret drams at the show.
WTF: Any tips for people new to whisky, or something the seasoned whisky drinker may not know about Paul John whiskies?
MDS: All whiskies are different, India is a massively diverse nation with lot of different religions, languages, cuisines, culture and colors. You will find a similar vibrancy when you taste Paul John single malts.
WTF: Thanks for your time Michael, I look forward to catching up with you at the show!
Read more 2018 Whisky Live WTF Insider Interviews
Insider Interview #1: Robert Gray
Insider Interview #2: Georgie Bell
Insider Interview #3: Michael D’Souza
Insider Interview #4: Kaitlyn Tsai
Insider Interview #5: Kevin Liu