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The Evolution of Jura
Jura is often described as one of Scotland’s last wildernesses and with a population of just 200 people, on an island some 30 miles long, it’s not difficult to see why. The name comes from the Norse for deer island, an appropriate title since they outnumber people by 5 to 1. Jura is perhaps best known for its three peaks, the tallest of which reaches 2576 ft. From the summit you can see the isle of Mull and Colonsay whilst to the east is the mainland where Kintyre meets Argyll. To the west meanwhile is neighbouring Islay, home to many a famous distillery.
Jura itself is no stranger to the spirit with a distillery founded as far back as 1810. The original business ceased production at the turn of the century and after the buildings were stripped bare, the site was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. It would be six decades before local landowners decided to partner with MacKinlay’s blenders of Glasgow in order to build a new distillery on the site, bringing production and employment back to the island.
Given its proximity to Islay and the abundance of peat to be found on the island, you would perhaps expect Jura to produce a similarly smoky spirit but thanks to its construction in the 1960s, at a time when blended Scotch was king, the spirit was produced as the blending house required it, and that meant a lighter whisky in the Highland style. Over the years they began to experiment with peated barley, resulting in their Superstition and Prophecy single malts but in 2018, owners Whyte & MacKay decided that the range was too varied and lacking in continuity to really find a dedicated following and a massive relaunch took place, introducing a new house style that featured a gentle wisp of peat smoke across all versions.
For me at least, the new range was an improvement. As much as I have occasionally liked to poke fun at it, the Jura malt was never terrible, indeed I drank a lot of it when I first got into whisky, albeit with a handful of ice in the glass. It was only as my palate improved that I realised what Jura seemed to lack. It seemed somehow without character, without charm, but the new range went some way towards addressing this. The malt didn’t become a world beater overnight and at 40% it still lacks a bit of punch for my palate but the addition of smoke and an increase in the use of sherry casks in the recipe brought new depths to the experience.
The latest addition to this rejuvenated range comes in the form of the Winter Cask Edition, described as combining the Jura spirit with “the distinctive regional flavours of selected Spanish sherry casks”. Bottled at 40%, it retails at £45 for a 1 litre bottle.
*Full disclosure: I was sent this sample free of charge. As always, I will strive to give an honest opinion on the inherent quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
Smell: A surprisingly meaty nose. Barbecue flavour crisps. Currants. Caramel. Cinnamon and clove. Orange zest. Heather honey. Vanilla. Slight hint of the coast.
Taste: Lots of caramel. Raisins and cinnamon. Also some citrus and oak. Grapes and some red berries. Wee bit of pepper and gentle hint of smoke on the finish.
Thoughts: The litre bottle (a tell-tale sign that it was originally intended for the now decimated travel retail market?) means you get a lot of whisky for your £45. As it happens, I also think it’s rather good.
I haven’t always got on too well with Jura but this dram seems to carry on the improvement introduced in 2018. In fact I’m struggling to think of a Jura I’ve enjoyed more. There’s good depth – and length – to the sherry influence but it’s not a one-dimensional sherry-bomb. A satisfying dram – and with the litre bottle you get good value for your money as well.
For more on Jura Distillery visit here