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Jura distillery was founded in the 1960s, though it stands on the site of an earlier distillery that closed in 1910. The first single malts from the modern distillery were released in 1974 but it wasn’t until it was taken over by Whyte & MacKay in 1993 that it became widely available. The number of bottles gradually increased and the malt became a common sight in the supermarkets of the UK, often available at heavily discounted prices. The brand enjoyed decent success but never quite achieved the reputation for quality you’d expect. Perhaps that’s why the decision was made, in 2018, to relaunch with a minor rebranding and lightly smoked house style apparent throughout a new core range of expressions.
One of the most recent additions to the range has been the limited edition Cask Finishes series. These were created by whisky-maker Gregg Glass to showcase the effect of different cask finishes on the classic Jura malt. The latest in the series is the Rum Cask Finish, which follows Sherry and Red Wine editions.
Rum cask finishes are nothing new in whisky though they have become more common in recent years. Perhaps more than most spirits, Rum has a long and bloody history and it doesn’t always make for the most pleasant of reading. I think it is important, however, to acknowledge this when writing about the spirit. It originated in the West Indies with the earliest records dating from around 1650. Back then, it was known as kill-devil or rumbullion.
The spirit would become a significant factor in the slave trade. People were stolen from their homes in Africa and traded to the West Indies for molasses. The molasses were then made into rum and sold back to Africa in return for more slaves. When Britain captured the island of Jamaica in 1655 the availability of Rum led to an association with the Royal Navy. It had suddenly become cheaper and more available than beer or brandy and was soon being used in their daily rations. By 1687 it had become the official ration of the Royal Navy. With such regular usage in the Navy, it seems likely that a few empty casks found their way to Scotland where distillers would have been only too happy to put them to good use.
In more recent times, rum casks have been used to “finish” a spirit that’s first been aged in another cask, usually ex-bourbon. The Balvenie Caribbean Cask is perhaps the best-known example, though everyone from Glenfiddich to Johnnie Walker has dipped their toe, so to speak.
The Jura Cask Finish series is said to be ideal for people looking to explore new flavours. At 40% abv, I’m not sure this is the direction I’d point people if they wanted to try out rum maturation but for fans of the Jura brand who want to experience a new direction, I can certainly see the appeal.
The Jura Rum Cask Finish is bottled at 40% abv and retails for £45 (1 litre bottle).
Smell: Toffee apples and salted caramel. Red berries. Varnished oak. Creosote. Buttered rum. Raisin. Leather. Cinnamon and ginger.
Taste: Arrives in rather uneventful fashion but notes of toffee and malt are soon coming through with lots of Rum character. There’s honey and apple too with some gentle gingery spice.
Thoughts: A litre bottle of this stuff will set you back £40. That’s a lot of whisky for your money but you could get some other great bottles for a similar price – albeit in smaller quantities.
I’m a sucker for a big arrival but this dram rather sneaks onto the palate with a bit of a whimper. It does develop in fairness and there’s a burst of flavour in the middle of the tongue. Decent length on the finish too.
There will always be a space for whisky diluted to 40%. That’s something I’ve come to appreciate in recent years. I fully admit to being something of a cask strength snob in the past. Having said that, where this Rum Cask Finish was concerned, I kept thinking that it could really have done with a little extra heft. A bit more body, a bit more strength and we really could have been onto something here. Unfortunately, however, it all felt somehow… inconsequential.
It’s great to see a bit of creativity in the Jura brand and I’m sure some people will enjoy this dram but it just didn’t quite hit the spot for me. Personally, I would recommend looking instead at their Winter Edition. The one-litre bottle is evidence, I’m sure, that this release was originally intended for the travel retail market but for now at least, it brings a little diversity to shop shelves and that has to be a good thing.
For more on Jura Whisky visit here