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Getting to know Jura
My own personal history with the Jura single malt goes back about as long as I’ve been drinking whisky. Back then, their 10-year-old Origins bottling was regularly discounted in supermarkets, making it an appealing prospect for someone just getting acquainted with whisky. Origins, Superstition and Prophecy all had a place in my cabinet at various times but as the years went by, my tastes changed and I moved onto other brands.
Once I had become accustomed to a wider selection of whiskies, I found it difficult to go back to Jura. It just seemed to lack some of the magic I was finding in other single malts. Many people have speculated why that might be but I’ve never come across a conclusive answer. Back then, the whisky just seemed to lack a wee bit of personality.
Fast forward to 2018 and I was intrigued to hear that the brand was launching a complete new range with a new house style. I’ve spent the last couple of years getting acquainted with the new releases and while I haven’t become a member of the fan club or anything, I can definitely see the brand taking steps in the right direction.
Unfortunately, there still seems to be a reluctance to release higher strength versions, which is a shame because the few examples I’ve tried have come across rather well (see my review of the 21-year-old Tide here). Nevertheless, I find myself warming to the brand a little. It feels like Gregg Glass and his team of whisky makers are working hard to give Jura, an island full of character and personality, the product it deserves.
My relationship with Jura took another step back in October when I visited the distillery for the first time. I’ve been to Islay on five separate occasions now but not once in the first four trips did I attempt Jura. Somehow there always seemed to be enough to keep me occupied on Islay. Can’t imagine why. This time, however, I was there in my role as Kinship host for the Islay Whisky Academy and the students were heading to Jura the day after I arrived.
Our trip took in Lussa Gin and Deer Island Rum but in truth, it was the whisky distillery I was most looking forward to. Sadly, tours aren’t possible yet but we were able to enjoy a few drams in their new tasting room. Which, it has to be said, looks absolutely fantastic. We worked our way through some of the core range and even tasted some of the sherry that had been used to finish them. It was an informative and enjoyable visit that reinforced my belief that Jura is making progress.
Speaking of the distillery’s core range, I’ve had a couple of samples in the cabinet for a few months now. My recent visit finally inspired me to break them open.
*Full disclosure: I was sent the whiskies featured in this article free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the drams and the value for money they represent.
Jura 12-Year-Old (40%)
The 12-year-old is matured in Bourbon casks and finished in Oloroso sherry.
Smell: Some honeyed malt to begin with. A little bit woody. Sawdust even. Then apple and citrus comes through. Walnut. Leather. A few gentle wisps of smoke.
Taste: Creamy vanilla followed by chocolate orange creams. A little bit of oak. Subtle pepper and a hint of peat on the finish. With time in the glass, a little more of that sherry finish comes through. It’s not huge, but there’s a definite dried fruits note.
Thoughts: I’ve made no secret of my lack of passion for older Jura bottlings. Prior to the 2018 relaunch I found their whisky to be rather bland. This current range is an improvement in my opinion and the 12-year-old is a good example of the progress that has been made.
When compared to their old 10-year-old Origins release, there’s more life and vibrancy here, both on the nose and the palate. The addition of that little wisp of smoke and a short sherry finish has added layers of flavour that simply weren’t there before.
For my personal tastes, the spirit still lacks a little body and depth. Maybe it could do with a bit of spice to fatten up the bottom end. As things stand, it’s all a wee bit smooth.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with an easy drinking malt and at £35 a bottle, it certainly won’t break the bank. Pleasant, if not particularly memorable.
Jura 18-Year-Old (44%)
The 18-Year-Old is matured in ex-Bourbon casks and finished in Premier Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux barrels.
Smell: Wood varnish. Cherry. Brambles and blackcurrant. Dark chocolate. Caramel. Orange peel and cinnamon. Ginger biscuits.
Taste: Like the nose, the palate arrives with brambles, cherry and blackcurrant. More dark chocolate – the proper high cocoa content stuff. Coffee creams. Tobacco leaves. Dry oaky finish with some gentle spice. Faintest hint of smoke right at the end.
Thoughts: You couldn’t accuse this one of lacking depth. Those chocolatey flavours go on for miles. Still only the faintest hint of spice which makes it easily drinkable although the intensity has undoubtedly been helped by the 44% bottling strength. It’s a bit of an odd one that. If you’re bottling at 44% why not just bottle at 46%? It’s a nice drinking strength, I suppose and gives the whisky a little more oomph than you’d find at 40%, without overdoing the spice.
Of the current core range, the 18 is one of the standouts and Jura likely deserve some credit for their reasonable pricing too. There aren’t too many 18-year-old malts on the market at £60. Jura is one of the best selling single malts in the UK and that budget friendly price structure no doubt contributes to that.
I understand that there’s a lot of competition at £60 but even then, I’d consider buying a bottle of this. I like it enough. From me, that’s a pretty big compliment because I’ve never spent anything like £60 on a bottle of Jura before. Knock it up to 46%, bin the chill filtering and it would be an absolute winner.
For more on Jura visit here