(Isle of) Jura (Pronounced: isle of JUU-rah)
Highlands - Islands (Jura)
55°53'42.5184 N, 5°53'10.5684 W
Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Tobermory, Arran
1963 (an earlier distillery was founded in 1810)
Market Loch (Loch a Bhaille Mhargaidh)
2 Wash stills, 2 Spirit stills
2,200,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
United Spirits > Whyte & Mackay Ltd. (since 2007)
Jura, Argyllshire PA60 7XT, Scotland, UK
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2003 - The Isle of Jura 'Superstition'
is launched; a vatting of regular Isle of Jura and the heavily peated variety that has been distilled since 1999. The result of the vatting is a relatively lightly peated whisky.
2007 - Whyte & Mackay is bought by United Spirits, the liquor company of Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya.
2011 - A new visitor centre is added to the Isle of Jura distillery.
The Isle of Jura distillery is located so close to the island of Islay that
they often participate in the annual 'Feis Ile' whisky festival of the Islay
distilleries. But even though the Isle of Jura distillery is located just a
ferry ride away from 'the parish of peat', its house style is completely
different. They produced a few peated batches, but most of the regular
expressions show a trademark oily profile - not unlike cod liver oil.
It's a trait I've also found in some official releases from the Tobermory
distillery on the nearby island of Mull. This could be a coincidence, or an
effect of 'terroir' issues. Given the fact that the original Jura distillery
(founded in 1810 by Archibald Campbell) was dismantled in 1901 and
a new Jura distillery was constructed in 1963, it's difficult to tell, really.
1) When the first Isle of Jura distillery was founded in 1810, it was under the name 'Small Isles Distillery'.
2) You may think that I've mistakenly used a picture of a rum distillery in the Caribbean at the top of this page. but the mild micro-climate around the Isle of Jura distillery actually allows palms to grow there - but not comfortably...
3) The number of stills at Isle of Jura distillery was expanded from two to four in 1978.
4) Together with Bunnahabhain and Glenmorangie, Isle of Jura used to have the tallest pot stills in the industry.
However, different sources quote different sizes - and quite a few stills were replaced in recent years at those distilleries. So, I'll stay away from mentioning exact numbers at this point.
5) The Isle of Jura distillery has six stainless steel washbacks and a semi-lauter mash tun.
Jura NAS 'Prophecy' (46%, OB, Profoundly Peated, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Phenolic; more on the "industrial" side (rubber) than on the "organic" side. Some sweet notes too.
Taste: Sweet and smoky; quite a lovely combination. Quite a dry explosion in the centre. Long finish. Nice...
Some meaty notes as well, which is odd because they usually appear in older whiskies. A hint of tar. Ashes.
Score: 82 points - I imagine this is TOO extreme for some, but I think it's perfect for a cold winter night.
Jura 'Vintage 1999' (55%, OB, Boutique Barrels, Heavy Peat, Bourbon cask, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Very sweet, with a growing smoky presence. They managed to achieve a VERY good balance here.
Taste: Sweet, smoky and peaty in a very good balance. I like it a lot - but the finish is a tad too dry for me.
Score: 84 points - I quite like it, but the finish is just a tad to hot and flat for a score in the upper 80's.
Jura 21yo (44%, OB, Celebrating 200 years of the distillery, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: An odd combination of fruity and farmy. Light yoghurt. Leathery and sweaty. A finished whisky?
Taste: Very sweet start. Weird but enjoyable. Cough syrup. Long, big and round. Touch of smoke?
Score: 85 points - I liked this Jura whisky a lot, but I can see how it's not mainstream enough for some
Jura NAS 'Superstition' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: An odd mixture of subtle smoke, organics and olive oil. Some spices too. Steamed beef? Hint of rubber?
Not as expressive as more heavily peated malts, but it's actually quite complex. Nice development over time.
Taste: Very subtle and unique peat on a medium sweet centre. Touches of smoke and liquorice in the finish.
Sweetish with a touch of aniseed. It doesn't evolve much beyond that. Well, no problem; it's a nice malt.
Score: 81 points - wow, this expression has improved tremendously in recent years. Great job, Jurians!
Jura 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Malty and buttery. Some roasted coffee beans. And, indeed, oil. Not very expressive though...
Taste: Smooth & quite sweet in the start, growing grittier in the centre. Like the nose it feels fairly mainstream.
A very smooth mouth feel. This whisky feels a tad too dry and weak in the finish to reach above average.
Score: 75 points - not terribly impressive as a malt whisky, but it would be a perfect alternative to bourbon.
Jura 16yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Wet cardboard. Mocha? A little odd, but not very expressive. Hint of rubber in the background?
Oh bugger, after a few minutes the trademark oiliness pops up. It doesn't last though; evaporates quickly.
Taste: Uneven and watery at first with quickly emerging tannins. Coffee, but otherwise very dull.
Score: 72 points - the fact that I prefer the 10yo suggests they made some improvements in the late 1990's.
Isle of Jura NAS 'Superstition' (45%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Veggy. String beans. Hint of oil. Sulphur. Some peat slowly creeping to the forground.
Taste: Rough and gritty. Sorry, but I just can't get myself to like these 'lightly peated' west coasters.
Score: 61 points - a full five points below an earlier batch I've tried, released in or around 2003.
A decent whisky in itself, but as single malts go I'd have to put this Isle of Jura in or near the bottom 10%.
Isle of Jura 5yo 1999/2004 (60.6%, OB, Cask #19 for The Whisky Exchange, Peated)
Nose: Light, sweet and grainy. Hey, is that peat? Yes it is - but quite light. Then organics emerge.
A big nose. Lovely development. Leather. Salt. Oysters? Meaty - salami. Boeuf Bourguignon perhaps?
Taste: Just like in the nose, the peat takes a while to develop. Very dry towards the finish. Caol Ila?
It grows very hot after a while. Smoke. This is a real peat monster - it might even scare away novices.
Score: 92 points - but sampled with a fresher nose and palate, it does reveal some small 'imperfections'.
I certainly wouldn't call them 'flaws', but 92 points might be just a smidgen generous. Still, the score stands.
Isle of Jura 5yo 1999/2004 (61,3%, OB, Cask #144 for The Whisky Fair 2005, Peated)
Nose: First the trademark 'Jura oil' with a hint of smoke, then a very 'veggy' sort of peat emerges.
Powerful, but it somehow feels rather superficial and not very well integrated. However, it develops.
After a few minutes everything seemed to come together with some organics and a twist of lemon.
Something vaguely metallic? This has some very endearing aspects but some weak points as well.
Taste: Smooth start, even at C/S. Grittier, then smoother and sweeter in the centre. Then peatier.
Surprisingly long, sweet and peaty finish, with a hint of liquorice. The peat keeps growing stronger.
Score: 86 points - but it needed quite some time to get there. Not quite as good as the Jura 3yo for Japan.
Isle of Jura NAS 'Superstition' (45%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
Nose: More sherried and maltier than the standard 10yo OB. No oil - but no peat either.
It seems like a big improvement over the 10yo but it doesn't make a lasting impression.
Taste: Ah, there's the oil. Very soft start - it doesn't feel like 45% at first. Where's the peat?
Gritty and a little superficial. Smooth but unsatisfactory. A waste of good peat, if you ask me.
Score: 66 points - I've heard some good comments about this peated Isle of Jura, but I'm afraid it's not peaty
enough for me. I'm one of those people that feel that if you're going to use peat, you might as well use lots of it.
This hardly makes an impact; maybe they should have called it the Isle of Jura 'Superficial'...
Jura Whisky 3yo 1999/2002 (60.7%, OB for Japan, Cask #92, 447 bottles) - sampled blind
Nose: Wow!!!! Big, sweet and complex. Right up my alley. Character.
Then more organics and maybe even some peat. An adventure for the nose.
Taste: Very woody, but not unpleasantly so. Sherried, fruity and 'winey' notes.
Great mouth feel. There seems to be some peat as well, but that doesn't show at first.
After a while it grows bone dry with suggestions of liquorice and iodine. Smoke. Very nice.
Score: 91 points - I was really surprised when I tasted this blind. First guesses: Ardbeg, Talisker, Ardmore.
This Isle of Jura whisky is something; 3 years old - some food for thoughts about maturation etc.
Isle of Jura 36yo (44%, OB, Cask #590, 449 Bottles, Bottled 2001) - sampled blind
Nose: Mellow. Sweet. Bakery. Drops off rather quickly. Hint of smoke?
Wait a minute, it makes a sneaky comeback after five minutes. Medicinal. Organics.
I had it in the upper 70's at first, but the score rose as the nose grew more potent.
Taste: Sweetish start, a little flat. Someting fruity, but altogether quite dry. Something coastal.
Score: 85 points - my blind guesses were: Ardmore, Ben Nevis, Talisker, Scapa, Longrow.
Ah; when the identity was revealed, the 'coastal' notes I detected make sense. No oil this time, fortunately.
Isle of Jura 21yo (40%, OB, Botttled +/- 2000) - another sample from Olivier
Nose: Rich and sherried at first, flattening out a little bit and growing dustier. Then it picks up again.
Subtle woods and fruits. Something vaguely 'veggy'. To my delight I found none of the oiliness of the 10yo OB.
I did find some subtle organics an vegetable stock notes later on, though.
Taste: Hmmm... Now, there seems to be a faint hint of oil before it firms up.
Rather sweet, growing fruitier towards the centre. Fresh and quite gritty.
I had it in around 80 for a while, but the finish grows too dry and woody.
Score: 82 points - at first I didn't think I could recommend this to anyone. The nose seems just fine but the palate lacks some substance and finesse. However, given time (at least 15 minutes) the nose becomes very complex.
The organics keep developing. That boosts the score for this Isle of Jura malt whisky well into the 80's.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Isle of Jura Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Jura page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Jura expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
If any bottles that were made at the old Jura distillery in the 19th century would have survived to this day, oxidation would have changed the whisky so much by now that a comparison would be pointless. Besides, if such bottles existed they would surely end up at a whisky auction where it would be sold at an incredibly inflated price to a 'nouveau riche' collector. I wouldn't personally be inclined to invest a considerable amount of money in such a bottle anyway, since the connection of the old distillery to the current Isle of Jura distillery is fairly flimsy to begin with.
Granted, the new Jura distillery sits at the same location as the old Jura distillery, but that one was dismantled in 1901 by proprietor James Ferguson after a conflict with land owner Colin Campbell. It wasn't until 1963 that a brand new distillery was built to help support the island's economy. Driving forces behind the resurrection of malt whisky production on the island were local land owners Robin Fletcher and Tony Riley-Smith, whisky blenders and merchants Charles Mackinlay & Co. and the architect William Delmé-Evans.
The name William Delmé-Evans
pops up in the history books
of many distilleries in Scotland. William was born in Wales, but
his passion for brewing and distilling pulled him to Scotland.
In 1949 he was one of the founders of Tullibardine and after
he constructed Isle of Jura he went on to build Glenallachie
distillery in 1967. Of these three distilleries, his connection
with Jura may have been the strongest; he learnt to fly
so that he could easily travel to and from the island.
Delmé-Evans remained as managing director of Isle of Jura until his retirement in 1975.
At that time Charles Mackinlay & Co. were still involved as well. That company was already
more than century old when they became involved with Isle of Jura. Its founder (appropriately
named Charles Mackinlay) was an even bigger name in the whisky industry than Delmé-Evans;
he was one of the inventors of blended whisky in the 19th century, along with Andrew Usher.
In fact, quite possibly the best 'regular' blend I've tried was the 'Original Mackinlay 21' from the
late 1980's and early 1990's. By that time the company was already owned by Invergordon.
Invergordon bought Charles Mackinlay & Co. (who owned the Isle of Jura
and Glenallachie distilleries) from Scottish & Newcastle Breweries in 1985.
The whisky industry is like the ocean, in the sense that the small fish are
eaten by slightly bigger fish, who are in turn eaten by the even bigger fish.
So, in 1993 Invergordon Distilleries was taken over by Whyte & Mackay.
A little over a decade later an even bigger fish came swimming by - all the way from India.
In 2007 the United Spirits group (controlled by Indian politician and business tycoon Vijay
Mallya) bought Whyte & Mackay. This put the Dalmore, Fettercairn, Isle of Jura and Tamnavulin
distilleries under Asian control. It wasn't like they were the first - the ownership of distilleries
like Auchentoshan, Ben Nevis, Bowmore, Glen Garioch and Tomatin has been in Asian hands
since the 1990's. So, 'Scotch' malt whisky flourishes partly thanks to funding from Asia.
As for the Isle of Jura distillery itself: details of the packaging and labeling have changed a lot
over the years, but the characteristic bulky shape of the bottle has remained the same. It's
perhaps a smidgen too bulky for my grubby little hands, but in general the bottle is perfect to
bring along during a hike with some friends. When I'm really concentrating on the nosing of a
whisky the oil in the regular expressions can put me off, but the smoothness makes it perfect
for outdoor dramming. That goes for the lightly peated 'Superstition' that was released in
2002 as well - although I'd have to admit that I prefer the real stuff from Islay in winter time.
And I think that's all I have to say about Jura at the moment, I think.
Rest assured that this page will be updated once I have some interesting new developments at Jura to report on.
With Richard Patterson acting as a 'brand ambassador on acid' for the Jura whisky that can't be long ;-)
Is the distillery or