The isle of Jura's only distillery
The Jura distillery is located on the isle of Jura, which lies off the west coast of Scotland next to the famous whisky island of Islay. The distillery was founded in 1810 by Archibald Campbell and was originally called the Small Isles distillery - named after the numerous small islands located in Craighouse Bay, which the distillery overlooks. It was closed for a long period between 1901 and 1960, at which point it was rebuilt and re-named as Jura by Charles Mackinlay & Co. Production restarted in 1963. The distillery has an annual production capacity of two million litres, which is reasonably large when considering its remoteness and the small population of the island (currently only 220 people). In fact, Jura translates as 'deer island' from the old Nordic language (in ancient times the island was invaded by Nordic warriors) and the deer out number people by a staggering ratio of 20:1.
Limited edition and special casks
The current owners of Jura are Whyte & Mackay, which is in turn owned by the Indian drinks company United Spirits. They use the whisky produced at Jura in their popular range of blended whiskies. However, they are putting more in to promoting Jura as a single malt whisky and sales have improved greatly. The current range consists of a 10, 16, 18 and 21 years old in a non-smoky style plus the mildly smoky Superstition and the very smoky Prophecy. There are other older or limited releases from time to time, such as this 21 years old, which has been specially selected to celebrate the distillery's 200th anniversary. This whisky has been finished in ex-sherry casks from the famous sherry bodegas of Gonzalez Byass, which date back to 1963 - the year that whisky production restarted at Jura. It is limited to just 1200 bottles, has a strength of 44% ABV and should cost around £90-100 from specialist retailers.
Our tasting notes
The colour of this 21 years old is golden amber and the nose seems initially sweet and malty. Distinct aromas of cereal grains are quickly joined by those of dark dried fruits (think of raisins, prunes and candied orange peel) and caramel. With time some more subtle aromas begin to come through - vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and something nutty (hard to pinpoint, but most reminiscent of walnuts). On the palate, this feels silky and rich and coats the inside of the mouth. There are plenty of caramel notes to begin with and with time, these turn slightly more towards burnt sugar. The notes of malty cereal and dried fruits from the nose develop well, with a particular emphasis on the candied orange peel. In fact, the combination with the increasing nutmeg and cinnamon notes are reminiscent of spiced oranges. The palate becomes increasingly dry and a slightly sulphuric coal smoke notes appears right at the end - this may sound unpleasant but adds much needed balance to the other much sweeter notes, especially the caramel. The finish is pleasant but surprisingly short, given the richness of the whisky. The dried fruits and caramel again play a big part before the spices, burnt sugar and malty grain notes finish things off.
What's the verdict?
This 200th Anniversary bottling is a pleasant and rich whisky that is very easy drinking. A mention must be made of the excellent packaging (which can be seen in the image, above) - the bottle stands on its own plinth, next to a rolled certificate of authenticity signed by Jura's Distillery Willie Cochrane (this doubles as an invite to visit the distillery), with a section that clips over the top and contains an old black and white photo of the distillery. The combination of its limited number, decent quality and innovative packaging make it a good choice as a present for a whisky lover, if your budget is around £90-100!