The Abbey Whisky Bar Edinburgh, April Whisky Tasting

This month the regular whisky testing at The Abbey featured the new range of Jura whisky. The well-respected Prophecy, Origin and Superstition have been replaced by this new range.

On a nice mild evening, the Whisky Club members negotiated the seemingly endless roadworks and arrived at The Abbey looking forward to tasting the new whiskies.

The evening started when our host, Jody, gave us a background on Jura the island. Not an easy destination to reach from the mainland. However, the scenery looked rugged and enticing containing one road, one pub and one distillery. It would be a lovely island to visit! Its relative isolation does have an impact upon the supplies that have to be brought to the island to make whisky [much of the malt is from outside of the island] and also on transportation of the finished product to the Scottish mainland. We also learnt about the reason for the distinctive Jura bottle shape. Partly stronger than a traditional bottle and also does not roll easily! The shape was originally used by MacKinlay & Birnie for their Glen Mhor malt and from the start, Jura used the same bottles. The still used are unusually tall to help give a lighter style of malt. Much less peaty than their Islay neighbours.

Jura is owned by White & Mackay Ltd who have a wide portfolio of brands. Jura has seen a massive increase in sales between 2010 and 2015 and is the third best-selling malt in the four countries of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. This makes the discontinuation of the former range of whiskies somewhat surprising.

The new range of Jura whiskies comprises “Journey” the “entry level whisky” then a 10 year, 12 years, “Seven Wood” and an 18-year-old.

The tasting

Journey – A light amber gold whisky. Matured in American white oak casks formerly used for bourbon. 40% ABV. No age statement but under 10 years in all probability. To the nose a young light fruity aroma. The journey has a sweet smokiness with traces of vanilla and grass and citrus elements. Retailing at about £20 this is a fairly uncomplicated drink.

10 years old – A darker burnished whisky in colour. Again 40% ABV. Matured for 10 years in oak casks and finished in an aged Oloroso sherry cask. To the nose a hint of nectarines and on drinking a finish of dark chocolate. A slight oiliness. Again the same sweet smokiness. Retailing at about £38.

12 years old – slightly more golden in colour but the same process of maturation. Oak casks then finished in a sherry cask. More of the sweet smokiness to the nose. More of the bitter chocolate finish. Retailing about £45 and only in selected outlets.

Seven Wood – this is Jura’s most “experimental” whisky of the new range. 42% ABV. Matured in seven select French oak and first fill American white oak ex bourbon casks. This whisky has more richness and depth to it. A definite smell of vanilla. More earthy smokiness without being in any way overpowering. Drinking it you taste sweet orange with peach. Retailing about £60.

18 years old – A rich tawny chestnut colour. Following the style of the 10 and 12 year old whiskies however finished in red wine casks. Again the same sweet smokiness which on drinking gives way to pronounced notes of bitter chocolate and dark berries. A suggested retail price of £75.

In bringing out this new range Jura are trying to look forward while basing the range firmly on what the distillery has produced in the past. My own view is that the old range had more variety and was better suited to the current marketing of whiskies. This range is very main stream – not that there is anything inherently wrong with this – the Seven Wood is different and the 18 year old is an excellent evening drink. However the 10, 12 and 18 year old whiskies are clearly the same expression simply with increasing maturity. A range for the traditionalist I feel.

Unusual fact about Jura is that George Orwell used its solitude to his advantage in the 1940’s and finished “1984” there while living in a secluded cottage.

An other very enjoyable evening ended much too soon!

Written by Greg Dunn (Instagram)

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