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Jura (pronounced: JOO-ra) has suffered something of an uneven reputation over the years due to a distinct inconsistency in the quality of its output. Although it currently seems to be undergoing something of a renaissance due to some very classy bottlings and a consistently excellent peated variant that has been produced since the late nineties. Although the labels on Jura bottlings state that the distillery was founded in 1810 this is a big pile of hogwash. The original distillery was indeed built in 1810 but was dismantled in 1901, the current distillery was built on the same site in 1963.
Isle Of Jura Distillery
Water Source: Market Loch
Stills: 2 Wash. 2 Spirit
Capacity: 2 Million Litres
Owners: Whyte & Mackay
There are not a vast number of Juras from the 60s available to try but there are some phenomenal 1966s bottled by Signatory and, in particular, Samaroli. Although these are compellingly dirty examples of the make and you have to like very oily, farmy, industrial distillate with very demanding and unsexy profiles, fortunately for me I love them. There was an excellent official 36yo bottled as well which showed some distinctive peat notes that suggest there was maybe some serious peating going on in the early days of production at Jura.
Independent bottlings from the 1970s are similarly rare although there are again some notable examples such as the Matthew Forrest 1975 cask, which is a real stonker. The 1970s is also when Jura started to appear as a malt in its distinctive shaped bottle. Although any of these old official Jura bottlings can be very dodgy and you should take great care, they are often wildly inconsistent and can often be somewhat dull and disappointing.
The character of old Jura is often oily and gingery with a faint Island saltiness and lots of crystallized fruits. They can be a little greenish with lots of mash y cereal notes and some rugged flinty notes underneath. This profile has not varied too much through the years but it has lots some of the thick oiliness which can be found in the sixties expressions. It has also settled down a little more in recent years and found its feet a little more regarding consistency. Current bottlings such as the 21yo and even the 10yo are much improved from recent years and display a more settled maturity with plenty of the pleasing Jura ginger and salt combo.
In 1999 Jura began distilling batches of malt peated up to 45ppm. This distillate has since become much admired among drinkers for its no holds barred peat style and immense coastal oiliness. It is unmistakably a powerhouse version of Jura that many people feel better reflects an Island location such as Jura. There have been several excellent official examples since the early 2000s.
Jura remains something of a Marmite distillery, some people have no time for it while others have nothing but a big warm soft spot for its quirky character. From a technical standpoint it is definitely improving which is good news and now that the peated stock is attaining maturity we can certainly expect more fantastic examples from that department. What is certain is that Jura has a distinctive and charmingly oddball personality and hopefully that is one thing that wont be changing any time soon.