I Lagavulin I Bruichladdich I Caol Ila I Port Ellen I LaphroaigI Bowmore I Jura I Kilchoman I Ardbeg I
Jura and rain are synonymous to me, since it has been raining every time I have put foot on that charming island. Fortunately, the distillery in Cragihouse is distilling a very nice Isle of Jura whisky. And when it is raining, visiting a distillery is not a bad idea?
My journey to Jura started early in the morning to be sure to take the 12.30 ferry at Port Askaig. With time closing to 12.30, the Port Askaig population increased until the 100+ participants to the Isle of Jura Open day were taken care of by the distillery staff on the ferry in Port Askaig.
The Jura open day was extremely well organised, since all the transportations were organized by the distillery! Well done!
At our arrival, we were greeted by all the distillery staff, including Richard Patterson, the master blender of Whyte and McKay, Michael Heads, the distillery manager and Willie Tait, the master distiller. The filling store was very nicely decorated with brand new French oak casks and the tasting tables were made of 4 barrels that were joined together.
After the warm welcome and lunch break, I joined the tour led by Willie Tait and enjoyed listening to all his anecdotes about the distillery and Jura. He is talking with love and admiration about the distillery he joined in the beginning of the 60s.
Jura distillery is a pleasant mix of modernity and craftmanship. The distillery is rather small, but ingenious build to occupy every single square meter as much as possible. The first time I visited the distillery, the most striking feature was the warehouse. It is much taller than any other warehouse in Islay (maybe at the exception of the newest Laphroaig warehouses) and the whisky smell is very strong. If you were to sleep there during the night, you would probably be drunk in the morning!
The remoteness of the distillery has a certain charm, but unfortunately also has a negative impact on the costs of production, meaning that Whyte and Mackay are trying to reduce its quantity as much as possible in their blends (to about 1+ percent)
Finally, after having seen all this whisky, the tasting started. For the blind tasting, the 13 year old (YO), 15 YO and the 30 YO Isle of Jura were selected, all from the limited edition sold at the distillery shop. The 13 year old was a clean, fresh lemon with honey sweetness and a very pleasant round lingering, but medium-short finish. The overall balance was pleasant.
The 15 YO was more complex and round. With water, it opened and delivered all its sweet and wide range of flavours. A fine good dram!
On the other hand, the 30 YO was very different, with a nose much weaker than the younger one and not much hints of freshness. Its body was well rounded, heavy and extremely complex. This Isle of Jura traded its nose for its body. Micheal Heads did a good job at selecting these three casks and thus showing the richness of flavours that Isle of Jura can produce. I am not very found of the regular bottlings, which I find too dry and "straw- like", but I really enjoyed the nice sherry drams!
To close the open day, we had a funny but captivating blending competition. By mixing 11 whisky samples (including samples of vatted malt and grain whisky), the goal was to create the "best" blend. The notion of "best" is something subjective. I thoroughly enjoyed blending my own whisky. I don't really like blended Scotch, but this experiment showed me how difficult it is to create a blend. Nosing the blends of the competitors, I was surprised by the huge variety of flavours that could be created. This competition was pure fun and pleasure!
The Jura open day was just great and I am longing for next year. It would have been a perfect day, if the timetables in Islay were up-to-dateand not 2 months old, so that you can catch the last bus. Walking back a few hours under a very heavy shower in the evening was not such a pleasant experience!