Aug 102016
 

Isle Of Jura 1977 Juar064

46% abv

Score:  89/100

 

…and on the heels of that spectacular ’76 Jura we looked at a few days back, here’s the follow-up release: a very different and singular ’77.

Juar: Gaelic for “the yew tree” this time ’round (recall the ’76 referenced the Rowan tree).  This one is nowhere near as spectacularly nuanced as its older sibling, but is perhaps a little more bombastic for all that.  Again, some linguistic pagan origins here to tie this back to a land rich in lore, this time possibly hinting at regeneration, immortality and portals to the “otherword”, if you buy into the marketing fun, that is.  Not to mention that Yggdrasil itself has occasionally been rumoured to possibly have been a yew, and not an ash as most would believe.  Meandering fun, and provides some interesting conversation fodder for the timeless moments spent sipping this wizened old malt.

While quite lovely in its own right, I only wish I could say it lives up to its predecessor.  It’s certainly lively and a deft exercise for the tastebuds though.  And doubtless one of the best Jura I’ve yet tried.

34 years old, but noses younger.

*Took blind tasting notes and subsequently discovered this was port-finished.  Explains the winey-ness about it, doesn’t it?

Nose:  Fruity.  Rich in berries.  Scone dough.  Old books.  Some orange.  And then more orange.  Very slight winey-ness to it.  Rich spicyness.  Warm hot cross buns.  A slight nuttiness (as we find in most Jura).  Salt water taffy.  Hint of smoke.  Old cask.  Great harmony.

Palate:  Those are some tangy fruits.  Black current cough sweets.  Damp woods and grape juice.  Yeah…seems some wine influence.  Or just very tannic wood.  Ginger.  A very pleasant earthy, mineralness about it.  Leaves flavours
reminiscent of unlit cigar tobacco.

Thoughts:  Smells like a mid-aged Speysider.

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:42 pm
Jul 292016
 

Isle Of Jura 1976 Feith A’ Chaorainn068

46% abv

Score:  92/100

 

I think I’ve conceded this here on ATW before:  I have a glaring hole in my common sense and a pseudo-blind spot in some respects when it comes to Jura.  If I’m to be totally honest, several of the whiskies have been less than awesome.  Some have been merely average.  Others have been good.  And some have actually been quite special.  And then, a few steps down the road from there, two or three have actually been spectacular.

The thing with Jura, though, is that it’s wildly inconsistent, generally too wine-heavy and often has a nutty/malty character that doesn’t work for me.  So why then do I give them a bit of a pass?  First off, because I think Jura has improved dramatically in the past few years.  Secondly, and probably most tellingly, I cotton to nearly everything that comes from the Hebridean heaven of Islay, and that sort of carries over to Jura as well.  I’ve romanticized the heck out of the region.  I like to believe that I can still distance myself enough to score fairly, though.  And I think past Jura scores speak to that.

The malt we’re looking at now happens to fall in that last category I mentioned above.  Utterly spectacular.  So let’s dig in…

‘Feith A’ Chaorainn’, means ‘The lands around the Rowan tree’.  Like most contemporary whisky releases, the brand found a cool angle and spun the hell out of it.  This one, fortunately, happens to be cooler than most, and ties back to superstitions surrounding the Rowan tree.  Said superstitions speak of protection for the island’s travellers, guarding against malevolent beings and witchcraft, being the tree from which the first woman in Norse mythology was made, having saved the mighty Thor from a powerful torrent, being the tree on which the devil hung his own mother, a portal between worlds, and is the culmination of a Greek myth involving a lost chalice and the blood and feathers of a gods-sent eagle.  Pick the angle you like best.  All seem rather esoteric and badass in mine eyes.

Oh yeah…and the whisky is at least as good as the tales it is linked to.  Just as magic.  Just as timeless.  This is Jura on the world stage.

Nose:  Soft and beautiful.  The best nose on any Jura I’ve ever met.  Pear.  White flour.  Faintest whiff of latex.
White chocolate.  Roman nougat.  Soft custard notes.  Vanilla.  Nuts.  Rich hard wood (but not shavings or sawdust or anything).  Citrus and oil.  Wet rock.  Just a wee whiff of far off smoke.  Stunning, really.

Palate:  Nice ‘oaky’ cask notes.  Faint touch of char and smokiness (but not peat).  Soft fruits and white baking (biscuits,
scones, buns, something).  Lemon cream.  Rich with oily fruit notes.  Soft pie crust.  Barely steeped green tea.  Faint ginger.  And other light spices.  Leaves very clean oak notes.  Very rich for a 46%er.

Thoughts:  Not just beautiful for Jura, but beautiful for whisky.  Period.  This is an amazing drop.

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:39 am
Jun 192016
 

Jura Brooklyn576

42% abv

Score:  76/100

 

Truly one of the oddest bottling strengths I’ve ever seen.  And yet another in the endless, shameless parade of NAS nonsense.  Let’s assume this one actually does have a raison d’être – and I recall reading about its genesis a long while back – but it’s really just the next schtick, isn’t it?

Playing to some contrived connection between the wee Hebridean Shangri-La of Jura and the bustling metropolis of NYC.  Ummm…sure.  Reaching here, aren’t we, folks?

Anyway…the whisky.  A mix of ex-bourbon, pinot noir and Amaroso casks.  Without even tasting it those words would be enough to tell me that this is one of offspring of the Whyte & Mackay blending house.  Parts of this whisky work to a degree.  Other facets simply leave me head scratching.  Cohesion seems to be secondary to the storyline itself, and I kinda think if we’d skipped the pinot casks and let this one mellow for a few more years maybe this would be a different review.  But we’ve all seen ‘Wayne’s World’, aye?  “If a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass when he hopped.”

Apparently there are malts in here up to 16 years, but I imagine the ratios are grossly skewed in favour of under 10s.  Such is the bane of NAS marketing.  Fortunately we have our finely-attuned senses to guide us through the bullshit, right?

Now I must admit…I have a soft spot for Jura.  Probably beyond what the whisky actually deserves, to be honest, but even so, this one is…not great.

Nose:  Nut-heavy and overly-malty.  Sharp with young notes.  Barley sugars, faint fruit melange (like bland frozen berries) and a touch of peat.  A little pepper.  Smells of a freshly-opened bag of white flour.  Leather.  Berry scones and sugar cookies.  Something slightly feinty here.  Just seems too young, but to fair, it does soften with time.

Palate:  There’s an earthiness here that hints of peat.  Leathery notes.  More nuttiness, and too heavy on the wine influence.  Like chewing barley stalks.  Farmy flavours (hard to articulate).  Yeah…there’s the wine and peat fighting it out.  Slightly, very slightly tannic.  Meh.  Let’s stop.

Thoughts:  Blind, I would immediately guess Jura or Dalmore, as this has Paterson’s fingerprint all over it (even if made – apparently – by Wee Willie Tait).  In other words…wine cask tomfoolery and such.  Not my cup of tea.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:57 pm
Dec 122014
 

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 12 – December 12th026

1997 Isle Of Jura 17 y.o. (Samaroli)

Cask #9118

43% abv

Score:  86.5/100
A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 

 

Now here’s a bit of a fun one.

It’s a rare occasion I come across independently bottled single cask releases of Jura.  There was a rather spectacular Douglas Laing 25 y.o. I tried on Islay a couple years back.  And I think maybe an SMWS release or two, but not many other Indie Juras make it our way.  Surprising, really, when one considers the volume the distillery produces (a couple million litres per annum), and how much ends up blended away.  You’d think more casks would wind up in the hands of private enterprise.

Leaving that aside, what we find in this particular Hebridean malt is a character quite apart from what I normally find in Jura.  I suppose if you really concentrate, you’ll pick up on some of the familial lineage, but the hallmarks that normally announce this whisky loud and clear are instead here a mere whisper.  And that is saying something, as I find Jura, as a rule, to have a very pronounced and singular profile.  The salinity throughout and a touch of nuttiness on the palate are the only hints at which distillery this really is.  If tasted blind, I may have guessed.  But then again…I may not have.

Further…it’s nice to see Jura mature and pure.  Older than most of their releases and dressed in none of the wine cask adornment they seem so fond of.  Lest you think I’m slagging Jura here, think again.  I have a real soft spot for this distillery, and am probably somewhat over-forgiving, if anything.  I like their malts and…if I’m being honest…their entire raison d’être.

I’ve said it before, and likely will again…these unpredictable l’il beauts are what make whisky fun.  They keep us (or me, at least) on our toes and allow every bottle purchased to hold a little bit of anticipation.

Nose:  NEVER would I peg this as a Jura.  Roman nougat.  Cookie dough.  Soft white cake.  Marzipan.  A slight saline edge too, almost like Play Dough.  Some ginger and pepper.  A wee splash of OJ.  Just the vaguest hint of smoke.  Kinda putty-ish.  A very ‘dull’ nose…and I don’t mean that in a bad way, believe it or not.  Just no sharp edges.  Simple, soft and pleasant home-y notes.  Very pleasant.

Palate:  More of that almond note and still getting the white gooey Roman Nougat flavours.  Salt water taffee.  Dried orange fruit.  Hint of peach.  Finally some of those Jura walnutty/chestnut notes I expected.

Thoughts:  Very atypical of Jura.  Very cool.  If the nose had been a little more aligned with the palate we’d have scored higher.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at SingleMalting.com.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:38 am
Jun 102014
 

Jura Boutique Barrels 1995014

56.5% abv

Score:  89.5/100

 

Let’s go back to the familiarity of one of Scotland’s most isolated distilleries.  Just across the Sound of Islay lies the beautiful, sparse Isle of Jura, infamous for its red deer to human ratio of about 30:1 or something silly like that.  Man…what I wouldn’t give to leave the urban sprawl for a bit of that sort of existence.

Fortunately for us whiskyphiles, a few of those 200 or so people who constitute the entire populace of Jura (Duriachs, as they’re known) spend a good chunk of time engaged in the alchemy of turning solid to liquid, in the time-honored tradition of converting barley to whisky.  There’s always been magic afoot on Jura that extends well beyond alchemy, though.  For such a wee little place, there’s certainly enough interesting history to keep the intrigue high.

On to the malt now…

I really like these Jura Boutique Barrels releases.  Some, of course, are stronger outings than others, but all are definitely worth a ‘go’.  This more ‘whisky purist’-oriented presentation is a great direction for the distillery to be taking.  It seems as though Jura is better positioning itself in recent years; as something more than the bit part player it has on occasion seemed.   The malts are getting better and the presentation aspect is well covered.  This ’95 is case in point.  (Though I wonder about the lack of sleeve/tube/box.)

Nose:  Nice spicy, fruity dram.  Very surprising nose for a Jura, and truly shows how good the distillate is (if only they’d leave off those wine barrels and such!).  Berry scones, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Good dark bread.  Great spice mix and all the smells of great home baking.  Some pepper.  A little bit of apple, and some definite bourbon influence (of course).  Notes of dunnage warehouse.  Wet leaves and a touch of eucalyptus.

Palate:  Great oily and rich delivery.  Dark fruit puree.  Cranberry loaf and very tight oak.  More on the berries and maybe a touch of burnt marshmallow.  Slightly drying.  Chewy sour candies.  Caramel apple…wooden stick, tart apple skin and all.  There’s still a slight wine note here somehow.  Good, long finish.

Thoughts:  A bloody great Jura.  Very singular.  One of my favorites to come from the Willies and Tricky Dick, to be honest.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 

 

 Posted by at 7:45 am
Jan 162014
 

Isle Of Jura 30 y.o. Camas An Staca006

44% abv

Score:  89/100

 

Old Juras are getting a little more plentiful on the ground as of late, and I’m more than happy for it.  The recent 1977 was really good.  The 1976 was great.  And this 30 year old Camas An Staca, while not quite in the same league as those two, is certainly a welcome addition to the range.

Don’t expect a vast shearing away from the sort of ‘typical’ Jura profile (i.e. kinda vinous and heavy), but rather expect to see that character softened by time, much like the bourbon-soaked voice of a lounge-y crooner after warming up on a few late night bar tunes (“The Piano Has Been Drinking”, anyone?).  What it boils down to is that this whisky is still completely recognizable as a Jura even at 15 or 20 years further on than most folks are used to seeing it.

But that doesn’t really speak to whether or not there’s quality here, does it?  Rest easy.  This is good whisky.

Generally in reviewing and scoring, we try to remove as much of the subjectivity as we can, while still conceding a little bit of wiggle room for the more intangible aspects of the whisky.  This usually gets buried in the ‘balance’ piece of most reviewers’ scores.  These intangibles will generally be where a reviewer will add or subtract a point (or more) based on things like how this particular malt fares against previous batches; whether or not it lives up to, or exceeds, the distillery’s usual potential; or any other bit of ‘wow’ that shows a little bit of a variance from the distillery’s norm.  In this case we’ll use that little bit of flexibility to simply ratchet it up an extra point or so in recognition of a distillery staying very true to itself while still rewarding the faithful (cause who else but a dedicated Jura enthusiast is dropping this kinda coin?) with something a little beyond what we’ve come to expect from their range (Superstition, Prophecy, Elixir, and other young’uns).  Very nice, Jura…very nice.

‘Camas An Staca’ means ‘standing stone’ in Gaelic.  This whisky was so named for the biggest of eight standing stones on the Isle of Jura.  These stones were laid out in a ceremonial stone circle more than three millennia ago by the island’s early inhabitants in supplication of the spirits.  Or so they say.

Nose:  Leather and deep worn furniture polish.  Spices and lots of ’em (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and the lot).  Almond paste on strong dark fruitcake.  Dates, prunes and raisins (oh my!).  Figgy too.  Lemon notes with moist tobacco.  A mixed bag of dried fruits meets a dusty sort of nuttiness.  Coffee.  A hefty sherry influence here, which in Jura often seems kinda ‘wine-y’.

Palate:  Surprisingly…and pleasantly…sour.  Again with the dark fruitcake notes.  The wine-y / sherry note leads the charge though.  Very lush at first, but dries up like the Sahara sucking back a rain-tini.  Some interesting (albeit almost unidentifiable) fruit notes.

Thoughts:  Good whisky.  Not as great as some from the ’70s, but lovely nonetheless.  Should note…the nose is better than palate throughout though.

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:07 pm
Jan 022014
 

Isle Of Jura Elixir001

46% abv

Score:  86/100

 

Just a hop, skip and a leap from the entry level malt in Jura’s core range.  This is Elixir, Jura’s take on a fairly standard twelve year old single malt.  Interesting, really, as most distilleries will release either a ten year old or a twelve year old, but not both.  Jura bucks the trend here with the Elixir falling neatly in step behind the entry level ten year old ‘Origin’.

From what all kindsa interesting folk are saying online (and as per the packaging itself), the name ‘Elixir’ is an homage to the ‘mystical, life-giving properties’ associated with the water springs on this tiny little Hebridean island, with some even suggesting that the water therein is responsible for the islanders’ longevity.  In a feat of death defiance only paralled in the opening pages of the Old Testament, there was apparently even a Diurach who lived long enough to have spun the sun ’round 180 times.  Again from the whisky’s packaging: ‘An ancient gravestone not far from the distillery lies as testament to this tale’.

So, it would seem Jura 1) had a nifty little marketing angle to play with the magical water bit and 2) they wanted to beef up the range with what was apparently meant to be a fruity and spicy addition.  Either way, motivations aside, this is a pretty decent young dram.  And any time you can tag a cool story onto it…I’m all over it.

Elixir is built on a bedrock of bourbon and sherry casks, which makes sense when you taste it.  The malt aligns perfectly with the spices usually plumbed from a bourbon barrel and the fruitier notes leeched from sherry butts.  A ‘best of both worlds’ scenario really.  It’s also a decent dram at a fair price point.

Nose:  Butterscotch.  Werther’s Originals.  Cadbury Fruit & Nut.  Suisse Mocha coffee mix (remember those rectangular tins?).  A hint of sulphur, but not offputting.  Spicy.  Black currants and Brazil nuts.  Heavy and brooding malt, but quite sweet as well.  Much more so than expected.

Palate:  Very sweet arrival.  Chocolate covered ju-jubes…chocolate covered dried fruits.  Wine notes.  Very juicy.  Maybe a touch of smoke.  Still a whiff of brimstone.  Coffee again.  F*cking odd, but delightfully charming.  I should note…follows delightfully well after a piece of 85% cacao dark chocolate.

Thoughts:   Think I’d have prefered a touch less sherry influence, but hey…I’m still happy.  Good whisky overall.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 6:59 pm
May 162013
 

Isle Of Jura 21 y.o. 200th Anniversary420

44% abv

Score:  81/100

 

I recently went through a lot of Jura (makes me sound like an alcoholic, doesn’t it?), drafting up tasting notes and pulling together some thoughts.  Many expressions were vast improvements over what I recall from past years/editions, but I found that several of the young ones, in particular, really sparkled for a variety of reasons made clear in those individual reviews.

As I started to work my way through the range I built up a modicum of excitement that some of the older editions would be great.  These preconceptions are never, ever, a good idea.  This 200th anniversary edition 21 year old Jura was just such a case in point. 

Sadly, excepting a brilliant and home-y leather note I fell in love with on the nose, the rest of the components fell a little flat or outright disappointed.  I liked the overall nose enough at first, but the longer it sat in the glass, the less appeal I found.  Maybe that’s just me.  (note to self…drink faster…don’t let whisky sit for long).

So…some news, both good and bad.  The bad?  That an aged malt, with a heftier price tag than many others, is not all that great a dram.  The good?  That you can get some younger Isle Of Jura releases that are great and are much more pocketbook friendly.  This 21 ain’t a bad whisky.  I’m just saying you take your money in a slightly different direction with this distillery and opt for one of the great Boutique Barrels expressions.  Neat stuff there. 

Nose:  Opens up with a nose rich in leather and deep ribbons of caramel.  Lots of caramel.  Quite floral.  Some burnt cinnamon.  Dried (very dried) fruits.  Quite a decent nose really.  Unmistakably Jura, but somewhat slightly flawed.

Palate:  Rather sharp and bitter.  Salty.  Almost acrid.  Grains are big.  Dries rather quickly.

81 score is primarily on strength of the nose.  Unfortunately this one kinda falls down when it comes to the palate.  Needs much time to open.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 2:31 pm
May 122013
 

Isle Of Jura Boutique Barrels 1999009

55% abv

Score:  87/100

 

Mmmm.  Jura takes on Islay.  Not in terms of heft, but profile.  This is a malt that bears all the hallmarks of the peated beasts from Islay, but also doesn’t quite wedge itself into any one particular distillery’s mold.  It has a hint of that tangy Ardbeg citric note…a fair lot of the farminess so redolent in many of the Bruichladdich peat monsters…an elegance typified by the slightly more advanced aging Lagavulin uses to great effect…and the iodine medicinal edge of a Laphroaig.  Neato.  We like.

Having said all of that…this most closely reminds me of some sherried Caol Ila indies I’ve tried.  All of which would have likley been peated to Diageo’s usual Lag/CI specs of 30-35 ppm, I believe.  According to the bottle, this sits squarely in that phenolic range.

This is a young whisky, for all intents and purposes (11 years, I believe?), but that’s a good thing.  When you want to taste the true might of peat smoke, you want it young.  Peat is exceedingly sexy as it ages, but loses its pungency.  For those with a nose for the billows of hellfire and ash…this will be a malt you want to get your paws on sooner than later.  It fires on all cylinders in these regards.

Though it says ‘Bourbon XU Cask Finish’ I would not be at all surprised to find out there are some sherried casks in here before it gets that ‘finish’ they refer to.  There is a sweetness here that is not completely defined by the vanilla-heavy and spicy bourbon influence.  It’s more of a deep rich dried fruit sweetness.

An extra point or two for uniqueness.  One or two off for a slight topheavyness.  Should be a wash, but ultimately leaves us with a fairly high scoring Jura release.  I like this one.  Quite a lot.  Strong competing notes…but it works.  Harmony through dissonance.

Nose:  Peat and smoke.  A little cola.  Lemon and orange juices.  Some dark figgy fruits and a lot of hefty spice, pepper especially.  Kinda cheese-y (sharp cheddar and Parmesan Regiano).  Mild burnt notes…maybe rubber.  Tarry and iodine-rich.  Very barnyard and farmy.

Palate:  Of course the peat and smoke are first.  Sharp cheeses again.  Smoke.  Weedy and floral.  Nice finish.  Long and very vibrant.  Shines all the way through.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:27 pm
May 122013
 

Isle Of Jura Boutique Barrels 1993014

54% abv

Score:  89/100

 

Jura Vintage ’93.  Bottle says Sherry JI Cask Finish.  If anyone can share what the JI means…please do.

I have to confess right up front here.  I did read Serge’s of this whisky over at his site Whisky Fun.  Occasionally the power of suggestion can be overwhelming, and we find ourselves being subconsciously led without even really knowing what we’re following, let alone why.

Where I’m going with this one is…

Serge mentions raspberries, and I simply can’t wrap my head (or nose) around this one without being drawn back to that note.  It’s a very unique nuance, and incredibly defining in this whisky.  Not only that…it’s really quite lovely.  Kinda makes me marvel this isn’t a Speyside malt from one of the sherry heavyhitters.  Either way…I could drink this frequently.  Very frequently.

Big, big, big sweet Oloroso is stamped all over this one.  The effects of this sort of maturation or finishing on malts are often irresistable to me.  From the nose to the palate, these whiskies leave me salivating.  Other sherries work, of course, but Oloroso and single malt were meant to be together.  Bonnie and Clyde…Mickey and Mallory…Sid and Nancy.  That sort of story.  Each walked their own path through this world, but when they finally came together…nothing was the same afterwards.

Nose:   Sweet honeyed florals and a touch of dunnage.  Jammy notes.  Raspberry, by the buckets.  Quite some fresh fruit here.  Freshly ground dark roast.  Hay…like following the swather on the farm.  Match (but not sulphur), and maybe even a faint waft of smoke.

Palate:  Juicy, but slowly dries along the back sides of the tongue, like arid ground swallowing rain.  A lot of honey, and quite some spicy bourbon-ish notes.  Oak and barley follows all in a rather dry finale.  A little too hard a thump on the landing here.  Takes us into a dry herbal territory, not far off the finish of somethign like an anCnoc.  Would prefer a more refined ebb and fade, but beggars can’t be chosers.  This is a really good dram.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:02 pm