Dram Initiative #015 – Jura II with Willie Tait
October 16th, 2014
Wee Willie Tait. The little man with the personality so big we couldn’t fit it all into one tasting. To date Willie is the only return speaker we’ve had for the Dram Initiative. This kindly curmudgeon is an icon in the greater whisky world. When we heard he was swinging back through town a year after his first visit to the club we happily jumped at the opportunity to bring him back and do an almost entirely different range of Jura whiskies than the previous event. I should also mention that the club has morphed and grown since Willie’s last visit. We knew we’d have not only new whiskies on hand, but new members as well.
The last time Willie was over, the DI crew decided to swing for the fences and put on the biggest Jura tasting the world had likely ever seen. We had 16 different expressions on offer that night. The tasting itself was set up with a much smaller number of drams at each place seating, but we had others available if a member was curious enough to try. At one point, in a rather emotional moment for all involved that night, Mr. Tait spread his arms wide, shrugged his shoulders in touching humble pride and said “this is my life’s work.” Not gonna lie…it was one of those ‘goosebumps’ kinda moments. One where you feel proud just to have been there.
I think all of us in the Dram Initiative planning committee took a bit of personal pride and satisfaction in helping to facilitate this bridging of whisky maker and eager acolytes.
With that in mind, we knew we’d once again have to do something memorable to make this event resonate. Y’know…beyond just good speakers and whisky, that is. Gotta throw a curveball or two to keep things memorable, right?
Willie’s a showman precisely because he’s not a showman. He’s the kind of guy that will tell you that whisky smells like whisky when you ask him for floofy tasting notes. The kind of guy who’ll tell you there’s only two ways to drink your whisky: with your left hand or your right hand. The kind of guy who’s equally comfortable telling you you’re always welcome to come visit him and telling you to ‘f*ck right off’. All with charm and a mischievous knowing twinkle in his eye. You simply can’t help but love the guy. His persona – not at all put on – is refreshing in its frank old school purity.
The whisky world would be a better place if more of the ‘face’ people in the industry would shoot more from the hip, as Willie does.
When last we gathered for Jura we concentrated on building a range of primarily rare and limited Jura releases. This time we stuck a little more to core standard range, though in keeping true to character we did also inject the line-up with a few malts that are now either discontinued or yet to hit the market. What can I say? We like to do things a little differently with this club and offer members a bit of a treat that they may not otherwise be able to try. This evening’s menu:
1. Jura Origin
2. Jura Elixir
3. Jura Brooklyn
4. Jura 18 y.o.
5. Jura Boutique Barrel 1996
6. Jura Boutique Barrel 1993
7. Jura 30 y.o. Camas An Staca
8. Jura Superstition
9. Jura Prophecy
One of the Boutique Barrel releases (I believe it was the ’96) and the 30 year old were massive hits. The Prophecy also had the peat-o-philes in the room salivating and smoking at the ears. Another immediate standout was the recently launched Brooklyn. A surprising depth of well-integrated peat was well received by most.
No DI event is complete without what we generally refer to as a ‘homerun’ whisky. This eve we went back to one we actually did taste last time Willie was through. The 30 year old ‘Camas An Staca’. Whether or not you’re a fan of Jura’s malts, this is a whisky that’s almost certain to win you over. A great waltz of fruit and oak with this one. I’ve drunk my fair share of this malt (and possibly a few other folks’ shares as well), but would happily continue revisiting this one for years to come. Hopefully circumstances allow.
While we couldn’t break out any embarrassing old photos (again…sorry ’bout that Ruaraidh) or suggest maybe a bit of Irish two-stepping (our bad, Jim), we did have a wee gift for Willie as a way of expressing our thanks for his time and efforts.
Not sure how many of you are aware, but in the days before Jim McEwan worked the stills at Bruichladdich, there was another chap with a bit of a reputation and bedrock of whisky wisdom who ran the show. Yep…none other than Mr. Tait.
And just to see if we couldn’t rankle the man, we presented him with a bottle of Bruichladdich signed “To Willie…From Jim…”. I shan’t dare repeat what the rest of the message said, but hopefully Willie can find some use for the juice in the bottle.
Huge thanks to J Wheelock, my brother-in-arms, for once again making magic happen for this humble l’il club. J…You complete me. Without you…we’d just be us.
To the team at Authentic Wine & Spirits…your support on a few of our events now is infinitely appreciated. Look forward to making more happen in the coming years. Much love and appreciation.
Willie…you’re practically part of the family now (the slightly older uncle who smells like whisky, perhaps?). Happy to host you any time you come through, sir. Thanks again for all you’ve done for us. Cheers!
…and finally…to the committee folks and members at large…glasses high. You deserve it. Slainte!
– Words: Curt
– Photos: Curt