Jura turns 50

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Jura distillery,  this week being the Fèis Ile whisky celebrations. Today sees the distillery open day, with plenty of tutored tasting sessions, live music and other goodies. I managed to get in on the action from here in Northern Ireland by signing up to a tweet tasting with the Whisky Wire(thanks for the tip off Pete (drinks)!)
There have been distilleries on Jura for almost 200 years, but the current incarnation of Jura distillery dates back to 1963 when architect William Delme-Evans designed the "unusually large" stills that give the whisky its light character.

I'm fairly familiar with Jura, having visited them on my Islay tour last year. Five whiskys this time

 Turas Mara is a new addition to their core range but available only at certain travel retail outfits
. Fittingly the translation is "long journey" and it has been aged in bourbon casks from the USA alongside others from Spain, France and Portugal (I'd assume sherry, brandy and port, but could be wrong). As confirmed by Steve its Spanish sherry butts, French oak barriques & Portuguese port pipes. It's also named for a poem written by former Duirach* Jessie Scott, with her own departure point marked by a plaque on the beach.
At 42% its pretty close to the usual dilution mark of 40% and an attractive mid-golden-blonde colour. On the nose its spicy and boozy with caramel sweetness and some fruity port (?) notes. Its quite sweet with blackcurrant, toffee and a long rich finish.
Adding in some water brought out orange peel plus an earthy spicy quality, cardamom perhaps bringing to mind an imperial wit beer on the nose. The whisky warmth increases in taste and some woody, slightly oxidised cardboard notes appear, that I'm not all that keen on.

With the remainder of the sample I mixed a micro-rob roy, 10ml of vermouth rosso and a generous dash of angostura bitters, stirred over ice. That's a nice way to have it.
Well worth a look in but drink it undiluted!

From jurainfo.com
Another new addition to the range is the 30 year old, bottled at 44% ABV. This spent the latter three years of its ageing process in Gonzalez Byass Olorosso Butts. Named Camas an Staca for the largest of 8 standing stones on the island, this whisky is just a fraction of the age of the stones (estimated at 3000years).
An attractive burnished gold this fella. Nose redolent of a walk in a damp woodland, with some butterscotch notes, quite hot and boozy up front but a lovely woody spiciness and some vanillins and weirdly baked ham after that initial alcohol has subsided.
A splash of water really rounds out the mouthfeel and releases a cloud of peaches and cream to the flavour. The reminds on a sweet shop/ nail bar with sticky pear drops and a hint of nail varnish alongside vanilla and juicy stewed fruits. Its a fantastic drop of whisky, but one I'm unlikely to try again due to its £350 price tag!

From Edinburghwhiskyblog.com
The 1977 vintage is named Juar, Gaelic for Yew Tree symbolising immortality and rebirth. The whisky comes from three bourbon barrels finished for a year in a ruby port pipe. 498 bottles @ 46%ABV were released for this one. It pours fairly pale gold with black pepper and burnt paper on the nose on swirling there's some almond and floral notes. A really interesting burst of fruit in the mouth at first, sweet raspberries and peaches, followed by plenty of alcohol warmth, finishing with some golden syrup and meaty umami notes.
Adding water reduces the fruit and brings out the porridgey nose of a whisky mash accompanied by Christmas cake spices. To taste its a different beast, the fieriness has been tamed revealing a hidden sweet core, well rounded and enjoyable.

From abbeywhisky.com
Delme-Evans was the famed architect that resurrected the distillery in 1963, and a cask strength whisky was released in his honour. A 1988 distillation cask number 1796 was re-racked into olorosso sherry before being released as 586 bottles. It sold out quickly, but a few bottles were retained for tasting and that's what we're privileged to try here.
Another mid-gold pour here with a rich savoury umami nose balanced by undercurrents of geraniums. Its sweet and warming with washed rind cheese, sherry flavours, oak and furniture polish. Adding water to it brings cherry stones, lots of alcohol, spent grains, and sawdust to the nose. Rich parmesan, sea salt and iodine flavours. Still fairly strong to taste and the sherry is right up making itself known. Certainly a sipper but you're rewarded by a long sweet heather honey finish with some green apple notes.

Final whisky to write about is the oldest, soon to be the new 40 year old bottling but currently 39 3/4 years old. As its not being released until 2014, there are no bottle pictures yet! Its a hefty 51.4% matured in sherry and finished in amoroso sherry for a year.
This is a gorgeous dark ruby gold with rummy molasses, strong solvent, weet-a-bix and a big boozy punch here. Very high alcohol with long legs, evaporates off the tongue, strong alcohol, marmite umami, fairly mouth puckering astringency, tannins and plenty of sherry character, a bit of a challenge. No hiding that sherry influence at all here.
With water its still fairly alcoholic but theres smokey campfire, some peaty phenols and tangerine pith. The flavour is completely subdued, but allows it to evolve instead of being overwhelmed by alcohol. Its a seaside barbecue seaspray and smoke. Takes some getting used to but ultimately rewarding.

A completely varied bunch showing how age and different finishes can really change the character of  whisky. For me the Juar was the most enjoyable, though the Delme Evans certainly challenged my perceptions of whisky!
Thanks a lot to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire for organising this tasting, its been great fun and tasty too of course. Thanks to Jura @Jura_Whisky for the samples, I hope to visit you guys again soon as my Duirach's own is running low!

*Duirach: a resident of Jura. You can sign up to become an honourary Duirach on Jura distillery website, entitling you to a free dram and reduced ferry fare.

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