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Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Grand Jura

Some times I feel very sorry for the Isle Of Jura. There it is, sat next to Islay, not the poor relation by any means, but just not extended as many courtesies as its big brother. Groups of peat pilgrims travel from all over the world to Islay, to bask in the smoky glow of all those legendary distilleries. The Feis Ile comes around once a year and in spite of Jura putting on a fair old show of its own, it is criminally overlooked by the large majority of visitors. This year was no exception and the bloody awful weather put pay to any visitors who were that bit curious about what the distillery has been up to.

Well quite a lot, as it happens. A brand new shop and last year's Boutique Barrel collection have gone a small way to showing that the little brother can punch above his weight when he wants to. Now we have Feith A' Chaorainn 1976 vintage - part of the limited edition Rare & Prestige collection of older bottlings that Jura have been developing. We haven't tried the 1974 vintage, which yielded 658 bottes, but judging from the noise it made in certain circles it was a cracker.
Apparently the name means 'the lands around the rowan'. Catford in South East London has lots of Rowan trees growing in its vicinity, which are supposedly noted for bringing good fortune. Not sure I'm buying into that, knowing Catford for...well being Catford, but let's hope the Jura Rowan brings this dram a whole lotta' good fortune.

Isle of Jura- 1976 - 'Feith A' Chaorainn' - 46% - 500 bottles

Nose: Incredibly mossy, with a mineral-like dustiness, some seasoned pine, fresh mint, blackberry leaves and then comes the classic aged bourbon notes; vintage vanilla, tinned peaches and cream, more tropical notes nestling at the back, with a very harmonious and some what aromatic pipe tobacco note, with a deft note of smoke. This noses incredibly well from the outset, but give it a little time and it begins to explode with aroma.

Palate: Absolutely superb. Rich oily golden syrup notes grab your tonsils first, followed by some menthol cough sweets, a faint note of anise, a little blast of iodiny peat and some liquorice. The balance is perfect and the cask has given plenty to the viscosity of the spirit. There's not the faintest note of dryness or brittle oakiness, just wave upon wave of that liquorice and the syrup.

Finish: The spices linger, some burnt, smoky caramel notes develops and notes of soft fruit and cream come to the fore. Contemplative and extremely lengthy.

Overall: What can I say. This is unquestionably the best Jura i've tried and I've no doubt that there are probably some other sensational casks sitting there waiting to be bottled.

If there's one distillery that has constantly been in the shadows, compared to its more shouty, popular Islay big brothers, it's Jura. And I think all this is about to change - by a unanimous decision.