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Saturday 1 June 2013

Hatches, Matches & Despatches. Jura Distillery Open Day Fun - Feis Ile Day One

Yes, folks. We’re here again. As yet another year rolls around, with the FA Cup Final out of the way and Glastonbury, Wimbledon and The Ashes on the horizon, what could be a better way to while away your time, than with the Feis Ile: Isle’s Festival of Music and Malt.

Usually, we’d be here right from the off, hitting the eight distilleries in row and then, if we had the time / weather / energy, hit Jura for an hour or so. But not this year. Oh, no. This year, we’ve come to Jura first.

Sitting off the coast of Islay, Jura is an island of ones (save for the TWO doctors): one road, one shop, one church, one hotel, one pub and one distillery. ~188 people live in an area the size of London, seriously outnumbered by 6,000 red deer. It is probably most famous for being the final home of George Orwell and providing him with the perfect isolation where he could write 1984, the piece which, according to some, eventually finished him off.

However, for some of us of a certain age, it also provided the backdrop for one of the most audacious pieces of ‘art’ (or PR stunts, depending on how you look at it) of the 1990’s, when hugely successful British dance outfit, KLF (known at that time as The K Foundation), burnt £1 million pounds. In cash. In 1995.

Even now, nearly 20 years on, it seems utter madness that someone, even in the name of art, could burn a million quid. But that’s exactly what the two members of the KLF, Bill Dummond and Jimmy Cauty did. Many myths and rumours surround this event, with the band claiming that only £900,000 eventually went up in smoke, with £100,000 worth of £50 notes simply flying into the air due to the intensity of the fire. The local police even found up to £1500 in charred notes, which were left for the two members to reclaim if they so wished.

So Jura is a place where interesting things happen and in 1810, a distillery was opened; the perfect place to hide from the excise man. By 1901 the distillery was closed to lay dormant for nearly 60 years, until it was rebuilt in the early 1960’s springing back to life in 1963. Housing the second tallest stills in Scotland, and the largest stills of any island distillery, it is now a single malt which you’ll find all over the world. Yet another piece of art from this small island making a global impression.

The venue for our Turas Mara tastings
This year, Jura held an ‘open house’, over two days running free buses and ferries across from Islay, hoping to attract many more of the folk who have travelled to the Feis Ile for their annual hit of smoky whisky.

With events ranging from warehouse tastings with the ever-energetic Richard Paterson, through to speedboat tastings in the Sound of Jura, (…hosted by yours truly) there were plenty of reasons to drive onto the small car ferry and make the short crossing between islands.  On top of all this, there is an annual festival bottling release from Jura, only available from the distillery during their open days. 

This year, the bottling was extra special, to mark the 50th anniversary of the distillery reopening, a ‘boutique barrel’, containing whisky from a 1963 French oak cask, as well as containing some heavily peated stock, resulting in a whisky which is both fruity and smoky. 

Jura – Festival 2013 – 1963 French Oak + Heavily Peated 1999 stock – 663 bottles – 52.4% abv - £70.00

Nose: A real treat straight off the bat.  The aroma of a delightfully smooth, almost 70’s peat smoke swirls around the glass initially, followed by some rich notes of spicy sherry/wine tones, some oakiness and a fruity, almost jammy note. 

Palate: Initially dry and hot, with some oakiness delivering a wet wood note, which then fades into a spiciness – a hint of cinnamon and liquorice.  Given time in the mouth, the wine influence takes hold with some bold fruit and a distinct smokiness. 

Finish: The peat lingers alongside an oakiness and a rich fruit note.

Overall: The nose really defines this whisky:  elegant and refined, with a smooth smokiness.  A dash of water develops the fruitiness and direct nature of the spice.  At £70, it’s also very well priced against many of the other Islay festival bottlings.  Well done chaps.

Jura also have a new release, called Turas Mara, which means ‘long journey by the sea’ and is their new offering in Global Travel Retail. Made up from whisky matured in four types of casks (bourbon, sherry, French oak barriques and port pipes) it is priced at £45 for a litre. 

Jura – Turas Mara – GTR only - 42% abv £45.00

Nose: A departure from the festival bottling. Masses of fresh fruit, vanilla, a real sweetness and some subtle spices. Light toffee/peanut brittle, sliced pears and orange zest. Candied and very fruity.

Palate: Sweet and malty, with some herbaceous notes, crème caramel, some sour cherry notes and a hint of creamy oak. With water, zesty lime notes begin to emerge. 

Finish: Clean, with orange zest and a slight drying vanilla oak. 

Overall: Having used this as the main feature for our speedboat tastings, it has established itself as our favourite expression of Jura on the market today.  

Tea, you say?  Turas Mara and cake more like.
It has been a real pleasure spending some extended time on Jura, an island we have only fleetingly visited before. We had no idea as to the hidden beauty of the island and we would highly recommend a visit, and a drive all the way up the islands only road...

Tomorrow we head to Bunnahabhain and try the festival release from Lagavulin...