Jura 10 40% Abv
Jura 16 40% abv
Jura Superstition 43% abv
In 1946 the editor of The Observer, David Astor, lent George Orwell a farmhouse on the isle of Jura to write the book we now know as Nineteen Eighty-Four. Indisputably one of the most significant novels of the 20th century, it may well be even more poignant in the 21'st.
In the spring of 1946 Orwell was not in good health. WWII was over but his home had been destroyed by a V-1 flying bomb, his wife was dead, he was now a single parent. In the bleak environment of postwar Britain, afflicted with the Tuberculosis that would eventually kill him, Orwell was racing death to complete his masterpiece. His previous success was working against his literary productivity. He wrote: "Smothered under journalism, I have become more and more like a sucked orange." "Everyone keeps coming at me, wanting me to lecture, to write commissioned booklets, to join this and that, etc - you don't know how I pine to be free of it all and have time to think again." And so, the ailing Orwell fled to Jura.
Orwell revelled in the natural beauty and seclusion of Jura, although he described the winter as "quite unendurable" (the winter of 1946-47 was one of the 20th centuries' coldest). His clifftop cottage had no electricity. The peat-fed fireplace was his only source of warmth. Paraffin burning lamps lit the cottage at night. I started this paragraph with intent to describe a scene of privation and yet, I find myself feeling envious.
If you want to know why Orwell matters, you may consider reading, oh, I don't know, perhaps Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens.
Here endeth the digression.
The Jura distillery is located just a short ferry ride away from Islay but it's style is unlike anything from that neighbour to the south. Jura do produce peated bottlings from time to time but only one of their core range (Prophecy) is substantially phenolic. While Jura bottles proudly display an establishment date of 1810, the original distillery was dismantled in 1910 and not reconstructed until 1963. The marketing and presentation of Jura in 2016 is very much in the style its owners, Whyte and Mackay, appear to prefer; chill filtered, lashings of caramel colour and an unchallenging, inoffensive, yet pleasantly flavorful style. Independent bottlings of Jura are occasionally exceptional and exceptionally occasional.
Jura Origin 10, 40% ABV: A pleasant nose of malt, toffee and leather with a hint of wood-smoke. Toffee/fairy-floss, tobacco, orange and ripe pear on the palate with a decent malty finish. Surprisingly oily mouthfeel. It's a very likable whisky that has some remnants of character surviving in the bottle after it has been filtered, tanned and watered down. Speaking of which, H2O kills it, so one drop only, perhaps.
Jura Diurach's Own 16, 40% ABV: Oh, what a shame to see this 16 year old, crystal clear, stripped of its barley oils and other delicious muck, with a colour as natural as Michael Jackson's. Quite different to the 10 with honeycomb, tobacco, apple and dark chocolate prevalent on the nose as well as something very much like an old book. That oily mouthfeel again but packing a more powerful flavour profile leaning more towards honey, leather and tobacco than the toffee that appears a little later in proceedings, intensifying into Turkish Delight and toffee apple. Jura describe the 16 as "rich and full bodied", which it is, in comparison to their 10 year old. Comparisons to other 16's though, would not be so favourable. Still, a very drinkable whisky that could have been, should have been, so much more. It also loves water like a sack full of kittens does; no H2O for this one.
Jura Superstition NAS, 43% ABV: Superstition is described by Jura as "lightly peated". On the nose that's exactly what it delivers; light, sweet-peat, salt, dry sherry, shoe polish and whiff of Kiwi Fruit. The most interesting of the trio. On the palate, peat arrives after a delicious orange/dark chocolate, tobacco/leather flourish. Yum. Those flavours merge into a lingering finish, eventually surrendering to the orange and chocolate. While the peat here is obvious, it should not serve to discourage those who would not describe themselves as Peatophiles; that's, Peatophiles, from enjoying Superstition. Speaking of superstitions, I predict a mark of 84/100 for this one.
In conclusion: These are all good value, everyday drinking whiskies. None of them are special but that's how they have been designed. And designed they are indeed. Whyte and Mackay make whiskies that everyone likes; Dalmore 15 and Dalmore Cigar Malt are excellent examples. We could bitch about the blatant commercialism here. Or, we could enjoy these whiskies for what they are and save our Epicurean paroxysms for something more deserving. If you like the 10 or 16, also seek out Jura Turas-Mara; a NAS 42% duty free offering that is a caramel charactered and coloured litre of fun.