Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New releases > Jura 1996 Boutique Barrel

This special edition single malt has been released to celebrate Jura’s recent involvement in the world famous Islay whisky festival. One French Limousin oak cask was chosen by a select group of Jura residents from the distillery's warehouses and this cask has yielded just 493 bottles. It was then bottled at a cask strength of 54% ABV and will be sold exclusively on the island from the distillery shop at a cost of £100 each. It has just been released and is predicted to sell fast, so if you want one - hurry up!

The Jura distillery is located on the isle of Jura, which lies off the west coast of Scotland next to the famous whisky island of Islay. The distillery was founded in 1810 by Archibald Campbell and was originally called Small Isles distillery - named after the numerous small islands located in Craighouse Bay, which the distillery overlooks. It was closed for a long period between 1901 and 1960, when it was rebuilt and re-named as Jura by Charles Mackinlay & Co. Production restarted in 1963. The distillery has an annual production capacity of two million litres, which is large when considering its remoteness and the small population of the island (currently only 220 people).

Jura was given its name by invading Nordic warriors and it translates as 'deer island', because of the large number of the animals that inhabit the island. The current owners of the distillery are Whyte & Mackay, who are owned by the Indian drinks company United Spirits. They use Jura’s whisky in their popular range of Whyte & Mackay blends. However, they are putting more in to promoting Jura as a single malt whisky and sales have improved greatly. The Jura distillery is rare in that it produces whisky in different styles – of the current core range, the 10, 16, 18 and 21 years old are non-smoky, the Superstition is mildly smoky and the Prophecy is very smoky. There are older or limited releases from time to time, such as this 1996 Boutique Barrel version.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a deep golden amber and the nose is rich and intense, with plenty of immediate oak aromas.  The richness is further enhanced by distinct aromas of burnt dark sugar (think of caramel especially), robust malted barley grains and potent wood spices (imagine cinnamon, nutmeg and sandalwood).  With time, an increasing note of bitter (or maybe spiced?) orange comes through - this adds balance, as do other background aromas of cocoa, milky coffee, cloves and a tiny hint of salty brine.  On the palate, this whisky is again rich and intense, gripping your taste buds from the beginning.  It feels firm and viscous in the mouth and the flavour profile is driven by the same key elements as the nose - plenty of oak and barley grain, burnt sugary caramel and wood spices.  These are complimented by notes of bittersweet spiced orange (this is almost marmalade-like), honey and hints of cocoa powder and tangy brine.  The finish is heavy with the bitter zesty orange notes, which fight for attention with robust wood spices and plenty of gripping oak.  The intensity is good and leads to the finish being dry and mouth watering.  With a splash of water, the whisky opens further - the spices and oak are dampened slightly, giving a creamier feeling and the orange notes become more prominent.

What's the verdict?
This is a lovely and rich whisky that offers plenty of intensity and character.  It may be a bit oaky, spicy and drying for some palates but these elements can be tempered by the addition of water, if you choose to.  The whisky has a deep complexity and is trying to stand out from the crowd, which must be applauded.  However, if you want a bottle it is only available from the distillery shop, so start planning your trip now!

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