Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New release - Jura Elixir

Just before Christmas we reported on the release of a new single malt expression in to the popular island distillery of Jura's core range.  Named Jura Elixir, the whisky received a 'soft' pre-Xmas release, seeing it bottled in the half-bottle 35cl size.  The new whisky has been produced to be 'fruity and spicy' and is produced from a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry cask maturations.  It takes its name from the fresh local water, which the islanders call the 'elixir of life' and was believed to have been blessed by St. Columba in 560AD.  It is this water that is used to make whisky at the distillery. The Elixir 35cl costs £16.49 and is currently exclusive to Sainsbury's, the major UK supermarket chain. Plans for a full 70cl bottle are planned to follow.

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 the 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, at which point it was rebuilt and re-named as Jura by Charles Mackinlay & Co. Production restarted in 1963.

The name of Jura translates as 'deer island' from the ancient Nordic language, and deer still outnumber people by a ratio of 20:1 on the island. To put that amount in to context, there are only 220 who live on the island according to the last UK Census in 2011. The distillery has an annual production capacity of two million litres and is currently owned by Whyte & Mackay, a subsidiary of Indian company United Spirits. The addition of Elixir to the core range is planned to cement Jura's position as one of the fastest growing single malt brands in the category.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden amber and the nose is initially very sweet.  There are huge obvious aromas of caramel, sultanas and toffee.  It feels soft and sugary and with time, other aromas penetrate the intense sweetness.  There is something buttery, malty cereal grains, warm cooked biscuits, a decent pinch of baking/wood spice (think of cinnamon, nutmeg and all-spice) and a hint of wet, earthy peat.  On the palate, this feels a little thinner than expected given the richness and sweetness of the nose.  The sweetness is still there in the form of the caramel/toffee but there is a slight edge to it, reminiscent of burnt brown sugar.  The juicy dried fruits (imagine sultanas and raisins) temper this note, as does a pleasant spiced orange peel characteristic.  Underneath are notes of oat biscuit, vanilla, wet earth, honey and another decent pinch of those woody baking spices.  An increasing element of damp, slightly acrid peat smoke seems to rise from the wet earth note as the whisky sits on the palate for increasing time.  The finish is again initially sweet with plenty of honey, caramel and dried fruit.  These notes then give way to some drier notes, which give much needed balance.  These notes include some bittersweet malty cereals, nutmeg and a hint of dried grass.

What's the verdict?
This is an interesting whisky ... but you will need to enjoy an unrestrained level of sweetness to fully appreciate it.  To this end, it would be a perfect choice for a whisky beginner who has a sweet tooth.  The sweetness is tempered by a refreshing lightness (normally extrovert sweetness brings heaviness and richness) and the background smokiness. The combination works quite well. A good, solid offering and maybe worth a try for £16.49.

No comments: