Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New release - Jura 1977 'Juar'

Back in a February edition of Inbox, we featured the Jura distillery's announcement of the latest edition to their premium limited edition Vintage range - the Juar 1977 Vintage. The name Juar is Gaelic for the mythical yew tree, which one covered the isle of Jura and was the source of some local superstitions. The yew tree was believed to carry the powers of regeneration and immortality by islanders.  It follows another vintage from the 1970s - the Feith A' Chaorainn 1976 Vintage - which appeared in late 2011 and was also named after a tree (in that case, the rowan).

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 and the distillery has an annual production capacity of two million litres.  It is currently owned by Whyte & Mackay.

This new whisky is taken from just three first-fill ex-bourbon casks, which have then been finished in an ex-Ruby Port pipe cask. It has been bottled at 46% ABV and there are just 498 bottles. The recommended retail price is £600, although we could only find it priced on specialist retailer sites for £690-£715. The bottle is presented in an oak box hand crafted by the Scottish-based cabinet maker John Galvin. Both the box and bottle carry a representation of a yew tree. There can't be many bottles left, so if you fancy one - hurry up.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a vibrant golden yellow and the nose is packed with a classy combination of aromas - cooked peaches, toffee, vanilla extract, dried cranberries and raisins.  Some savoury notes come through in the form of woody spices, especially cinnamon bark, nutmeg and a hint of clove.  Further hints of late dried mango and something slightly damp and earthy add even more depth.

On the palate, there is an instant and vibrant hit of tropical fruits.  These come across in a concentrated, dried fruit way and include peach, mango, papaya and pineapple.  There is also a further fruity note, this time of stewed plum.  Then comes some toffee-like sweetness, which is backed up by honey and plenty of the vanilla extract from the nose.  The sweet and fruity elements are complimented by developing wood spices, which grip the palate and seem to exaggerate everything (think especially of cinnamon and dried coconut).  The combination of spice and fruit made us think of spiced plum. Final hints of liquorice and something slightly earthy/damp round things off (we want to say 'peat smoke' but that does seem to describe it).

The finish is quite long and dry with plenty of the woody spices present.  This make it mouthwatering and refreshing, especially for a whisky of this age.  Hints of sweetness and the dried tropical fruits are there and stop it being too dry and spicy, although they always remain in the background.

What's the verdict?
This is a classy number and one which shows the premium nature of older Jura whiskies.  While the younger expressions are very popular and sales continue to grow, they do not seem to be to everyone's taste.  Everyone of the older expressions that we have tasted to date have been very good, and we hope that they still have good stocks to be able to release whiskies such as this 1977 Juar with some regularity.  It therefore seems a shame that so few people will get to try this lovely whisky.

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