Personally, I have never really understood why people get so excited about Jura whisky on such a large scale. I suppose as a newcomer there’s an attractively shaped bottle and a name synonymous with a popular, remote island, so there’s plenty in its favour. But the quality of the whisky, generally speaking, has not been one of those things. It’s one of those distilleries where I find too many flaws and too much polish. The spirit inherently does not seem great either: whether that’s down to fermentation times (54 hours is a bit on the short side?), or taking the spirit cut in a way that optimises efficiency savings rather than flavour, I cannot say. I don’t know what production decisions were being made 15 years ago.
But I have another Jura today, and perhaps it may be the one that changes my opinion. It is the Jura Tastival 2017.
This year’s Jura Tastival bottling – for the event that coincides with Fèis Ìle on Islay – was made using whiskies initially matured in bourbon casks – but then finished in American oak bourbon barrels and also Douro Valley Port pipes from Graham’s. It’s released at natural cask strength, 51% ABC, without chill-filtration, and costs around £85 a bottle.
On the surface that sounds all right. But just have a think on this: when it says it’s “finished” in American bourbon, as well as the Port pipes, what does that mean? Was the spirit in rubbish casks for many a year, and then decanted into decent American oak finally to rejuvenate it, and add colour and depth from the Port pipes? American bourbon is not what I would typically call a finishing cask. It is the standard cask, already once-used in the US.
Jura Tastival 2017 Review
Colour: auburn, very dark.
On the nose: despite the strength, it needs time to unpack. Not offering itself immediately. Port-like cloying plum-jam, blackcurrant and elderberries.
Once the port influence wears off, there are some strangely grassy, vanilla and black pepper notes I’ve found common in poorer casks of late (i.e. the wood was used several times and was knackered), but here it is masked by those red fruits. I think that is salvaged though by the newer wood.
In the mouth: up front and at first it’s quite pleasant: the port leads with similar notes to the nose, and for a while it’s quite pleasant: the chewiness and mouth-coating texture, with red fruits, plums, raisins leading the way. But then there’s a weird bitterness in the mid-palate that knocks the whisky over. The tartness from the port casks doesn’t really complement it. Black pepper, ginger, heavy on the tannins (meaning even more bitterness). Then it becomes flatter. That grassiness on the nose, masked by the red fruits, kind of shows here. Sharp, grapefruit acidity on the finish. White wine vinegar.
I do not know definitely what casks these had been in before the finish, but they were not kind to what is already what I consider to be generally poor spirit. This, though: this feels like finishing to mask flaws, rather than to consciously enhance something already good. It’s not the worst whisky in the world by all means, don’t get me wrong, and it comes with a pleasant heft at 51% ABV. But it is not going to convert me into being a fan of the distillery, that’s for sure.
Note: this was sent to me as a sample. But as you always know, Malt remains an honest site.