Last year news reached the distant Malt outpost of the forthcoming Jura rebranding. The current range was gone, finito, fini, terminado… This represented an interesting move, a huge gamble and roll of the dice. Jura’s previous incarnation was never disappointing in sales or distribution.
Why risk alienating your own core market in the pursuit of something else? Allegedly what Edrington have achieved with Highland Park was an inspiration. There’s nothing wrong with reaching for the stars and a newly found confidence. Yet the comparison crumbles beyond the mere fact both are distilleries. Highland Park despite its current preference from black bottles devoid of whisky information and an accelerating price tag, is actually capable of producing a memorable whisky. Sadly Jura in my experiences produces a memorable whisky for all the wrong reasons.
For several years now I’ve undertaken a quest to find a Jura that resonates with me. It’s been a rocky road and an endless journey brimming with financial outlay and little reward. The trick whenever I’m faced with a new Jura whisky is not to look back in anger. Yes, I’ve developed a reputation for not holding back when reviewing such disappointingly dire whiskies. Going so far as to comically suggest that the island was being excavated by demonologists with a linkage to the Jura whisky of the time. It’s all a bit of tongue in cheek fun and a light relief to all the seriousness that surrounds and suffocates whisky.
My Jura journey has offered the odd glimmer of hope and promise amongst the pain and turmoil. The Cadenhead’s 30 year old from 1986 is still the tangible proof that Jura can deliver an excellent whisky. Rather than disturb sacred ground let us consider the new brand you’ll be seeing across the UK and further afield.
This all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Except enthusiasts will know such a brand change may have been on the cards for the last couple of years and whisky takes longer to become such. What this new Jura range relies on is existing maturing stock originally intended for the now deleted expressions. You can put whatever label on the bottle and throw some newly styled packaging into the mix but the liquid itself has not been transformed. Unless that is you resort to finishes or using older stock to blend a new whisky, where the first few releases set an impressive benchmark that you slowly retreat from by introducing younger stock into the equation. Not that a brand would resort to such tricks nowadays.
The revamped range does feature the use of an Oloroso Sherry cask finish in the 10 and 12 year olds, different cask types for the Seven Wood whereas the 18 is finished in red wine casks. This is all utilising existing Jura distillate. The mystery for many out there is why Jura has been so lacking, to put it mildly? There are various conspiracy theories around the spirit cut, poor quality of the casks or the hand of the Nose. All pure speculation yet what endures is the belief Jura can do better.
Currently retailing for around £35, chances are you’ll see this cheaper at your local supermarket. Jura has always gone for discounts in such retail environments to reasonable success. Arguably its where its core audience resides. Knocking £10 off the normal price prompted me to finally take the plunge and engage with the new Jura vision. Looking online you can pick it up for £25 on Amazon currently. It’s bottled at 40% strength and is a no age statement release matured in American White Oak ex-bourbon barrels.
Journey Jura – review
On the nose: very subdued and inoffensive. Honey, funnily enough, barley sweets and a gentle seasoning of peat. Freshly baked shortbread, a ginger loaf and I’m thinking vanilla fudge. All approachable and a second dram reveals delicate notes of blackcurrant, orange peel and a musty quality. What’s noticeable is how thin and fragile this whisky noses – underlined when you add water. A touch of smoke unravels with toffee but water must be used sparingly.
In the mouth: watery in a way and yet the peat steps up. The mouthfeel is pretty vapid and fleeting with traces of that alcohol spirit on the fringes I often associate with Jura. A light creamy vanilla caramel and a touch of wax. Fading cinnamon and a waft of smoke. There’s very little definition here in today’s 4K realm as this harks back to a more simple era.
You know, I don’t mind this. The whisky is better than I had anticipated even with its shortcomings. Perhaps its the peat covering up the cracks. At £35 I wouldn’t recommend it but pitched at the £25 discounted level it seems more appropriate. The journey is relatively short and inoffensive representing more of a quick walk around the block than anything enduring or empowering.
Is it the start of a new Jura journey here at Malt? Does the entry level expression in the core range prompt me to move on to the next release? I’m not sure, to be honest. The Journey will attract new followers to the Jura brand while at the same time alienating many of its loyal following. A point knocked off for daring to ask £35 for this which is a bit cheeky given the contents.
There are a couple of commission links in this review – as always these don’t influence our verdict or score.