The Isle of Jura (both the island the distillery) has fascinated me for quite a while and with good reason. It is traditionally in the shadow of its far more celebrated brethren, Islay, but that is probably due to Islay having 8 (soon to be 9) distilleries and Jura only having the one.
Now, I use the word only with every ounce of respect for Jura as it is a phenomenal distillery. In fact (and this might surprise some of you), the Isle of Jura Superstition was the very first single malt whisky that I tried back in 2008 when I embarked on my journey of discovery (the blended whisky journey had started 2 years earlier).
As time went on, I delved deeper into the rest of the Jura range of whiskies and savoured the 10 Years Old (which is a solid dram and one of my go to whiskies at Duty Free if I’m looking for something unpeated), the heavily peated Prophecy (which I immensely enjoyed), the interesting 16 Year Old Diurach’s Own (takes a bit of water to get going) and of course the 1993 Sherry ‘Ji’ Cask, which is the focus of this review.
Following on with how these reviews usually transpire, I was at Whisky & Alement in Melbourne back in July and was savouring a few drams with some mates at the bar when curiosity got the better of me and I started flipping through the bar menu in search of somthing unique. I admit that most of it was rather unique in itself (and pricey too), but then this particular Jura expression caught my attention.
Now, most of you who are familiar with Jura would know that they traditionally focus on releases with either a bourbon influence or something to do with American Oak. They are some partially sherried whiskies in their collection (such as the Superstition), but none of the range exhibits a pronounced sherried edge. Well, that’s where this 1993 Sherry ‘Ji’ Cask expression steps up to the plate.
I immediately placed an order for a dram of this oddity and paid a very reasonable AU$15 for it. Now some of the nosing and tasting notes below might be rather… unconventional… but please do keep in mind that this was basically what I personally experienced with this particular expression and chances are your run ins with this one might differ (as they tend to do).
Some background into this expression: It was distilled in 1993 and initially matured in American White Oak casks before being given a further and final maturation in Oloroso Pasada sherry butts from the famed Gonzalez Byass bodega in Spain before being bottled at 15 years of age in 2008.
And so, without further delay, let’s delve deeper into this beauty:
Isle of Jura 1993 Sherry ‘Ji’ Cask (15 Years Old, 54% abv)
Colour: Reddish copper
Nose: Very unusual entry note, which somewhat reminds me of gas from the stovetop. Definitely vegetal in nature and nicely counterbalanced with a dollop of sherried sweetness. The cask strength nature of this dram presents a pronounced alcohol note which creeps up the nose just after the sherry.
Hints of camphor, sea salt and some coastal briny notes give this dram a spicy-salty-sweet combination of scents, making is rather complex. As time elapses, it develops further with some meaty and sulphury notes also present in the tail end of the nose. The latter two scents remind me somewhat of the Benrinnes 21 Years Old from a few reviews ago.
Palate: Sherried sweetness, but not densely so. Stone fruits, redcurrants and some cinnamon emerge and establish themselves as the bedrock of this dram’s palate. An infusion of black pepper then proceeds to whack the palate into submission with some help from the cask strength alcohol nature of this dram. The heat is fleeting though and recedes to becomes rather warming on the palate. The sherried sweetness becomes rather intense towards the end, giving the warmth a sophisticated and rounded feel.
Finish: Long and lingering finish, with the intense sherried sweetness the star of the show. Nutmeg and allspice creep in towards the end to add more warmth. As a result, the mouthfeel is rather drying towards the end although there is a certain oiliness to it which works well with the overall flavour profile. Quite a complex dram and immensely enjoyable.
This just might be the best Jura I have ever tasted and the sherried nature of this beauty definitely has a hand to play in that rating. If anything, this particular dram proves the notion that Jura is more than capable of creating a brilliant expression with a sherried backbone to it.
While the sherry influence in this particular expression might be the result of a secondary maturation, the quality of the Oloroso Pasada sherry butts used in this expression is exceptional and clearly shines through in all aspects of this whisky.
I remember thinking to myself that I would definitely need to acquire a bottle of this for the collection and the hope is that I would be able to do so by sometime next year (although there are other bottles ahead of the queue which need to be acquired first). What this means is that I’m definitely going to be spending a four figure sum on acquisitions over the next year.
I would definitely recommend this to experienced whisky drinkers who are familiar with Jura’s core expressions as it would act as a nice counterpoint to their main offerings. If anything, this particular expression shows just how versatile the Jura new make spirit is in terms of being moulded and shaped into something truly amazing.