Monday, March 08, 2010

called up for jura service

One of the problems with trying to democratically consume one's whisky collection without favouring any one particular bottle is that this strict rotation policy occasionally results in finishing two or more bottles in quick succession. So having finished the dregs of the Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve a couple of months ago I now find myself polishing off the last couple of drams out of the Glenmorangie and the Oban in relatively quick succession.

The upside of this is that it gives me a ready-made excuse to do a bit more snooping around for bargains on supermarket booze shelves, and sure enough while making a quick trip to my local Asda I discovered that they had the 10-year-old Isle of Jura whisky on sale for £17 (it's normally upwards of £25). Ker, and, furthermore, ching.

The Isle of Jura is a fascinating place, if you like your fascinating places pretty wild and hairy and inhospitable - George Orwell finished writing Nineteen Eighty-Four in a cottage on the island in the late 1940s, shortly before succumbing to the tuberculosis that killed him a couple of years later (I've no idea whether the Jura weather was a contributing factor, but it wouldn't surprise me). While Orwell was living on the island he and his young son were almost drowned in the infamous Corryvreckan whirlpool which lurks in the narrow channel to the north of the island. Jura was also (in 1994) the venue for the infamous stunt whereby the artists formerly known as the KLF burned a million quid.

Islay aside, there aren't many Scottish islands that have distilleries on them, in fact there are four: Jura, Mull, Skye, and Orkney, which have one each (well, Orkney sort of has two). If you share my particular set of enthusiasms then you'll be interested to know that the only two islands which have both a distillery and at least one Munro are Skye and Mull.

Anyway, the whisky. Because of Jura's proximity to Islay (barely a mile at their closest point) you might expect a big aggressive peaty poke in the eye, but what you actually get is something a bit more reserved. It has the same slightly salty rubbery smell that the Oban has, but whereas the Oban tastes of all that stuff as well (and very nice too), the Jura is very light and sweet and heathery when you taste it (with perhaps just a distant whiff of smoke in the background). In fact the mismatch between smell and taste is slightly peculiar, which is not to say there's anything wrong with it. It's perhaps a bit polite to be as memorable as its near neighbours, though - while I'm not the biggest fan of the really peaty Islays, there's certainly no mistaking them for anything else, and the same goes for the Oban, too, though in a slightly friendlier way. So I suppose I'd say it's nice rather than massively startling or memorable, though for 17 quid you can't go too far wrong. I like the flask-y bottle, as well - a bit like the Highland Park, but squashed in the middle.

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