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Jura, an island which is part of the Inner Hebrides archipelago off western Scotland, is not the most hospitable place on the planet. It is mostly barren, severely mountainous, sparsely populated (196, according to the latest census, though there are more than 5,000 deer) and mostly covered in what is known as blanket bog (a form of peatland where the wet climate allows peat to develop extensively). The local village of Craighouse has a single pub, one church and the one distillery, Jura. And a single road. Its closest neighbour is the more famous Islay. Jura is 30,000 hectares of raw scenery, although nearly 10,000 of that is only exposed at low tide. George Orwell described Jura as “extremely unget-at-able” in 1946.
The Island’s first distillery was built in 1810 by the Campbell family, very close to the site of the current one (the same grounds), but, after being rebuilt in the 1880’s, closed in 1901 and went to ruin. A new distillery, designed by the famous William Delme-Evans who was responsible for a number of distilleries, was constructed in the 1950’s and opened in 1963, at which time, it employed a quarter of the male population on Jura. It had the stated aim of, despite the peat bogs and the proximity to Islay, making a Highland-type malt. They were keen to avoid the peaty notes common at the time. There have been some experimental bottlings of a much more peaty style from the late 1990’s, and these have been well received. There have also been Jura malts offered by independent bottlers.
The current owners are Whyte and Mackay Ltd.
Water for the distillery comes from the nearby mountains, the Paps of Jura, which filters its way down to the Market Loch. The stills are some of the tallest to be found at any island distillery, the theory being that the taller the still, the purer the spirit.
The original bottling for the new distillery was ‘Origin’, a ten-year-old non-peated malt which was well known for its heather and honey character. There are a number of other bottlings, but the most fascinating might be the ‘Prophecy’.
This is a heavily peated malt. It was named ‘Prophecy’ as in the early 1700’s, the Campbell family evicted a man from their property. As he trudged away, he yelled a curse at the family, claiming that the last Campbell to leave the island would be one-eyed and would have all his belongings in a cart, drawn by a single white horse. In 1938, Charles Campbell, who’d lost an eye in the earlier War and subsequently fallen on hard times, packed up his belongings and took them to the pier in a cart, pulled by his white horse.
Diurachs believe anything is possible. After all, there are easier places to make whisky. To rebuild the distillery and revive the island took grit and courage.
It’s this same spirit that goes into distilling Jura Single Malt Whisky today, giving it qualities like no other. Hand crafted by our team in Jura’s four stills that stand tall as the 2nd tallest of any island whisky distillery at 25ft. 4inches, we use the purest water from Market Loch. Together this ensures that the new make spirit we produce is light in style with fresh lemon and grassy flavours.
It’s these characters that give our spirit its Highland character, and allow it to mature and soften perfectly in hand selected American White Oak ex-bourbon barrels for a minimum of three years. Our maturing whisky then meets a selection of fine European Oak cask finishes; and comes together under the experienced palate of the whisky making team.
The unique signature style combines sweetness from maturation in American White Oak ex-bourbon barrels with a hint of subtle smoke. Each whisky further enhanced by specially selected casks from around Europe. This combination sees Highland and Island styles combine to create a distinctive, welcoming character.
The new direction and ten expressions signifies an exciting dawn in Jura’s story.