The island of Jura belongs to the Inner Hebrides, with about 200 inhabitants – and more than 5,500 deer. They gave the island, which is written in Scottish “Diùra”, meaning “deer island”. Only one street crosses the island and there is only one pub. But apart from the animal inhabitants, the island off the west coast of Scotland is also known for one thing – and this leads us to Craighouse, the largest settlement in Jura. Walking through Craighouse you can smell it from afar: the scent of whisky. It seeps from the stills of the “Isle of Jura Distillery”, a large white building complex with black roofs.The old buildings with their square windows and high chimneys are almost majestic. They form a small community within the settlement. To the right is the rugged, rocky coastline – and the cold water of the Atlantic Ocean.
After 1781 a decree forbade the island’s inhabitants to distill their own whisky, Archibald Campbell established the distillery in 1810. The Campbell family had a firm grip on the island’s economy at that time – and thus also on the production of the whisky. At the beginning of the last century, however, the Campells closed the distillery. They removed the roof, because according to British law, buildings without roofs are not buildings – and thus remain untaxed. The consequence, however, was that the old distillery fell apart visibly and thus the centre of Craighouse, which seemed to be becoming increasingly inhospitable at that time.
Robin Fletcher and Tony Riley-Smith couldn’t watch any longer. So in the early 1960s, the two of them came up with the idea of giving the “Jura Distillery” a new lease of life. The Scottish duo put a lot of time, a good portion of sweat and even more passion into their project. And in 1963 it was completed: the reconstruction of the Jura whisky distillery. Even today, the building still shines in the splendour of the “Sixties”: Beautiful, much larger “Pot Stills” were the reason for the legendary reputation of the single malt and the production was converted at that time directly to quantities, which of course did not only cover the needs of the islanders.
Today, four standard versions of Jura whisky are distilled. The original is a ten-year-old, slightly peaty Scotch that offers an excellent introduction to the world of Jura. The aroma of the oak barrels is mixed with honey, caramel and a hint of licorice. Diurach’s Own: a 14-year-old single malt, is said to be the preferred variety of islanders. After maturing in white oak barrels, it then spends two years in barrels that were formerly used for maturing Amoroso-Oloroso-Sherry. The result: a harmonious composition of dark chocolate, orange and honey. Superstition: a 21 years old and combines a slightly peaty character with notes of honey and pine, accompanied by sea salt and spices. Prophecy completes the quartet.
His name comes from a prophecy according to which the hard-handed Campbell family would one day lose everything and the last Campbell, a one-eyed man, would load his belongings onto a small cart pulled by a white horse to leave the island. In 1938 Charles Campbell, who had lost an eye in the war, actually left the island. His entire estate fitted a small horse-drawn carriage pulled by a white horse – as the prophecy had predicted. The peatiest of the four whiskies combines fresh cinnamon and spicy sea spray in its taste, a real experience.
The Jura distillery has the second highest pot stills in Scotland – one of the main reasons why the whisky is particularly soft in its flavour. In this way, only the really fine tastes can be distilled. The skill of three true whisky experts is also decisive for the taste of this exquisite Scottish whisky. Willie Tait, Willie Cochrane and Richard Patterson have composed the wonderful single malts with much dedication and care. The choice of the right barrels is decisive for the final taste. The island climate with its harsh sea air has a great influence on the development of flavour. Each of the whiskies has a salty note, sometimes more and sometimes less pronounced. It is not only the knowledge of the process of distillation and the choice of the right barrels that is required. The location of the distillery is also an important component in the development of taste. And a more beautiful place than the island of Jura is surely not so easy to find.