John MacTaggart's Isle of Jura 1976


The bottle sat like a beacon, trying to confusion and bewitch me with its presence. Transmitting, knowing that the promise of a final taste of goodness would be enough to snare the unaware into its evil clutches. Despite the surrounding entourage of Brora, Tormore and other fine bottlings, deep down I knew that a showdown at noon on Dornoch High Street was ultimately going to be required to put this siren in its place.

When the lads at the Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar put bottles out front they’re either solid cheap drinkers, whiskies of the month, or they’re cheap for a reason i.e. something went wrong during maturation that resulted in, lets say, a less than wholesome experience. Deep down, such a scenario and therefore a nugget of truth was in the back of my mind; I knew this private bottling of Jura was out front for a reason. The £10 price tag might seem excessive to some readers, but Jura from this period can often surprise, yes, for the right and all too often wrong reasons. At least it’s never boring or benign and these are qualities you can thrust labels on across many supermarket shelves today. Still, despite my love of Jura, yes that’s as in I love to hate. I’m a persistent enthusiast, always willing to push those boundaries and seek out new experiences, to boldly go where no man has gone before. Think of it as Man versus Dram. 

From memory this is one of several private bottlings from John MacTaggart although it’s the Jura that attracts a great deal of attention. It was one release that the fellas at Dornoch were eager to try for themselves and then to see it cast out front at the bar sets an expectation. Bottled at 59% strength, its adorned with a simple and straightforward label that’s minimalist and lacks any additional information. Putting together the pieces is down to the drinker to discover and truly cipher; none of that Glenlivet marketing or tapestry being woven here.

The original Jura distillery itself can trace its roots back to the 1800’s, whereas it’s the modern restoration we’re more familiar with nowadays. The original distillery was closed and dismantled sometime around the early 1900’s and destined for the history books. Then the need to create a place of employment for the local islanders in the 1950’s put the distillery on the path to revival by the early 1960’s. What rose from the ashes of the original Jura was a new beast and therefore a completely new type of whisky. Sadly, not one that we can all enjoy.

Jura was recently described to me as classier than meths; I’ll keep the description on ice for now, as I’ve never had meths although it was the subject of much discussion in my school days. Cheap extra strength cider was more on the menu back then and thankfully we never succumbed to the need for meths or Jura, Why does Jura continue to disappoint on a consistent basis? Is it the spirit cut, the history of substandard casks or cost savings, or even the master blender? As with most things in life there probably isn’t a simple answer. However, we’ll keep on searching and discovering here at Whisky Rover, until the trend is bucked or I run out of walls to smash bottles against.

With the entire above cast aside it was time to answer the call of the siren and to once again square up to the Magyr. After all, it’s not just Edrington that has the exclusive rights on Viking mythology.

Colour: butter caramel sauce
Nose: very pungent, astringent almost with a wet flannel arrival. Perhaps its the age and some airing is required? Resin, an almost tar-like denseness with dried orange and a coarse vanilla. Underneath there's a slight soapy perfume, honey and toffee.
Taste: oh jeez, here's the reason for the front row. It's a soapy and that's the overriding feature. Yes somewhere beneath the bubbles there could be the echo of a whisky with an earthiness, caramel and ash but you're left grasping at straws. 

Overall: not the Jura to change my opinion and another notch on the experience belt for this distillery. Now where's that meth?  

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