Review: Jura, SMWS 31.32


Jura, SMWS 31.32 “Piri-Piri and Teriyaki chicken”, 26yo

(Distilled 19th April 1989, ex-bourbon refill hogshead, 186 bottles, 52.7%)

An admission before I begin: I don’t really like Jura. On paper it’s a whisky that’s somewhere between the style of Campbeltown and Islay, which should be a very happy place for me indeed, but somehow it seems to be the worst of both worlds. I’m aware that I’ve not been keeping up with recent developments, but my memories of trying the various official bottlings tend to be of feinty, cardboardy notes, and a consistency that’s somehow simultaneously oily and dry. I just don’t find it agreeable.

On the other hand, it’s a strangely popular whisky – it’s funny how many non-whisky people have a bottle of Superstition or similar in their house – and in principle I’m all for whisky with oddball character and personality. So, with an open-ish mind, I’m going to try what should be Jura at its best: well-aged and independently bottled. Here goes nothing.

Nose: Rockpools at low tide on a hot day: wet stone, beached seaweed, saline, slightly funky. Well okay then. There’s a bit of ashy smoke, and an odd earthiness that’s making me think of spent coffee grounds (I’m getting a bit of filter paper too). Above all these base notes there’s this odd (there’s that word again) fragrant and sparklingly minerallic thing that’s bring to mind bath salts… More conventionally a little time in the glass starts revealing some fruit pie … a bit peachy and buttery.
Taste: Somehow it’s immediately both very sweet and very tannic, like someone has distilled a batch of builder’s tea, and accompanied by a tongue-tingly minerallic sensation. It’s like the ammonium chloride stuff that Scandiwegian and Norddeutsche (hi mum!) types put on their salty liquorice. Something explicable only with reference to the Hanseatic League or the Schleswig-Holstein Question no doubt. There’s a bit of the liquorice too, and some “woody” spices: cassia bark and allspice berries. It’s more jerk than teriyaki chicken to my mind, with apologies to the SMWS’s tasting panel.
Finish: It remains richly tannic – like a combo of very red wine and very dark chocolate – but in the very long aftertaste that fades away to leave some lingering dark fruit (blackcurrant sweets) and a dry chocolate note.

Well, this is certainly different, and – to be honest – I’m struggling to answer what should be a fairly simple question: did I like it? I think the issue is that there’s so much going on here, and quite a lot of it fairly weird, that it’s hard to stop treating it like an intellectual exercise. I feel I’ve been dissecting it rather than tasting it.

What I will say is that it’s always worth trying something this interestingly odd – your palate will appreciate the work-out. And it’s prompted me to wonder if all old Jura is like this? Further exploration beckons.

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