Monday, 23 July 2012

Jura Twitter Tasting

I took part in The Whisky Wire's Jura Tweet Tasting last Wednesday evening and made sure I got out of the office in good time to get home and prepared to sample the five great drams from the Isle of Jura.

The five sample drams arrived from The Isle of Jura, I didn't know what to expect following the last Tweet Tasting from the English Whisky Co. where four 'blind' samples were sent to tease us. 

The Jura samples however, were all clearly labelled and from their core range of single malts, with one exception, and 'jewel in the crown' a limited edition 21 Year Old.

Only one of the five drams sent was completely new to me, but the tweet tastings are always great fun, and it is always interesting reading others reactions to the whiskies we're sampling.

Steve Rush of the Whisky Wire had sent all of the Tweet Tasters some notes as well as a tasting mat with the whiskies laid out in tasting order, and as the hour approached photographs of the set-ups were being posted, mostly similar to mine below, and with everyone ready, we started promptly at seven o'clock:

My set up ready for the #JuraTT tasting session
Dram #1 Isle of Jura 10 Year Old 
40% abv Silver Winner at 2010 IWSC Awards
Circa £25.50 70cl

10 Year Old 'Origin'

This was one of the the first whiskies I tasted at the very beginning of my journey (Whisky Discovery #5) I bought a bottle of Jura 10 Year Old following an episode of 'Three Men in a Boat' with Dara Ó Briain, Rory McGrath and Griff Rhys Jones. In the fifth series they went to Scotland and Rory visited the Jura Distillery, the whole scene looked very idyllic, and the whisky looked and sounded fantastic. I loved it initially, but then went off it for a while for some unknown reason. Then when I returned to it later in the year I 're-discovered' it and was sad to see the end of the bottle.

The symbol printed on the 10 Year Old, or Origin, packaging is the traditional Celtic symbol for birth and is therefore the whisky at the beginning of the Jura collection.

To try this again within the Tweet Tasting group was great fun and opened up a great deal more from this core expression from Jura. My blog post for this 10 year old really doesn't do the whisky justice, but then I had only just started drinking whisky and knew little about it, and my blog wasn't even born at that time, just a 'liquid log' recording the whiskies I was discovering.

This 10 year old is light and delicate with a warming honey finish. Lingering taste of warming gentle oak, honey and caramel, soft liquorice and roasted coffee beans. I hadn't noticed previously but this time there was a definite young pine cone nose to this 10 year old at first, before giving way to soft fruits, sweet peaches and apricots. After a while longer in the glass a malty oakiness started to develop, there was a salty tang. and orange marmalade too. On the palate there were tastes of sweet caramel, dark chocolate, salt, buttery shortbread, and white pepper spices. The finish was fairly short, salty and white pepper. A great start to the evenings tasting.

Some of my favourite tweets for the 10 Year Old:
@TheWhiskyBoys Nose 'Firstly honey coated cigarettes, singed flower petals, over stewed tea, salty and dry'
@fr1day 'Smells like you're walking through a pine forest, nibbling on a green apple'
@HTFWhisky 'definitely a buttery palate, but also quite salty at the same time! Like Norwegian salted butter cooked in honey!'
@ifotou 'Palette more of the seaside saltiness with dark cocoa and still some citrus notes, pine cones and crushed sunflower seeds'
@TIA568B 'Finish: Very dry, grapefruit pith, salty, leaves a bit of a citric bitterness in the mouth.'

Dram #2 Isle of Jura Superstition NAS
43% abv – Gold Winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2009
Circa £29.00 70cl


I've still got some of this on my shelf, a Christmas 2011 gift, so have got to really enjoy this lightly peated Jura (Whisky Discovery #31)

The difference in my blog posts from the beginning of my journey to one year on is clearly evident! I got in touch with the distillery to find out more about the make up of Superstition at the time.

Superstition is lightly peated with hints of smoke and spice. This lightly peated malt – which incidentally Islanders believe is bad luck to be cut before May – features the Egyptian symbol of the Ankh cross which is believed to bring good fortune of immortality. 

A no age statement whisky brought together from a selection of different aged casks, some as old as 21 years

The nose is fresh, lightly peated, floral; with hints of orange blossom, sweet butterscotch and white pepper, lots of white pepper. There's a salty tang too. On the palate it's immediately salty or briny, before the sherry influence of rich fruits kicks in, then butterscotch and burnt vanilla, again the spice white pepper at the end. Once again this whisky evolves nicely in the glass slowly releasing it's secrets.

Some of my favourite tweets for Superstition:

@rodbodtoo 'nose: salty and lightly peaty. Bacon? The ghost of Bacon? Posh aftershave'
@FrazerJ 'ohh bamm, very pleasant peaty smooth, bit of heather/green - lovely smoke. I am buying this' 
@HTFWhisky 'On the nose I get a wealth of salty butter and suggestions of peat.'
@TheWhiskyBoys 'Palate - sweet & thick citrus fruits (orange, pineapple), dusting of just lit peat fire smoke, wine gums, sherry'
@sgilboa 'On the palate - warm, peppery, oily AND dry.caramel, brown sugar, coffee notes. Nuts, nutmeg on the finish'

Dram #3 Isle of Jura 16 Year Old (Diurach's Own)
40% abv – Gold Best in Class at the 2010 IWSC Awards
Circa £43.50 70cl

Diurachs Own 16 Year Old

First tasted this 16 Year Old at Whisky Live in London earlier this year, (Whisky Discovery #52) I was looking forward to revisiting this expression.

Those who hail from Jura are known as Diurachs and the Diurachs like nothing better than sharing their island’s history, legends and folklore over a dram of 16 years old.

The Diurach’s Own has rich flavours of dark chocolate combined with oranges and spices, with sweet toffee and honey to finish.

I tweeted that on the initially I had softwood sap on the nose - continuing with the pine cone theme! I also found a little acetone too, but being an ex-boatbuilder I quite like the smell of this. 

After a while fruity notes start to open up peachy apricots and blackened bananas. The 16 Year Old is not as peppery as the earlier two.

This Jura 16 Year Old is definitely moving up my wish list, and loved it's alluring sweetness, smooth and creaminess, and its light salty tang I found these first three whiskies tasted didn't need water at all, but always try adding a drop or two just to see the effect. As with the previous two the finish was quite short.

Some of my favourite tweets for Superstition:

‏@whiskyrepublic 'A more challenging nose, having to work a little harder, again a pinch of pine, soupcon of smoke, flighty fragrance'
@ifotou 'stunning sweet dried fruits, and pine trees, still has that seaside saltiness fresh wet forest leaves'
‏@WHISKYILEACH 'smells like my shed the day after I was using varnish a wee bit'
‏@stevenmcc82 'Jura 16 always reminds me of weathers originals, honey, toffee and vanilla' 
@PresleyKa 'Very over ripe banana, you know the ones that go black in your fruit basket because you've forgotten to eat 1 of your 5 a day.'
@HTFWhisky 'palate reminds me of Honey Ice-cream from the Halo Shop in Tywyn near Aberdovey in Wales. Very smooth feel in the mouth.'

Dram #4 Isle of Jura 21 Year Old 200th Anniversary Edition
44% abv
Circa £99.00 70cl

200th Anniversary 21 Year Old

This was the one Jura I was really looking forward to and this was my Whisky Discovery #154

A special commemorative bottling to celebrate 200 years of distilling at Jura Distillery. Finished in 1963 Gonzalez Byass sherry casks. (1963 was also the same year Jura was re-established on the Island.)

The limited edition pack contains a unique personal invitation from the distillery manager to visit the Jura distillery for a private sampling. Twenty-one owners of the Jura 21 will be selected to stay in the luxurious Jura lodge. 

Flawless finish of soft marzipan, crushed walnuts, fleshy pear and tangy orange peel. Whispers of succulent maraschino cherries, plums and soft liquorice complete this memorable masterpiece.

So What did I think?

I'm not quite sure why this limited edition commemorative bottling has been released at just 44% abv, I would have though at least 46% and possibly cask strength? That said however, this still was rather special. As with the previous four expressions time in the glass revealed more as the nose evolved, but I tweeted, rich dark orange marmalade, toffee, sherried fruits, sultanas, figs and a little furniture polish too, a very complex 21 year old, yet very smooth light and delicate and totally delicious.

Some of my favourite tweets for the 21 year Old

@sgilboa 'more subtle on the nose (apart boom of alcohol), gentle, rich, ripe plums, sultanas, apricots, oak'
@TheWhiskyBoys 'Nose - Caribbean fruits, chlorine, fresh beach air, cedar wood shavings, floral drawer liner, unlit cigar, metallic/brass'
@whiskyrepublic 'deep & dark, sherry & polish on the nose, I'm getting hints of orange ( a theme for me tonight)'
@AlasterPhillips 'nose: ripe bananas, cold earl grey tea, a large bowl of milky coffee and the marzipan off the top of an xmas cake'
@TheWhiskyWire'Dried oak smeared in lemon curd'
@rodbodtoo 'palate: very smooth, light and a touch oily. Malty, with fruit round the edges, and a bit of sherbet lemon'

Dram #5 Isle of Jura Prophecy NAS
46% abv – Gold Best in Class at the 2010 IWSC Awards
Circa £49.00 70cl


This was the second of the the two Jura expressions I first tasted at Whisky Live earlier this Year, (Whisky Discovery #53) and one that has been high on 'Dad's Whisky Wish List' stuck on the fridge.

The seer foretold that the last Campbell to leave Jura would depart on a horse and cart with only one eye to lead the way. This prophecy came true when the last Campbell, who had lost his eye in battle, left the island on his white horse. 

To celebrate the seer’s mystical prophecy, each bottle has the symbol of the ‘all seeing eye’ to watch over this fine spirit.

This is a wonderful smoky peaty, Islay nose to the Prophecy - I love a peaty whisky! It's not got the medicinal notes that some peaty Islays can have, but it does have a wonderful beach bonfire nose, salty creamy and liquorice too - for me, this is very enjoyable and I'm pleased to see an abv content of 46%

Some of my favourite tweets for Prophecy

‏@whiskyrepublic 'nose - I'm getting the sea here - walking through a fresh fish market, briny, someone's burning leaves'
@NickDaBird 'nose- lemon zest, creamy, bonfire and tobacco weighs in- smoked bacon?'
@fr1day 'Wet, matted leaves covering a forest floor set on fire & smouldering (any idea how hard it is to get that fire started?!)'

@TIA568B 'Nose: Very floral peat, smoke, salty & coastal, citric zesty, charcoal, a bonfire on a beach, no lactic notes so far!'
@TheWhiskyBoys 'Palate - wait! is this an Islay.., powerhouse of peat, salty seaside, oily, BBQ coal, touch of smoked gammon'
@TIA568B 'Palate: Peaty, earthy, burnt wood, still a dry coaliness about it (Welsh steam?), sweet, nutty, sweet, vanilla, but very dry'

As per previous Tweet Tastings there was a great deal of tweeting going on and to see what happened search on the #JuraTT hashtag on twitter for the full story!

Yet another great experience and another highlight of my whisky journey, revisiting four and  registering a fabulous new ‘discovery’ A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire and everyone at @jura_whisky

For more information see: and and don't forget to sign up and become a Diurach too while you're there (check out my Whisky Clubs page too)

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Whisky Discovery #153

Buffalo Trace NAS (40%abv, OB, Bottled 2012 70cl)
Straight Kentucky Bourbon
£22.00 70cl
The sun came out for my Buffalo Trace
I decided that this July I was going to get some Bourbon for my journey. I fancied a bottle of Four Roses Yellow Label which I first tasted at Whisky Live London earlier this year, and because it was on a special offer in the supermarket, my wife picked up a bottle of Buffalo Trace for me too. Both were on my wish list, and Buffalo Trace is also listed in Ian Buxton's fabulous book, '101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die'

So why Buffalo Trace? A ‘trace’ is a wide path, beaten out by herds of buffalo. These traces were followed by explorers and early settlers who travelled to the Wild West. Buffalo Trace was named for the Great Buffalo Trace which cut its course to the banks of the Kentucky River, the buffalo forded their way across the river, eventually reaching the Great Plains. The area was rife with distillation during the eighteenth century, the water was limestone which and the locality proffered excellent cereal growing conditions.

A distillery was built in 1857 and was the first to use steam power. During the 1880s, the distillery boasted climate controlled warehouses and was also the first to ship the product down the Mississippi river. The distillery was one of but four that continued to run during US Prohibition, legally. It was granted a permit for distillation for medicinal purposes. Once Prohibition was repealed, the facilities were managed by Albert Blanton. He was committed to his art and, accordingly, produced the best product he could. Named the George T Stagg distillery until June of 1999, at which point it was renamed Buffalo Trace, the distillery produces a range of upmarket bourbons including the acclaimed Eagle Rare and Blanton’s.

Since 1990, the distillery has received more awards than any other North American Distillery; notably Malt Advocate hailed it as their 2000 Distillery of the Year and in 2005 Whisky Magazine heralded it as their Distiller of the Year. Buffalo Trace is also noteworthy for marketing the first single barrel bourbon, released in memory of Albert Blanton, who produced a single barrel whiskey to enjoy with friends.

So What did I Think?
Buffalo Trace has a lovely tarnished copper colour. On the nose bright citrus notes were immediately recognised, mainly limes, perhaps even Kaffir limes. There's oak wood, and sweet honey cutting through the limes. Eventually the vanilla breaks out. There are some earthy, musty notes too which reminded me of a outward bound course when we had to came out in a recently mucked out cowshed. The nose certainly seems to evolve over time in the glass.

The mouth feel is oily initially then a short burst of spicy pepper heat, there's a slight sourness balancing the sweetness, with spiced orange peel, a slight clove like taste, but certainly not overpowering.

The finish seemed quite short with sweet honey, a light saltiness, pepper spice and a drying nuttiness at the very end. I've been very impressed with this entry level bourbon, I'm not one for drinking cocktails, preferring to drink my spirits neat, and Buffalo Trace is very enjoyable to sit and ponder over at the end of the day.

Friday, 13 July 2012

A beer with a Whisky Tale

Old Worthy Scottish Pale Ale (5% abv, OB Bottled 2012 330ml)
Craft brewed beer from the Isle of Skye

A chance meeting on Twitter introduced me to Nick creator of Old Worthy Scottish Pale Ale. One of my many nicknames has been 'Old Worthy' and I was recently sent a sample of this beer to see what I thought of this, and to be honest I was really blown away with this.

Many years ago I drank a lot of real ale, loved the stuff and was always trying different ales drawn from handpumps in small country pubs, or better still direct from the barrel. However seven years working in the Far East with nothing but ice cold German style lager to drink changed my drinking style. I didn't really get back into the ale drinking upon my return to the UK and following a rugby tour to Ireland returned to drinking Guinness which became pretty much the only beer I drank.

So why Old Worthy? The term 'local worthies' references the whisky men who mischievously helped themselves to the distillery 'wash'; a from of 'beer' from which new make whisky spirit is distilled. The name Old Worthy references those daring and cheeky men.

Scotland has a long and proud brewing history. Long overshadowed by whisky production Scotland's brewing culture thrived during the 1800's with Edinburgh famed for it's mineral ales similar in style to those from Burton on Trent.

Scottish beer is now facing a revived growth, driven by pioneering innovations from Innis and Gunn (Beer maturation in whisky casks) and Brew Dog (quality craft brewing).

Old Worthy Scottish Pale Ale is a craft beer brewed on the Isle of Skye and at the heart of Old Worthy brewing philosophy is innovation through fermentation, 'Fermented for Flavour' is proudly written on the bottle label.

The Scottish Pale Ale is a twist on the famed India Pale Style - with a medium hop (Challenger hops) content compared to IPA, coupled with a small percentage of Scottish distillery peat smoked barley (10-15ppm) and mellowed with Highland heather honey.

So what did I think?
This is a balanced and refreshingly creamy ale with a biscuit maltiness, soft fruit hoppiness tempered with a rounded sweetness on the palate and then a soft lingering smokiness on the finish.

As I said earlier I was blown away with it. I had mine slightly chilled from the fridge and it really was refreshing and I loved the smoky finish, as they say 'It's a 'braw brew!'

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Whisky Discovery #150

The Devil's Punch Bowl NAS (52.3% abv OB, Bottled 2012 70cl)
Island Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Circa; £66.60 70cl
Devils Punch Bowl from The Arran Malt - spectacular packaging
The Devil’s Punch Bowl is a limited edition expression of The Arran Single Malt inspired by the glacial hollow Coire na Ciche, only accessible by boggy footpaths, and whose sinister presence dominates the north-east coast of Arran.

It is said that Arrans's Master Distiller, James ‘Lucifer’ MacTaggart, has been to 'hell and back' to select only the finest casks for this demonic masterpiece. Each cask has been chosen to contribute a specific characteristic and through the dark art of blending these whiskies have conspired to create an elixir of exceptional complexity and finesse.

Drawn from 24 different Arran casks, including Sherry Butts from 1996, it's also the first whisky from the Arran Distillery to combine both peated and un-peated casks. James MacTaggart goes on to say "The Sherry Butts act like the rhythm section of a band; setting the tone and driving the character of the malt. Deep in colour and rich on the palate these casks are the heartbeat of this whisky. The 1996 Bourbon Barrels add a wonderful honeyed sweetness to proceedings whilst the Sherry Hogsheads imbue a perfect harmony of aroma and flavour. As a unique twist I have added some of our 2006 Peated Arran, in combination with regular un-peated Arran for the very first time, giving the finish a subtle smoky edge.

Only 6,660 bottles of the ‘Devil’s Punch Bowl’ will be released worldwide, bottled at cask strength of 52.3% abv, and like the rest of the Arran range is non chill filtered and no artificial colouring is used.

So what did I think?

I had barely finished my blog post on the Arran Golden Eagle when I first heard about this new release. With the launch date to coincide with the Distillery Open Day at the end of June, I managed to get hold of a generous sample to taste without making the journey to the Isle of Arran. To be honest I would have much rather be at the distillery tasting it, but that wouldn't have been possible this time. So a huge thanks to The Arran Malt for sending me the sample for me to air my thoughts.

Just as the tasting notes state the nose is certainly fresh and vibrant with initially strong sherried fruits, candied peel, orange marmalade, rich vanilla essence and a light butterscotch sweetness. With water, and at 52.3% abv it can take a good drop of water, the sweet vanilla and butterscotch flavours come to the forefront. With five peated casks in the mix, I was expecting some peaty smoke on the nose but wasn't really able to pick anything out.

Rich spicy fruits on the palate initially, lots of dark black cherry and a lovely aniseed comes through before the slightest smokiness of the peated whisky comes through.

With a long lingering finish with a lovely balance of toffee sweetness and spicy white pepper with a final delicate fragrant pipe smoke at the very end.

I went onto taste this head to head with The Golden Eagle I bought at the beginning of the month. In the glass they both look very similar, a beautiful rich golden colour, but while the Eagle is light and fruity, the Devil's Punch Bowl is definitely more menacing with the darker fruits and smoky finish.

Another great whisky from this award winning distillery, with stunning packaging too, and I'm sure will fly off the shelves too quickly for most of us whisky drinkers.