Hailing from Australia and living in London before re-locating to the island of Jura, you’ve certainly came a long way! When did you re-locate to the UK from Australia and why?
I left Australia in 2009, when I was 20. The plan was to backpack around Europe for 6 months but – at risk of sounding like a cliché – I fell for the culture, and once the time came to fly home, I didn’t want to leave. I found work in a restaurant in Newcastle Upon Tyne, which gave me my first taste of the wine and whisky industry. This led to me studying a degree in Wine Business at Plumpton College, near Brighton, and the rest was history. I’d met my partner Estelle by then and didn’t plan on going back to Australia anytime soon.
How did the opportunity to move to Jura and become the distillery’s Brand Home Manager come about?
I was lucky enough to be invited on one of Whyte & Mackay’s brand immersion visits to Jura in April 2019. At the time, I was working in the London sales team as a Premium Business Manager. When I returned from that four-day trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’d been bitten by the Jura bug. A few months later, Whyte & Mackay advertised the vacancy for a new Brand Home Manager, and I knew I had to apply. Thankfully, my industry experience and enthusiasm for all things Jura landed me my dream job.
How are you settling into island life and how does life on Jura compare to life in London?
Island life is not without its challenges, but we feel at home here. We’ve settled in quickly and the community has welcomed us warmly. It’s a much more outdoorsy lifestyle than in London. I run regularly, we walk our greyhound on the beach most days, and Estelle has even started wild swimming every Sunday. And then there’s the commute. In London, I was averaging an hour and a half each way, on a tube packed with people. On Jura, I can walk to work in 43 seconds and under 30 if it’s raining!
Tell us about your typical day as a Brand Home Manager.
Most days here start with a cup of tea and a team catch-up, during which we’ll prepare for the tours and tastings we have booked that day. Then we get the visitor centre open and start welcoming guests for their distillery tours. It’s very much a team effort here at Jura distillery, so everyone rolls up their sleeves and mucks in. When we have guests on immersion experiences, the team also gets involved with activities like island tours, sea safaris and bike rides – often finished with a dram or two in our Cooperage Bar. So, really, there’s no such thing as a typical day on Jura!
Jura Whisky describes life on the island as challenging, but also endlessly rewarding. So far, what has been your biggest challenge and biggest reward?
The most challenging aspect of life on Jura is the logistics. When you live on an island, it’s not always as easy as popping down to the shops for a pint of milk. Especially when the weather’s bad and the ferry over to Islay – where all the food is – doesn’t run.
But by far the biggest reward is the people. The community is full of different backgrounds, skillsets and stories, making it almost impossible not to learn something new about someone every day. Everyone here has gone out of their way to help us settle in and we look forward to discovering all that Jura has to offer.
How long has the distillery been operating on the island?
Jura distillery was established in 1810, closed in 1901 and then reopened in 1963. It’s as important today as it was in 1810. It’s at the heart of the island in Craighouse – we employ 18 islanders during the summer season, 16 during the winter season and welcome thousands of visitors every year.
Are tours available at Jura distillery?
Yes. Our team has developed a new range of tours and tastings for 2020. There’s something to suit all tastes and budgets. Tours start at £7, including two drams.
What makes Jura Whisky unique?
We’re known in the industry for our tall stills and light spirit. But, for me, Jura whisky is a reflection of the island where it’s made and the people who make it. Sometimes against the odds – when the weather and electricity isn’t on our side!
What’s your favourite whisky from the Jura portfolio and why?
Jura 212. This whisky is a celebration of the 212(ish) people who live in the Jura community. It’s everything I like in a whisky. Distilled in 2006, matured for 13 years in ex-bourbon barrels, then enhanced in Chinkapin oak casks from the Ozarks. Think vanilla, coffee and almond wrapped up in fruit cake – it’s outrageous stuff.
The original feature is our cover story in the Spring 2020 edition of Whiskeria, delivered to the door of W Club subscribers and also free with any Whisky Shop purchase in store or online. Click here to read the full Spring 2020 issue of Whiskeria online for free.