The small, sparsely populated island of Jura lies just off the west coast of Scotland, between the Kintyre peninsula and the northeast of Islay. The island has a long history of distilling, with locals reportedly making spirit from rowan berries in the 18th century, but it is not until 1810 that records show the first legal distillery, licensed to the island’s owner Archibald Campbell. The distillery had numerous names in its lifespan, including Craighouse, Small Isles, Caol nan Eilean, and Jura. In 1901, the distillery was one of the many casualties of the slump following the first great whisky boom, with its lack of direct transport and remote location contributing to its fall. George Orwell famously described Jura as ‘extremely unget-at-able’ when he chose the island as his base while writing ‘1984’.
Some sixty years after distilling ceased on the island, local landowners Robin Fletcher and Tony Riley-Smith received the backing of blended Charles Mackinlay & Co. to rebuild the distillery. Fletcher and Riley-Smith aimed to prevent further decline in the island’s population, which had declined steadily from its peak of 1,321 to just a few hundred. Spirit flowed from the new stills in 1963, and Jura single malt appeared for the first time in 1974. In 1978 the distillery was expanded to its current size and in 1985 Invergordon Distillers purchased the Jura distillery, eventually being brought under the Whyte & Mackay brand.
A long way from ordinary
The core range of expressions from the distillery were discontinued in early 2018 with a completely new signature collection introduced. The new range aimed to combine the peated and unpeated elements of the former range to restore a character similar to the original incarnations of the island’s whisky. Five percent of the distillery’s spirit is peated each year and that level is reflected in each of the new expressions. The signature collection is made up of 10, 12 and 18-year old expressions with two NAS whiskies, Journey and Seven Wood.