Drinking Scotch whisky has never been one of my passions. I suppose the smoke and char turned me off when I was younger and I never (until recently) found much value in Scotch.
Recently I’ve engaged in some pretty heated social media conversations over the value of “lesser” (in the words of an internationally known writer) spirits like rum and how Scotch (according to this highly opinionated, yet un-named writer) is superior. I disagreed with him, but to show my good faith to his audacious verbosity, I thought, Why not take this opportunity to seek out some expressions of Scotch Whiskey and review them for their own merits.
My friend Laura Baddish, owner of the Baddish Group in NYC, sent me a selection of Scotch from the distillery named Jura from the island of the same name. (Thanks Laura!)
I may write about spirits- but when it comes to Scotch whisky, I know very little and make every effort to learn more through tasting and more tasting.
I promise to give this tasting my best effort because a man can always learn something about these powerful and precious elixirs a wee dram at a time!
My opinionated friend may be on to something though. I would never have considered Scotch to be a noble spirit until I started tasting it as more than just a metaphor for social drinking. This is a quaff of quality; you can taste the layers of elegance and grip in every sip.
I love tasting samples. Each little bottle contains just enough whisky to get a true feeling for the spirits. The Jura Prophecy is an elegant beast of a whisky. Rolling in at 46% alcohol by volume, this dram is tinged with tropical fruits and nuts like nutmeg and coconut oils that swirl over my tongue in a dance of passion. There certainly is smoke in there. Peat smoke and wildflower honey are coating the back of my throat. Sure I sprinkled a bit of (real) branch water over the top, marveling at the oils and fats that rose to the surface like glistening salt water gathering in an inland marsh. This is a highly contemplative dram that demands your attention from the get-go.
Isle of Jura Superstition:
If you could imagine the flavor of Scottish smoked salmon, cured to the fatty, oily stage, and sliced paper thin on a toasted NY-style bagel dotted with hunks of sea salt and freshly whipped cream cheese, you’d approximate the initial nose of this mystical slurp. For the first taste, I sprinkled a bit of the branch over the top, releasing the aromatics and unlocking deeper flavors of clotted cream and toasted oat bread. The brackish aroma of the ocean is ever-present in this dram. If I weren’t 30 miles inland, I’d think the ocean was churning right outside my window. The Superstition is a magnificent way to spend the afternoon reading Robert Burns. No chill-filtration is used to clarify the liquid, so the dram may look a bit cloudy. This is highly desirable and shows me that the wee dram that sits in front of me is cared for like a pillow covered with newborn kittens- sweet, soft and quite lovely indeed! How can you resist picking one up and taking it home? Of course your cuddly kitten has a dark secret. Its 45% alcohol by volume is the veritable black cat. Be careful!
Jura 16 Year Old:
The 16-year old has taken on colors and flavors of a bygone era. Sixteen years in oak changes a Scotch and makes it rich and buttery. A wee dram, enhanced by some cool spring water from my branch water source gave this whisky immediate credibility. There is so much going on in the mouth! Immediately I tasted tropical spices, roasted buttered nuts and wildflower honey. Of course there is the ever- present heat from the alcohol and of also the taste of that haunting peat smoke on the grains. The mouth feel is creamy and inviting, like homemade butter enrobed in deep bittersweet chocolate. This is the liquid approximation of that long lost craft of churning butter. Your dram may not even need any water! I’ll have to take another sip to find out! It is 40% by volume.
Jura 10 year Old:
The Isle of Jura 10 year old may be my favorite of the tasting. Deeply aromatic with notes of freshly scythed grains, toasted over slabs of peat and fire. The alcohol level is a healthy 40% yet the heat is belied by the ever- present saltiness of the liquid. I detected a flavor of carob and Caribbean spices not unlike that of Grenadian rum! Rum you say? Yes, rum. I tasted a rum the other day aged in Scotch whisky cask and it tasted every so similar to this whisky. A revelation! The 10-year old is lively and robust- you cannot escape the aromatics and the character that screams of the salt water surrounding all sides of this island. This salty aroma and flavor permeates each and every sip. Take it the old-fashioned way, in a dram surrounded by air with just a couple drops of spring water to release the mysterious flavors that only time in the cask can bring!