I was going to post Part 2 of my Whyte & Mackay office visit today, but I just tried one of the samples I came home with from my trip, and it blew my mind, compelling me to share my thoughts while they’re fresh. I don’t mean that it blew my mind because it’s the greatest whisky I’ve ever tried (though it’s very good). Rather, it simply turned my pre-existing notion of the Jura flavor profile upside down.
Isle of Jura 1976 “Feith A’ Chaorainn”; 35 Yr; 46%
I stuck the sample bottle up to my nose to see what flavors hit me first. I was immediately surprised by a light peat presence that reminded me of an old Talisker or Caol Ila. Hmm…nothing at all like any Jura I’ve ever tried. I’ve learned, though, that the way scents are pushed through tiny sample bottle openings can be very misleading. Let’s pour some into a glass…
Whoa! Upon first pouring the sample into a glass and taking a few whiffs to introduce myself, I was smacked upside the nose and through the sinus with overpowering oak. Let’s allow the sawdust to settle and revisit in 5-10 minutes…
Ok, here we go. There is definitely a strong oak presence leading the way on the nose. American/bourbon oak…not a hint of sherry cask scents to be found. The direct oak gives way to other oak-related flavors – first vanilla, then right past the vanilla to full-on butterscotch. I’m also getting some grass or barley, and a hint of citrus. Funny, I just barely notice the ashy smoke that hit me out of the sample bottle.
On the palate, the oak parade continues. It’s very dry, but not to the point of feeling like your tongue is completely shriveling up. The grass and barley come more to the fore, overcoming some of that strong butterscotch sweetness on the nose. As it hits the back of the palate, I get a mild tropical fruit sensation.
More oak grips the tongue on the fairly long finish. As the tropical fruit leaves the nostrils, it’s replaced by subtle ashy smoke and malt, and a hint of citrus again. As with my initial whiff from the sample bottle, I’m once again reminded of old Caol Ila. If you’re familiar with the standard Caol Ila bottlings, I’m talking more of a CI 18 profile than CI 12.
This is a strong B+ for me, perhaps A- if I had more time to spend with it.
Wow! Not what I expected. Most of the flavors, except the oak, are fairly subtle, but it’s fun to tease out the complexity. This is a very elegant expression. It strikes me as landing somewhere in between my bottle of Cragganmore 40 year (G&M Secret Stills 2.2) and what I would imagine a 35 year old Caol Ila tasting like. If I had $600 burning a hole in my pocket, would I buy a bottle? Well, no…I’d buy a bottle of Highland Park 30 and Talisker 30. But if I had several thousand spare dollars, I’d love to get a bottle of this, take it to a local whisky club tasting, and watch them all guess the distillery incorrectly.