The Tasting Panel magazine

JULY 2011

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Page 48 of 120

SCOTLAND Strange THE ISLE OF JURA DISTILLERY AND LODGE ARE QUITE UNIQUE by Ian Buxton George Orwell wrote 1984, living like a hermit in a remote cottage and, in August 1994, best-selling pop duo turned art commentators The K Foundation burned £1m ($1.65m) in U.K. currency in a Jura boatshed. There’s also a distillery and a very special house. But you have to get here, and that’s harder than it sounds. First you have to get to the neighboring Isle of Islay (by plane or ferry), then drive and take a further short ferry trip to Jura, where you’ll fi nd the island’s one road, the A846. W In Britain, an “A” designation indicates a primary trunk road. Presumably the cartographer was joking: It’s eight miles of single-track drama through spectacular scenery, with passing places for the occasional oncom- ing vehicle. Then you arrive in Craighouse, home to the Isle of Jura Distillery and The Jura Lodge, which is available for vacation rental. It too is strange and won- derful: magnifi cent and quite unique. Where to start? Well, let’s get the question of price out of the way. The four bedroom Lodge will sleep eight in some luxury, but will set you back a cool $4,125 per night—with a minimum three night stay! Owners Whyte & Mackay say themselves that the Lodge is “an eccentric display of colour, décor and stylistic touches.” Local reaction has been, shall we say, mixed, but curious amusement seems to sum it up. Certainly this little corner of Jura will never be quite the same. But shooting, hunting, fi shing, fell-walking, lobster- eating, sailing and whisky drinking can all be organized upon request, so you won’t be short of things to see and do—and the views from the top fl oor are sensational. We walked out of the front door, right onto the beach and immediately spotted an otter playing in the surf. There are also golden eagles and other rare birds to be seen. 48 / the tasting panel / july 201 1 ith around 200 people but 5,000 red deer, Jura is a strange and wonderful island. Strange and wonderful things have happened here: Created by interior designer Bambi Sloan (and I didn’t make that up), the Lodge might seem dangerously close to being a corporate folly but, in fact, earns its keep in Jura’s PR program by hosting a writer’s retreat. A number of noted British writers have stayed at The Lodge and shared their experiences in the book Spirit of Jura: Fiction, Essays and Poems from The Jura Lodge. The visitors’ book also carries the signature of the best-selling Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith (Laura Bush is a big fan of his No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, as is Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers). It can’t be long before the fantastic, contrived and rather other-worldly but wonderful Jura Lodge, with its eclectic décor and frankly bizarre white suit of armor, appears in one of the great man’s novels. Next door is the distillery, completely rebuilt in 1963 on the site of an earlier operation. Under the guidance of Whyte & Mackay’s energetic and ebullient Master Blender, the irrepressible Richard Paterson, Jura has been producing increasingly interesting whiskies in recent years. While a high proportion still goes for blending, the single malt has acquired a small follow- ing and is quietly growing its reputation, with special releases and cask fi nishes intriguing the malt mavens. The standard is the 10 Year Old “Origin,” but enthusiasts maintain that a few extra years in cask see a marked development in quality and complexity. Expressions such as Superstition, Prophecy and the Paps (Jura-speak for “peaks,” commemorating the island’s dramatic topography and never released in the U.S.) are worth seeking out. Apart from the 10 Year Old standard, this year’s U.S. focus is on two special releases: Jura 21 and the 1976 vintage, which should be available later this summer. I should mention that to get off the island, you have to retrace your steps down that single track road. Bring a teetotal driver! and Wonderful PHOTO COURTESY OF WHYTE & MACKAY

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