Jura Origin 10 Year Old Single Malt

Who doesn’t like a gift?  Nobody, that’s who… and they’re even better when they’re gifts of whisky! (Hopefully my wife remembers this, with my B-day right around the corner!)

This 35cL bottle of Jura Origin, for example, was one such gift. Brought directly from Scotland by my good buddy and frequent dramming associate, Richard, it became something of a special item within my collection simply because it’s one that can’t be easily replaced – I just don’t have friends heading to the UK on a regular basis! Yes, I am aware that Jura is available in Canada, I’m just sentimental I suppose.  Nevertheless, the time has come to stop carefully storing this whisky and to give it a proper review. 

Jura distillery, unsurprisingly, is located on the Scottish island of Jura, which is located right next to the infamous whisky machine that is Islay. What is surprising, perhaps, is that the carton-notes identify Jura as the only distillery on the entire island.  This makes a little more sense after discovering that Jura, although fairly large, is a sparsely populated isle with fewer than 200 inhabitants which, for Scottish folk is apparently enough to justify building a distillery. (I guess here in Alberta we probably come close to about one liquor store fore every 200-or-so people, so maybe it’s perfectly reasonable after all!😉 Plus, I know some people who dream of a private tropical escape but, if you ask me, paradise sounds more like a nearly private island capable of producing its own single malt… All for me!!!… But I digress.)

I would have expected a distillery so near to Islay to share common characteristics with those aggressive, delicious peaty monsters, as do so many of the other “West Coast” malts. Jura Origin 10 Year Old, however, identifies itself as “Light & Delicate” right on the front of the box. Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound at all like peat, smoke and iodine!

There’s only one thing to do, take this bottle for a test drive.  Jura Origin is bottled at 40% abv. 

(I almost forgot to take a picture of this one!)

To the Eye

Deep, rich honey gold with flashes of copper. The most striking thing about the look of Jura Origin is the obviously thick viscosity. Rather than light and delicate, his has me preparing for a rich mouthfeel with some deep flavours and a longer finish.  We’ll see…

On the Nose

My very first impression is that the nose is similar to Glenmorangie whiskies, full of juicy orchard fruits. Additional time reveals several other aromas, as well, but I am surprised by the assertive note of lime in my nostrils. Punky corn is also very forward, probably evidence that this whisky has been matured in ex-bourbon barrels. Bits of honeycomb and roasted malt can also be found in the breezes.

On the Tongue

This is a unique dram. Espresso beans jump out at me… not usually a dominant flavour… Oak is there for sure, along with black pepper and something vegetal in a slightly grassy way, so maybe I should just go with  green chilies as a descriptor. Honey and some baked apples, complete with a dusting of brown sugar and cinnamon, also make appearances. Interestingly, I also get the impression of a Big Turk chocolate bar – milk chocolate mixed with something  jammy and fruity. 

The oiliness of the whiskey does, in fact, result in a surprisingly long finish. More cinnamon, pencil shavings, leather and pithy citrus linger on and on, until I go for another sip!  

Final Thoughts

Because of proximity, I was expecting something more akin to an Islay but Jura Origin is nothing like the malts from neighbouring Islay. I’m still unsure about the “Light & Delicate” claim, but I suppose it is when compared to those Islay malts. However, this one is actually more similar to a highland profile. It seems that the good people of Jura have created a dram that is at the same time both unique and familiar. 

It’s funny, at no point did I stop to think, Damn, this is good!… until I was reaching for the bottle to refill my empty glass! Nothing really stands out as exceptional yet it seems to me that, moreso than most, this whisky is greater than the sum of its parts. The aroma, flavours and finish all combine and work together to convince you that this is an excellent drop. I don’t usually comment on the empty glass, but the  maple and mulled cider breezes are too enticing to ignore. 

This is a very enjoyable whisky. Good on you, Jura!

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Just a Thought… Beer’s Good Too!

So I’m sitting here enjoying a craft brewed IPA and I’m thinking, what the hell, it’s time that beer got a little love too!  

Once upon a time, beer provided me with my first alcoholic beverage experience and, in my youth, I might have been a bit more concerned with the effects of my drink than I was with the whole flavour experience.Fortunately, long gone are the days of keg parties and crushing cases of crappy mass produced lagers but I’m still quite happy to proclaim my continued appreciation for beer… I am Canadian, after all! 

I don’t quite remember when my tastes started gearing more towards the richer, fuller flavours of of craft brewed beer. And I forget whether this shift in preference preceded or followed after discovering a love for whisky, although they seemed to have developed hand-in-hand. 

I will always enjoy beer as an assuming and unpretentious beverage, as easy to enjoy directly from the bottle at a backyard BBQ as it is from a fancy Bavarian stein. (Much easier, actually!) But, what I’ve come to realize is that many of the characteristics I appreciate in whiskies are also there to be appreciated in beer. I thought it would be fun to sing the praises of my second favourite drink using the category headings normally saved for my whisky reviews:

To the Eye

Beer can look absolutely gorgeous in a glass. From the inviting rocky white crown adorning a sparkling, golden Saaz Republic Pils from Big Rock Brewery to the juxtaposition of a thick, creamy tan head topping an oily Alberta Crude Oatmeal Stout from Wildrose Brewery, few drinks can be as seductive looking as a quality brew. 

In the Nose

Subtle compared to most whiskies, beer is still capable of offering an aromatic experience. Consider the banana, clove and coriander breezes above a Mill St. Wit from Mill Street Brewing Co. or the roasted-malt and fresh cut grass whiff that greets you in a glass of Twice As Mad Tom IPA from Muskoka Brewery. If you can’t enjoy sniffing your beer, your drinking the wrong stuff!

On the Tongue

Are you kidding me? Ok, if you stick to the mainstream, mass-produced beers that dominate the television ads, I guess I can see why you think beer lacks all-important flavour. But might I suggest a full on hop-assault in a Full Nelson IPA from Nelson Brewing Company or, perhaps, the sweet, malty excellence to be found in a rum-cask finished Innis and Gunn Scottish ale? Honestly, with so much variety in hops, malts, adjunct grains, yeast strains, abv and water sources, beer is capable of incredible variety in style and flavour profiles. 

Final Thoughts

I’m a whisky guy, no question about it. But beer’s still good too! I think anyone who claims otherwise must be allergic or lying! There are too many options and choices to make a blanket-statement claim like that. And fellow drammers need to consider that whisky, especially scotch, is basically distilled beer… think about it!

Few beverages can be as refreshing during a hot day at the lake and still serve as the perfect a compliment to a good steak dinner. If you don’t “like” beer, don’t be afraid to keep trying them – there are so many breweries, there will be one out there for you somewhere. And if you can’t find a distillery who makes what you like, it’s not all that tough to make your own

 (My 3rd batch of malt/wheat lager, which is damned near perfected, if I do say so myself!)

Just a Thought… No Age Statement Whiskies

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I, for one, do not have a problem with no age statement (NAS) whiskies. In fact, I find NAS kind of liberating…

(Here’s where, if I had enough readers, I’d wait for the collective gasp to subside!)

Okay, hear me out. I have read/heard the complaints about NAS whiskies. I won’t expound too much on why I think such folk are flat-out wrong but, if it would make them feel better that such whiskies were marked as “3 Year Old”, it wouldn’t make the dram any better or worse, now would it?!

So here’s why I find NAS a little bit freeing as a consumer: fairly, or unfairly, age statements carry a certain amount of expectation along with them. I can enjoy a 20- or 30- year old whisky as much as the next guy, But, when I see an age statement, I expect a bigger number to not only represent a higher price tag but also a higher quality and that, I’m sure the purists would agree, is not necessarily the case. Ardbeg 10… terrific! Highland Park 12… excellent! Glenlivet 15… better than good. Macallan 18… nice but not a personal favourite. Point made?

I’m not exactly sure when, in the history of marketing scotch, it was decided that age statements were the way to go. But it’s worth noting that in many other whisky-producing nations age statements are used very judiciously, with more focus on blending a variety of different aged spirits so to achieve consistent taste profiles. (Isn’t consistency also an indication of quality?) Likewise, in the wine world, it’s vintages that matter since the specific year in which the grapes were grown and harvested often tells the story about the quality in the bottle. (Good on you, Glenrothes!) It seems to me that age-statement marketing is mostly about just that, marketing.

I’m not saying that every NAS whisky is a top-notch drop, there certainly are some poor ones. But there are some bad age-statement drams out there as well. The thing is, at least for me, NAS whiskies don’t lead to any expectations, freeing me to just enjoy the dram for what it is. Two of my all-time favourites, Ardbeg Uigeadail and Laphroaig Quarter Cask just happen to be NAS, yet I find them perfectly delicious and, if the NAS branding keeps that level of quality at such affordability, then I’m quite pleased to have it!

Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Well here we go again… Bourbon review #2.

I can be a bit of a single malt snob from time to time but I do try to avoid pigeon-holing myself into the belief that one particular “genre” of whisky is the hands-down king of the hill.  Good whisk(e)y can be found all over the place, so why limit yourself from experiencing some good drams? While I’m admittedly still awfully naive when it comes to bourbon, I have recently been trying to expand my repertoire and, as expected, the more I explore America’s favourite whiskey, the more I appreciate it.

Buffalo Trace provides a lengthy story on the rear label, written in both English and French for distribution in Canada, but not a lot of the info pertains to the make-up or flavour profile of the whisky. Apparently, Smooth, confident and fiercely independent – these are the the tastes of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky… Uh, okay…? Well, I guess this will be a new flavour experience for me. Maybe I should be excited – I’ve never tasted confidence or independence before!

This whiskey is bottled at 45% abv and can be bought for about $45 here in Alberta.

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To the Eye

I really like the colour of bourbon. Buffalo Trace is deep liquid gold in a glass, with streaks of orange and copper flashing in the light. The big, droopy legs on the sides of my glencairn are rather impressive.

In the Nose

Oak and sweet, grainy corn are predominant, along with some cinnamon and a few other baking spices. Vanilla is another main player, as well as sticky caramel toffee. As my dram breaths a bit, I get some impressions of coriander, lemon zest and I think even a little bit of milk chocolate. It’s a good glass to sit with for a while!

On the Tongue

Well, the nose on this whiskey writes a few cheques that the flavour just can’t cash… The first thing I taste is alcohol, which is not at all what I hope for in a whisky. Alcohol should be the vehicle that delivers flavour, not the predominant flavour in and of itself. And, let’s face it, 90 proof is not that high in alcohol.

Oak tannins and table pepper – you know, not the freshly cracked stuff – are other main players to be found in this whiskey. With a little effort, I also find the unexpected flavour of canned corn, complete with a twinge of metallic aftertaste. Corn syrup provides sweetness and there’s some vanilla on the exit, but it’s a bit flat and single-noted. I rarely do this, but my glass is begging for a piece of ice…

A small ice cube really opens up this whiskey as vanillins and honeysuckle burst onto the breezes. As the ice melts, the flavour also improves quite a bit as that stale black pepper transforms into jalapeño chilies. A slight hint of bittersweet chocolate also emerges alongside some toasty, sweet kettle corn. I don’t care for the mouthfeel that the added water creates, though, and the finish remains rather short and dominated by a bitter alcohol astringency.

Final Thoughts

Meh… This whiskey doesn’t really speak to me. I know that the great whisky guru, Jim Murray, touts Buffalo Trace as one of the world’s best, so perhaps I just don’t fully understand bourbon yet. (I really wanted to like this dram, especially after discovering Four Roses Single Barrel!) For me, though, Buffalo Trace doesn’t feature enough flavour to really challenge the alcohol for centre stage. I don’t often mix my whiskies but this one seems best suited to some old fashioneds and buckaroos.

Glenmorangie 10 Year Old 

I really appreciate when a whisky presentation includes adequate tasting notes and interesting facts about the whisky-making process. From Auchentoshan’s triple distillation, to the history behind Laphroaig’s use of quarter casks to the in-depth description of what to expect from a Highland Park experience, well done cartons and canisters have kind of become a grown-up replacement for the back of a cereal box.

Glenmorangie is another example of a presentation that offers plenty of reading to be contemplated while enjoying a drop. Among the information on the carton, the distiller boasts that their use of the industry’s tallest stills ensures that only the lightest and purest alcohol vapours make it into their casks. According to the notes, this imbues their whiskies with a particular floral character and an unmatched elegance. There’s only on thing to do with this bottle, Glenmorangie “Original” 10 Year Old Highland Single Malt… put the claim to the test!

Glenmorangie 10 is bottled at 40% abv and will run you about $60 CDN where I live.

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To the Eye

If elegant means delicate, then Glenmorangie 10 is starting out on the right foot. This whisky is a bright but very pale gold. I actually kind of like it when a whisky is on the pale side since, correctly or not, I take it as assurance that no artificial colouring has been added.

In the Nose

Sweet. Honey, mandarin oranges, and Lucky Charms cereal jump out at me. (I hate that cereal – even though my kids think it’s a great treat – but that sweet, malty aroma is terrific here.) A definite floral presence lingers, along with some red licorice and a subtle smidgen of oak. It’s a very nice nose!

On the Tongue

What smelled like honey tastes much more like crystal Brewers malt, giving this whisky a toasted, biscuity character. It’s less sweet than I expected and the creaminess and body of the dram add to the idea of a chewy oatmeal cookie. The floral presence noticed on the nose comes across the palate much more clearly as heather, a flowering plant very common in Scotland. There is a definite caramel flavour that somewhat adds to the sweetness, however it is all very nicely balanced by a citrus pith and oak tannin bitterness. On the medium-long finish, that toasted malt turns into banana chips with vanilla, white pepper and ginger encouraging me towards another sip.

Final Thoughts

I’m not sure how to characterize elegance but I am sure that this whisky is very good! It is smooth drinking, with enough complexity to be interesting, while remaining approachable for a wide range of whisky enthusiasts. I really enjoy highland malts, since they seem to do such a good job of creating well rounded, approachable whiskies. Glenmorangie 10 is a whisky that delivers!