Hailing from the islands of Mull and Jura, the single malts featured here are off-the-beaten-path finds that perfectly exemplify their own, unique style and approach. If you haven’t delved into the island malts, then you are in for a real treat. First up is the 12 year old from Isle of Jura. While its Jura profile is unmistakable, this bottling has something extra special going on. Delightfully rich and oily, it glides effortlessly from candied fruit flavors to more savory touches and then onto a mélange of exotic spice. At cask strength, there’s ample power, but at no point does this dram come across as overwhelming or unbalanced. Add a drop of water and be prepared for this 12 year old to absolutely sing. Distillers Whyte Mackay produce precious little, so to find a single cask of such quality and character is an absolute thrill.
Also on deck is the superlative Tobermory 22 year old brought to us by “Old Malt Cask.” For those who love their single malt with just a wisp of smoke, this 22 year old is right on the money. Its time in a sherry cask has imparted an enticing spiciness with flavors of ginger, vanilla, and apricot. Behind the spice is a malt base that’s every bit as engaging. It’s a shame that Tobermory is the only distillery on Mull, as clearly there’s something very special about this island. Oh, and did we mention this 22 year old is under $90?! That’s a pretty amazing value for a single malt of this caliber.
The Isle of Jura is one of those incredible malts that we almost never see in the wild. Partly that’s because they just don’t make that much whisky. But it does seem that the owners, Whyte Mackay, don’t let go of the stuff very often. Isle of Jura has its following, but the little distillery on the sparsely populated island to the north of Islay isn’t a household name by any means. The island’s 200 inhabitants are vastly outnumbered by a massive population of red deer, who keep the islands vegetation from growing beyond the lowest grasses. The infertile bog land that comprises most of the island give the place an otherworldly feel. The distilleries’ thick still necks create a rich, bold, oily spirit unlike any other in Scotland. They’ve been distilling there since 1810, but the current facility was built in 1963. The distillery bottlings tend to be slightly underwhelming due to the lower proofs, chill filtration and oily profile. But when we see it offered barrel we MUST taste. Sometimes we get lucky and find a true legend like this one. Cask strength, oily, rich, malty Jura in a second fill oloroso sherry butt. Everything about it works. Add the ridiculously reasonable price and you’ve got one of the most exciting whiskies of the year.
David Othenin-Girard | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 18, 2018
Isle of Jura is a bit controversial these days. Several customers have already surprised me with their preconception of this odd little distillery. How did such a gorgeous distillery get a reputation across so many disparate drinkers? There is as well the odd customer saying, “Oh, I LOVE Jura,” but the general consensus is that this cask will be eyed with skepticism from some, thanks to some preconceived notion of this malt. Luckily for me, this is the type of cask that can change people’s entire outlook on life. The incredibly oily, rich malt of Jura is perfectly suited for a nice refill sherry butt and without the chill-filtration and low proof of the distillery bottlings, we’ve entered a whole different territory for this wild malt. There’s just so much going on here it’s hard to even begin to describe it. First, the nose is all candied apple, sea spray, roasted malt and hints of speedway. Like having a coffee near an F1 race. The malt is big and the sherry character is not obvious. But with air the complexity really explodes. This one demands a touch of water and some time to breathe because behind those odd flavors is a plethora of complex flavors. Salted fruit, ozone, fennel, oyster shell and camphor. The palate is surprisingly sweet with some nutty sherry starting to sneak in. With more water ocean spray, but not quite briny. Big black pepper, almond butter, Ruger wafers on the palate. With more air, hazelnut spread on rye. A weird wonderful combo, but strangely delicious. This is one of the most unusual and exciting casks we’ve ever bottled, but not at all difficult to love, just in need of some coaxing. And at this price, I’d hope every serious drinker would consider giving the odd little malt a chance and some time to tell its story.
Jackson Lee | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 07, 2018
In my mind the Isle of Jura is one of the dark horses of Scotch. It’s the only distillery on the small island off the west coast of Scotland and in my experience, often gets overlooked. Their distillery offerings have always been a go to for me when recommending a bottle at a lower price point and I often felt they weren’t getting the attention they deserved. Now that we’re able to offer a private barreling of their juice, the word will spread and us Scotch drinkers will be giving the town of 200 a lot more work. More on the savory side of the spectrum, with a nose of brown butter, nutmeg, salted toffee and lemon pith, but I felt like it was constantly changing and daring me to take another whiff. The first sip was a wondrous moment; full bodied and chewy with a sweet caramel note to start, while star anise and Chinese five spice were trailing close behind. The finish was long and tingled the tongue as sweet oak notes slowly faded away.
Jeffrey Jones | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 06, 2018
This has to be one of the most interesting single malts that I have tasted in a while. There is a lot going on and it is absolutely delicious. In the nose there are hints of salt, malt and a kiss of savory. This mixture continues in the mouth with the salt, malt and subtle savory flavors working well in harmony and balance.
Joe Manekin | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 05, 2018
I have fond memories of Isla of Jura’s distillery bottled 12 year old single malt, from about 5 or so years ago now. I remember the nicely burnished color, the intense but not over the top sweetness balanced by a subtly savory chewy quality. Our Old Particular bottling delivered on my expectations for this distillery, and then some. Showing a honeyed quality with more persistence and depth of flavor than many other 10-12 year old single malts, there is also an appealing saline quality towards the finish that sets Isle of Jura apart. Tasty and likely to become a go to for many folks. Anticipate what you need now, it won’t likely stick around our inventory much longer.
Neal Fischer | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 02, 2018
Bright and fruity! Medium caramel scents mix with syrupy peaches and pears and some orange-y citrus qualities. Further nosing reveals a white pepper spice, cinnamon, and a luscious butteriness. The palate is fruitier initially with peaches and additional citrus. Quickly, though, dusty leather arrives to dry everything out. This fades to an austere yet tingly finish with just the faded memory of those fruits lingering, ending gently with the light leather and some saltiness too.
Andrew Whiteley | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 01, 2018
I absolutely fell in love with Jura on my last trip to Scotland in May. I didn’t travel to the island, although there is a spectacular view of the famous Paps of Jura from the new Ardnahoe distillery on Islay, which we did visit. I did however find myself ordering and drinking Jura in damn near every bar in Glasgow. At first it was just because it was on a happy hour special at a couple of places. Then it quickly grew into a love affair, seeking out odd one off casks in champion whisky bars like The Pot Still. While I found the 10yo, 18yo, and a few NAS to be lovely drams, the lightning really struck me upon my first cask strength taste. When later in the trip we were offered the chance at this cask, after a quick nose, we had to take it. It’s sweet and salty at first blush, like a sliced apple sprinkled with a pinch of finely ground sea salt. Candied oranges and brandied pears find themselves paired perfectly with the dried fruit sweetness of the refilled sherry butt. The palate confirms what the nose knows. It also adds more baking spices, dates, and a dusting of powdered sugar. The final wave of sea salt laps against your palate, a gentle tide splashing your legs on a late summer day at the beach. Such is the beauty of unadulterated, full proof Jura.
There is only one distillery on the Isle of Mull and while it has a history dating back to the late 1700s, for much of that history, the distillery has been closed. Fortunately for us, in the 1990s the distillery was opened again after its most recent 11 year closure, and has gone back to producing classic island malts. With its small production of less than 1 million liters per year the distillery makes two very different malts today. Tobermory is the namesake malt of the distillery and is generally, although confusingly, not always unpeated. Ledaig is the distillery’s opposite number and is generally, but not always, peated. Here we have a splendid Tobermory with just the faintest hint of smoke wafting through. With the whisky boom today as strong as it has ever been, it seems the Isle of Mull’s distillery has a bright future ahead. If you’re not familiar with Tobermory already, this is the perfect bottle to explore. For 90 bucks you can dive into a 22 year old cask strength bottling, which is an absolute steal compared to the $240 it takes to sample the distillery’s 21 year old official release!
David Othenin-Girard | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 13, 2018
This awesome cask of Tobermory seems to have gotten lost in the sea of exceptional single casks we’ve just acquired. The new owners of this odd little distillery on the gorgeous Isle of Mull have recently closed the distillery for renovations and won’t likely reopen until sometime in 2020. That means the already expensive whisky could become even more rare. The thing about Tobermory is that it can be a bit inconsistent. When it’s good, it’s an absolute dream. At its worst it’s overly feinty with tons of funky, mashy, fermenty flavors. We were unsure if this whisky aged in a refill sherry butt could possibly be from the right side of Tobermory at this ridiculous price, but we needed to risk it considering the potential opportunity. Turns out this is one of the best Tobermory I’ve ever tasted. Much cleaner than we usually see, perhaps thanks to decades in this old butt and retaining its distinct “islands” quality that I see in all the best Tobermory. When the porridge flavors aren’t there, this stuff can be truly exceptional. The nose starts a bit closed with hints of roasted nuts and sweet malt. On the palate, there’s the tiniest hint of sweet spent mash, but it’s restrained and has none of the lactic quality that makes some of these feel “off.” But when you add water the whole thing explodes into a symphony of salted nuts, roasted stone fruit, vibrant fresh forest and freshly cut grass. On the palate the malt takes a back seat now with a basket of nuts and dried apricots delivered right to your olfactory gates. This might be the best Tobermory I’ve ever had and considering the special distillery release 21 year is $240, it’s worth the risk for even the most jaded hater of Mull’s historic distiller.
Miles Philippe | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 12, 2018
One of the most saline Scotches I’ve ever come across, this bottle is fascinating and will keep you enthralled long after your last sip! Fresh golden fruits, ginger, and a touch of oak spices are only some of the notes you will find in the nose and palate. Above all, you will always find yourself sensing a gentle memory of the ocean; a reverie that shades this world while enjoying this dram. The finish is incredibly long and will leave you listening more intently to your senses. The color must also be noted. Extremely pretty and lighter than expected, the pale straw and fair golden hues hint at the elegance and poise within; a youthful soul in a mature spirit.
Andrew Whiteley | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 11, 2018
Salty like ramen noodles. Malty like a vanilla shake. Spicy like a ginger snap. This is a very special whisky from a refill butt that combines freshness and maturity. It is beautiful golden straw in color like a fine Manzanilla sherry and has the zip to match. But on the palate it’s a super rich compilation of citrus, ginger, vanilla, caramelized sugar, and just a touch of fresh cut hay. Long and lingering, the finish reminds me of standing on a foggy beach wrapped in a warm jacket watching a storm roll in. You can smell the salt, the seaweed, the cold wind carrying the notes of some far off island. It’s beautiful.
Joe Manekin | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 05, 2018
This is a phenomenal value in aged single malt. It has an original, nearly tropical fruit profile on the nose, with a supple and very easy to drink quality on the palate. 22 year old single malt for well under $100? Yes, and good single malt at that. Recommended.