New Whiskies

Batch 140

by
Batch 140: Ardbeg and new Jura range

We don’t stray too far with this week’s batch of new whiskies, which are sourced from only two distilleries – and on neighbouring islands at that. Fans of Ardbeg and those interested in the overhaul of the Jura range are in for a treat.

We start on Islay, and the ‘sexy filthiness’ of Ardbeg Grooves, the Committee bottling of this year’s Ardbeg Day release that proved so popular last week that it crashed the single malt’s website. On tasting it, finds Dave Broom, it’s not hard to see why.

Then it’s all about Jura, and the five new whiskies that make up its range after the biggest overhaul of liquid and packaging in the distillery’s history. This is more than cosmetic, encompassing a new flavour direction for the Whyte and Mackay-owned single malt that is described as a mix of Highland and Island styles.

But is the whisky any good? Broadly, Broom’s verdict is a positive one, although he is more effusive about the age statement single malts than the two NAS whiskies. ‘Maybe all Jura needs is time to open and absorb,’ he writes. ‘After numerous false starts and confusing variations, it appears to have finally discovered itself.’

This week’s batch of new releases also comes with its own Spotify soundtrack, compiled by Broom, to provide a musical accompaniment to what’s in your glass. Simply click on the link under ‘Right Place, Right Time’ and you’ll find a track corresponding to each whisky.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Ardbeg Grooves, Committee Edition

    Ardbeg Grooves, Committee Edition
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    The fact that it’s the colour of peaty water should give you an indication of what is about to come. There’s an instant, sexy filthiness to this – maybe it’s the earthy smoke or the heavy, tarry phenols which move steadily towards pitch pine. A marine element then develops: dried seaweed, smoked mussels, smoked sea salt and Arbroath Smokies. In time, you pick up wet leather and a mezcal-like element of herbal (marijuana-like) smoke. A deep black fruitiness begins to emerge, along with a venison-like meatiness. With water, there’s the dusty dryness of gentian root, silver polish, sheep dip, bitumen and, finally, a more fragrant lift.

    Palate

    The first impact is of dry, grippy, burnt wood with an intense smokiness, but the nose should have warned you that things weren’t going to be all sweetness and light. There’s a good oiliness in the centre, which helps to keep the wood at bay and helps make it remarkably easy to drink at this strength. They also allow Ardbeg’s sweet core to shine, briefly, in the middle of the tongue, along with a light bay/menthol element. Then the flavours move on to pimenton-heavy chorizo. Water initially begins to calm things down, but does pull out some bitter, wood-accented tones, finally leaving you with the impression of this massive, smouldering, beach bonfire.

    Finish

    Dry, smoky, leathery, meaty/biltong.

    Conclusion

    Enormous, in-your-face smoke. Pretty dry as well. Groovy in a brown acid kind of way. Less Woodstock and more Altamont.

    Right place, right time

    Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil.

    Jura 10 Years Old

    Jura 10 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Balanced, ember-like smokiness appears first with some added chocolate, marmalade and a bittersweet element which will re-emerge in the rest of the range. It has good depth for the age, showing some fig and date (from the oloroso finish, perhaps) in the background. This is balanced by red fruit elements and a light nuttiness. The smoke – bonfire-like now – is upped with water, along with some macadamia and dried fruits, then damp wool and a roasted cereal note. Remarkably robust.

    Palate

    A soft, pillowy start has the smoke showing its hand early. There’s hints of dried lavender and sage, then a crunchiness comes in (once more, something we’ll see again), along with some flamed orange peel and sweet, dried black fruits. Has a nutty depth. Water does, however, dry it out.

    Finish

    Back to smoke and chocolate. Drying and quite short.

    Conclusion

    It’s well-balanced and the combination of smoke and oloroso helps to add more dimensions and work off Jura’s bittersweet elements. Although a little more sweetness wouldn’t go amiss, I wouldn’t pass on a dram.

    Right place, right time

    Punchy, but with some depth. Mo’ Wiser, Sons of Kemet.

    Jura 12 Years Old

    Jura 12 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    This has more substance than the 10-year-old. Again you get smoke (turfy this time, with some fragrance) and richness from the oloroso cask ‘enhancement’ – here manifesting itself as fig rolls. There’s some polished oak as well, giving some weight and maturity. In time, the peat grows into a proper heathery reek, like distant moor burn with added wood oils, raisin and a little toasted sesame. When water is added, there’s more fruits: dried cranberry, plum and pineapple, with touches of nut and wax polish. Like the 10-year-old, it also becomes drier.

    Palate

    Though this has the same soft start as the 10-year-old, there’s extra, custard-like richness and more depth. The mid-palate has a huge hit of cassis, which works well with the now more subtle smoke, countering the Jura crunch. As it develops, you pick up walnut, liquorice allsorts and Sherried notes. I’m not convinced that water helps enormously.

    Finish

    Light smoke, toffee and chocolate.

    Conclusion

    This works well. Mature elements bring a depth to things, while there’s a sense of integration. Well worth a look (if you are in one of the selected markets where it is available).

    Right place, right time

    A slow and quite seductive groove here, with just enough bite. Art Pepper, Las Cuevas de Mario.

    Jura 18 Years Old

    Jura 18 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    As we move up in terms of age, so there’s more maturity on show. This seems quite bulky to start with, all fruit pie filling (blackberry and apple, to be precise), but then some refined oak creeps in, adding complexity. The wine cask used for the finish is well-balanced, giving black cherry (actually Black Forest gâteau) elements which work off the cedar and cigar smoke. Water does close it down slightly, but not enough to fully dampen this quite elegant maturity. It does have a rich, almost waxy element, but I’d just leave it neat in the glass to develop fully.

    Palate

    The soft start again, and also that nutty crunch coming from a mix of distillery and oak. But now there is some black grape skin, then dried cherry, raisin, bitter chocolate and nutmeg in the centre, before the tannins grip lightly towards the back. In many ways this has all of the elements of the previous pair, but now with added depth and length. Balanced. Water thins the overall effect and dissipates the gentle energy.

    Finish

    A hint of smoke. Vinous, with currant and cherry cake.

    Conclusion

    The integration seen on the 12 is now fully expressed here. Maybe all Jura needs is time to open and absorb. After numerous false starts and confusing variations, it appears to have finally discovered itself. These age statements are well worth your time.

    Right place, right time

    Restrained power in different dimensions. Where Pathways Meet, Sun Ra.

    Jura Journey

    Jura Journey
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Malty & Dry
    Nose

    Nutty and spicy start with Ryvita crackers, some sourdough, and just-felled pine. There’s a light scented element away in the back and, in time, some stewed apple and a whiff of smoke. It’s young, though. Water brings out this brittle edge – green sticks, dry bracken and stone.

    Palate

    Softer than you might expect. While the youthfulness is apparent, there’s a softening creaminess in the middle which flirts with millionaires’ shortbread-style sweetness before the nuts crunch in and things tighten. Water makes things crisply direct.

    Finish

    Very light smoke. Tight.

    Conclusion

    It’s trying to be fresh and vibrant, but ends up too hard. Less of a journey, more a very short stroll.

    Right place, right time

    A quick, sharp blast from early Wire, 12XU.

    Jura Seven Wood

    Jura Seven Wood
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    42%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    There’s a solidity here that is reminiscent of the 12-year-old: summer berry fruits, walnut and then an aroma like a blueberry cheesecake (with a nutty base), before you pick up lemon puffs and apricot, with a very light soapiness in the back. It’s dry underneath. Water brings out Horlicks and a more bready element.

    Palate

    Soft again on the opening, then a soft, slightly slick creaminess comes over, alongside slightly bitter oakiness, orange peel and baking spices. Well covered with some roasted cereal and increasingly dry wood. Water manages to softens things into chocolate (again); while you can now see how the smoke is holding things together, there is less impact and more wood.

    Finish

    A little bitter.

    Conclusion

    It slips down nicely but there’s not an ‘aha!’ moment. It is almost as if the seven elements are cancelling each other out. Pleasant enough, but I’d stick to the age statements.

    Right place, right time

    An enveloping cloud: Ashra, Deep Distance.

Scroll To Top