Experience the spirit of Jura at the island’s distillery
The Hebridean island of Islay is famed for its whisky, with no less than eight world-class distilleries dotting its shores. But it’s also well worth crossing the narrow stretch water to visit neighbouring Jura, which is home to the historic Isle of Jura Distillery. The two islands couldn’t be more different. Islay is relatively flat, fertile and populated while Jura is mountainous, rugged and home to just a couple of hundred souls. The islands’ whiskies are distinct too. So after you’ve tasted Islay’s peaty malts, hop across the Sound of Islay and experience the spirit of Jura!
A bit of history
The original distillery has stood in its spot since 1810 when it was built by the Campbells of Jura. In the early 1900s, production stopped. To avoid paying taxes, the roofs were removed and the buildings fell to ruin. So it remained until the 1960s, when two local estate owners Robin Fletcher and Tony Riley-Smith rebuilt the distillery in an attempt to revive the local economy and provide jobs. The new venture ran its first spirit in April 1963. Ever since then, Jura Distillery has been using extra tall stills to create a unique range of whiskies, both smoky (peated) and sweet (lighter in style).
Jura Distillery produces four main whiskies, as well as the occasional limited edition malt. Each has its own characteristics, as well as a story to tell. Origin is where it all started. This whisky, smooth and clean tasting, signifies the rebirth of the Jura Distillery and the rebuilding of the community. Each bottle carries the ancient Celtic symbol for beginnings. Superstition is a sweet yet smoky delight, with notes of spice, honey, pine and peat. Jura’s past inhabitants were a superstitious lot, and this malt is a nod to them and to the island’s many ancient stones and markings. Diurachs’ Own, full-bodied and aged for 16 years, is the whisky of choice for the islanders (a Diurach is someone who comes from Jura). The symbol of the Diurachs adorns the bottle. And finally Prophecy packs a huge peaty, salty punch. It gets its name from an old prophesy which predicted that the last Campbell to leave Jura would be penniless. Apparently, in 1938, this came to pass and to mark the legend, the seer's symbol watches over every bottle.
Take a tour
One of the best ways to experience the spirit of Jura is to take a tour of the distillery. You’ll discover more about the island’s heritage and how the unique Jura whisky is crafted. Tours run throughout the year, but it’s best to book ahead. The basic ‘Distillery Tour’ is ideal for those who want a good overview. To delve a bit deeper, take the ‘Sweet and Smoky Experience’ tour. You’ll be guided through the whisky production process and discover the two sides - you guessed it; sweet and smoky! - of Jura whisky. ‘Discovering The Uncommon’ is an in-depth tour which concentrates on what makes Jura’s distillation process different to other distilleries.
Fancy a gin?
Is gin more you kind of drink? Head to Jura's only gin distillery, Lussa Gin. Run my three best friends, the gin is known for its botanical notes created by locally sourced flora. The distillery offers a selection of tasting tours as well as a stunning gin garden where you can see some of the botanical used in Lussa Gin.
Where to stay
The popular Jura Hotel is just next door to Jura Distillery in Craighouse. It’s a relaxed and friendly place, and the lively bar, which is the island's only pub, is a great place to enjoy a dram or two. There’s also a camping field in front of the hotel. There’s no vehicle access to the site and campers are advised to arrive on foot or by bike only. There’s also self-catering and B&B accommodation on Jura.
Getting to Jura
To get to the Jura, first head to Islay. The islands are separated by the Sound of Islay, a half-mile wide stretch of water. The ferry runs from Port Askaig on Islay to Feolin on Jura. The other option is to catch the Jura Passenger Ferry from Tayvallich in mid Argyll directly to Craighouse on Jura. It runs from Easter until the end of September. Vehicles are not accommodated on this route.
Find out more about things to see and do on Islay & Jura.