By Richard Thomas
Isle of Jura’s 1976 scotch, also known as “Feith A’ Chaorainn,” is part of the distillery’s limited edition line. As the name implies, the single malt in question was distilled in 1976. Most Americans remember that year as the bi-centennial, but in the UK it saw the Cod War with Iceland, the first passenger flight of Concorde, the Sex Pistols cursing on television, and the opening of the very first Body Shop in Brighton. The whiskey was aged in three hogsheads of American White Oak, and only 500 bottles were shipped.
In keeping with Isle of Jura’s labeling shtick, the 1976 is named for a local legend. “Feith A’ Chaorainn” means “lands around the rowan,” and is the name of a lucky rowan tree on Jura. The islanders supposedly cut sprigs from this tree to tie onto their homes, barns and fishing boats as a protective ward against the weather. Despite its limited edition status, the Jura 1976 comes in a standard Jura bottle, with the only special touch being the embellished labeling.
Isle of Jura’s 1976 edition is bottled at 46% alcohol, and in the glass has a lovely honey-gold color. This scotch was not chill filtered, something I could see even before I looked at the press notes Isle of Jura sent me, because I had it stored at what is Portugal’s very cool room temperature. Like all unfiltered whiskey, the oil came out of solution and made the whiskey a bit cloudy. I don’t look at that as a bad thing; when you consider that all pre-modern scotch was a bit cloudy for most of the year in a chilly place like Scotland, an unfiltered whiskey is essentially a natural, unmade-up beauty.
The wood is right on top of the nose, but so is a scent slightly reminiscent of cinnamon toast, and in proportions that are neither light or heavy, much like the coloring. The wood is still there on the palate, along with a hint of smoke at the beginning. In the main, however, the taste is that of the other flavors transitioning into a rich Christmas fruitcake experience, full of citrus glaze and a sweet lix of honey, liquorice, cinnamon and caramel. A splash of water emphasizes the smoke flavors more, so those who love smoky scotch should go that route. The finish is light and warm, but with a touch of fire.
The recommended price of this very rare and very pricey bird is 500£ in the UK. If you find Jura 1976 in the United States, expect to pay at least $650, and given what the value of the US dollar vis-a-vis the pound sterling, a price tag of as much as $800 would still be fair.