Isle of Jura Distillery

Dominating the small settlement of Craighouse on the east coast of Jura in the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Jura Distillery has a complex history. Its traces its origins back to the Small Isles Distillery, the first legal distillery on the island, which was opened in 1810 by the local laird, Archibald Campbell. The Campbells leased the distillery to William Abercrombie, who licenced it as the Isle of Jura Distillery in 1831. This passed through several owners and was known by different names before finally closing in 1901, the victim of a national slump is sales due to over-production. That would have been the end, except two of the island's forward-thinking landowners, Robin Fletcher and Tony Riley-Smith, saw distilling as a means of reviving the island's economy and provide employment for a dwindling population. With financial backing from Leith-based blender Charles Mackinlay & Co. they rebuilt the distillery, under the supervision of the specialist distillery architect William Delmé-Evans (1920 - 2003) and working with Glasgow-based Lothian, Barclay, Jarvis & Boys. Soon after, Charles Mackinlay & Co. was taken over by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries. Delmé-Evans, who was obsessed by whisky, stayed on as distillery manager until 1975. The distillery was extended to its current size in 1978, with the number of stills doubled to four, and was sold to Invergordon Distillers in 1985, who in turn were bought by Glasgow-based Whyte & Mackay in 1993. Following a management buy-out in 2001, Whyte & Mackay was restructured and sold to United Spirits Ltd. of India. United Spirits were taken over by multinational Diageo, but they divested themselves of Whyte & Mackay owing to a perceived monopolistic position with regard to Scotch whisky. Thus, Whyte & Mackay was bought by Philippines-based Emperador Inc. in 2014 for £430 million.

Malt is purchased from Port Ellen Maltings on Islay and milled on site using an old Porteus Malt Mill acquired second-hand from a Scottish & Newcastle Brewery. Water is drawn from the Loch a' Bhaile-Mhargaidh (Market Loch), located 1½ miles (2.5 km) to the west. The distillery boasts a five-tonne semi-lauter mash tun, considered more efficient than traditional mash tuns, and six stainless-steel washbacks, each capable of holding 43,000 litres. The pair of traditional copper wash stills each have a capacity of 24,500 litres, while the two spirit stills each hold 15,500 litres. The lyne arms extend from the stills to connect with condensers placed outside the still house. Jura has some of the tallest stills of any Scottish distillery, said to produce a purer spirit, which is aged in American and European oak casks. Most of the modern production is aged in Invergordon because the warehouses next to the distillery are full with historical casks while also used for unique editions. The annual output is around 2,300,000 litres, most being sold as malt whisky but with some blended. Transported to the mainland via tanker, Jura malt is bottled at the Whyte & Mackay bottling plant in Grangemouth using unusually-shaped, almost old-fashioned, bottles, said to have been originally designed to better withstand sea voyages. The Isle of Jura range includes unpeated, lightly-peated and heavily-peated whiskies.

The distillery benefits from an award-winning visitor’s centre, cafe and shop.

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