Jura Seven Wood – Just Because You Can, It Doesn’t Mean You Should

When I first read the label of Jura Seven Wood, I did a double-take. Not entirely sure I had read the label correctly; I had to go back and confirm what I was looking at. Seven woods? Why would they do that? Initially, the only explanation I could come up with was “Because they can”.

The thing is, Jura hasn’t released this as a small experimental batch to prove their capability or take advantage of a windfall of interesting casks: the Jura Seven Wood is listed as part of Jura’s “Signature” range. This “Signature” range is a result of the complete relaunch of the distillery in 2018. The previous Origins, Superstition, Diurach’s Own, and Prophecy bottlings are consigned to the dustbin of history. They have been replaced by the Journey, 10-year-old, 12-year-old, 12-year-old Sherry Cask, 18-year-old, 21-year-old Tide, Winter Edition, Red Wine Cask Edition, French Oak, Rum Cask Finish, and, of course, Seven Wood. These aren’t even limited releases or exclusives – there are six additional Jura malts only available through Duty-Free travel outlets.

Judging from the bloated nature of the “Signature” range alone, Jura’s rebranding does seem to have gone slightly awry. There doesn’t seem to be a core identity or theme running through the range. Even if we sub-divide into those with and without age statements, the Seven Wood stands apart. We are presented with a slightly strangely spaced set of age statement whiskies, alongside a couple of finished drams that would be better off as limited batch releases. Then there’s the spark of pure madness, a concept that would still be out of place among the craziest of Ardbeg Day Releases.

And that’s the thing: the Jura Seven Wood seems designed to raise eyebrows. Its name is a simple challenge: “I bet you didn’t think Jura did this sort of thing”. Jura has been honest about its rebrand, aiming to draw in a new audience and expand its market share. Is this the part of their range aimed at more established whisky drinkers, trying to attract them to Jura by presenting them with something unique? The problem is that a crazy concept and eye-catching name aren’t enough to achieve this. The execution of the idea needs to be good enough to keep the customer coming back, encouraging them to try the rest of the range.

This leads us to the whisky itself. How does it fare under scrutiny? Is it a successful ploy to relaunch the brand and convert us all into Jura fans?

Jura Seven Wood

Island Single Malt Whisky; Whyte & Mackay

42%; Caramel colouring; Chill-filtering not confirmed but likely.

Ex-bourbon casks; finished in Limousin, Tronçais, Allier, Vosges, Jupilles, and Les Bertranges French oaks. Jura Seven Wood is initially matured in ex-bourbon casks before being split among six different virgin oak casks for its finish.

Available from £47 (Master of Malt); occasionally on sale for cheaper on Amazon.

Nose: Plum jam, apricots, burnt Brazil nuts, and notes of ginger.

Palate:  Apricot and mild cheddar, orange peel, vanilla, with some cocoa and nutmeg.

Finish: Notes of burnt toffee, smoke, and slight bitterness.

Opinion: To be honest, this was a difficult whisky to taste. A lot is going on here, which I would usually find to be a massive positive. Unfortunately, the result here is a spirit that seems almost indecisive, where authentic flavours are difficult to pick out.  There is a reason other distilleries stop at around two or, at most, three kinds of wood. Instead of the result being greater than the sum of a few parts, discrete flavours and influences are lost among a flavour cacophony. I can’t be alone in enjoying picking out and trying to understand the factors that influence the taste of a spirit. In this case, it just becomes impossible: yes, there are nutmeg notes, but from where? Who can tell?

To me, Jura Seven Wood also seems to lack refinement. I could forgive a lot, but the finish just isn’t pleasant. There’s a note that reminds me of drinking Whyte & Mackay blended whisky, which should never be present in any spirit gusting £50. Between haphazardly selected flavours and a poor finish, I found that I struggled to be interested in the whisky.

This was a whisky that Jura did not need to make. I would almost have understood creating a madcap whisky as a one-off, limited release. There is a place in the whisky market for distilleries to release the occasional batch of pure madness. Ardbeg’s 8-year-old “For Discussion” is an excellent example of this: it’s a bit different and has lived up to its name, causing all sorts of debate. Maybe Jura should look to slim down their “Signature” range and drive interest with some well-constructed small batches instead. However, adding a seven-wood whisky to the signature range seems symptomatic of a brand desperately trying to establish an identity at the expense of releasing quality products. While Jura can make good whiskies, they haven’t managed to do so here.

In summary, this is a whisky which has some positives. It does have some interesting flavours, and I suppose it would be interesting to see what could be picked out during a group tasting. Unfortunately, it compares unfavourably to other whiskies at this price point. Jura has committed a far worse sin, though: the challenge thrown down by this whisky’s name demands far better execution than we receive, which ultimately leave me disappointed.

3.5 / 10

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