Mark Bruce is the Brand Home Manager at the Jura distillery. His path into the whisky industry was via a number of different London sales roles in both wine and whisky before being given the opportunity to join Whyte and Mackay. He was invited to experience Jura on one of Whyte and Mackay’s brand immersion trips for its employees and as they say, the rest is really history! In addition to our live tasting/discussion on Instagram last week, Mark has kindly answered some more questions below..
Jura is one of the most isolated of islands in the Hebridean archipelago, how is life on the island?
I’m asked this a lot and I always answer in the same exact way – moving to Jura was the best decision my partner and I have ever made. It may not be for everyone but I will warn you all, Jura will get under your skin if you visit. Many people that come to experience this beautiful island have such a great time they don’t want to leave!
Could you please explain your role at Jura and what a typical day might involve?
My role here is to ensure each and every visitor to our island enjoys it to its fullest potential. I work closely with our entire team to help share our distilleries story with all of our wonderful visitors that have often travelled many miles to get here! Our team will often supports guests with planning their visit to Jura which certainly keeps us all busy.
A typical day however is one that welcomes many people to our distillery in a virtual capacity. We will also support the Jura marketing team and brand experience team executing their plans for the year. And last but not least, we build on plans for reopening next year and a successful 2021.
How would you describe the character of Jura single malt whisky?
Jura single malt whisky starts with some of the tallest pot stills in Scotland. This allows Graham Logan’s team to create a wonderfully light and fruity new make spirit. That spirit is a match made in heaven when matured in high quality American white oak ex-bourbon barrels. The heart of a Jura single malt can be described as being bright, light, fresh and fruity with a sweet spice.
In your opinion, what distinguishes Jura whisky apart from the rest? What makes it unique?
The island and our tiny community.
Jura’s location makes whisky production difficult at the best of times. Everything that is required by the distillery is brought in via ferry’s which means bad weather can cut us off from the mainland. This in turn means Graham Logan’s team has acquired an incredible skillset over the years that allows them to continue to keep producing spirit in the most challenging of circumstances.
Each team member also lives here on the island. They work and socialise within our tiny island community which strengthens the relationship between the two. It is hard to imagine the distillery or community thriving without the help of the other. After all, the Jura distillery was rebuilt in 1963 to bring prosperity back to the island and it continues to do so this very day.
Can you tell us a bit more about production/whisky-making at Jura distillery? You have some of the tallest stills in Scotland for example.
Yes that’s correct and we’re very proud of it too. Our stills provide a very large area of copper in the neck for vapours to condense and return to the pot. In terms of distillation, the rate is quite high in our wash stills which means there’s less reflux and less condensing time. For second distillation in our low wine stills the rate is far slower meaning the vapours have a far greater chance to condense on the inside walls of the still neck and return to the pot. This essentially means that our spirit benefits from lots of copper contact and a slow rate of distillation in our spirit stills which creates a very light spirit.
You have five warehouses on the island, is that right? Can you tell us about the maturation on Jura and the impact this unique island setting may have on Jura whisky’s character?
We have six actually. I think the confusion lies within the fact warehouse number 3 doesn’t mature any casks. Warehouse 3 was in fact where to tax and excise man would monitor casks coming and going many years ago. In terms of maturation, we’re heavily influenced by the Gulf Stream sweeping in from our west coast and the salt sea winds to our east. This creates a very stable warehouse temperature all year round which is 9˚c.
Can you tell us about the process of cask selection for your exclusive charity bottling in aid of SAMH? What do you think makes this whisky so special?
The selection of cask 1708 was led by our distillery manager Graham Logan. Graham has been working at the Jura distillery for almost 30 years which has allowed him to develop a deep understand of which cask are special and why. Having sampled a number of these special casks alongside one another, Graham chose this whisky for its exceptional characteristics. Distilled in 2001 and bottled August this year, this whisky was matured entirely in a sherry butt, is cask strength, non-chill filtered and tastes just like Christmas!
SAMH are doing some really vital and incredible work, can you share some more about this and why they were chosen to benefit from this single cask release?
Whyte and Mackay voted as a global business to support those suffering with mental health. As we’re a Scottish based company, SAMH felt like a natural fit. That said, it isn’t just SAMH that will benefit from all of the proceeds raised but an additional 12 mental health charities from around the world where our partners and colleagues live and work.
Jura has a spectacular range of core and special releases. If you had to pick, which would be your favourite and why?
That would most definitely be the Jura 212 simply because every time I taste this whisky it takes me back to one of my most special memories. This is a charming whisky supporting each of the 212 people that live within our tiny island community.
Can you give us any insight into future releases from Jura?
I would love to say but have been sworn to secrecy! I will however say that if you haven’t already, do try both our brand new releases of Red Wine Cask and Winter Edition available online and across UK supermarkets. Both are perfect for the change in season as move towards to cooler nights and winter season