By Adriana Ermter
PICTURE A SMALL ISLAND, 48 KILOMETRES LONG AND 11 KILOMETRES WIDE.
The Atlantic Ocean laps at its western shores, while sea eagles and seals pepper the calm, east bay. A glance toward the island’s northwest, rugged coastline interrupts this idyllic scene. There, crashing waves give way to the world’s third largest whirlpool, The Corryvreckan; its dangerous waters iconic to the British Isles and to this isle, Jura Island — home to Jura Single Malt Whisky’s distillery and its storied past.
“The Isle of Jura was once the ideal location to get away with making something that wasn’t legal,” says Louis-Jérôme Barbosa-Doise, the business manager for the premium liquor company. “The Campbells, who owned the island in 1810, wanted whisky to be produced for their own consumption. Distilling wasn’t legal at that time, so a lot of the production flew under the radar. Jura Distillery’s placement on the Isle of Jura made it di. cult for the authorities to get to from the mainland of Scotland.”
A COVETED MARKET
While the di. cult and sometimes treacherous stretch of water between the island and Scotland can make passage tricky, Jura’s single malt whisky makes it well worth the boat ride. Particularly since the brand mix-masters both peated barley (smoked) and unpeated barley (not smoked) into their whisky. “We’re the only Scotch whisky distillery that produces two whiskies, ages two whiskies and then blends them together at the end of their aging process,” a. rms Barbosa-Doise. “That’s true to all of our expressions.” Four of which — a seven-wood, 10, 12 and 18-year expressions — are available in Ontario.
Each variation is highly coveted, too, as Jura only produces 2.2 million litres of single malt whisky per year, which is considered small batch in comparison to, say, Scotland’s The Dalmore Highland distillery, which does 4.2 million litres per annum. Still, despite a 2022 Market Watch report stating that premium single malt whisky accounts for 37 percent of the total global market share, the island distillery has no intention of increasing its current flow. Rather, the brand is more invested in preserving the quality of its scotch and its history, so that it can grow its island community.
Growth within the Campbell’s original Jura Distillery halted after several years of bootlegging. It was built in 1810, dismantled in the early 1920s and then fell into complete disrepair and was left abandoned for a handful of decades. With little economic opportunity left on the island, life dwindled, decreasing Jura’s population from 3,000 to a mere 212 habitants. Then, during the 1950s, long after the Campbell family sold their land to multiple buyers, a group of islanders connected and planned to bring the distillery back to life. By 1963 it was up and running.
“The history of Jura is a testament to entrepreneurialism and perseverance,” says Barbosa-Doise. “There’s a drive and motivation to bring life back to the village and onto the island.” With most islanders associated with the distillery in one way or another, Jura has become an important economic driver for the tightly knit community. The company employs locals, who then support Jura’s smattering of small businesses such as the local pub, hotel and grocery store; Jura is taking steps to create better sustainability for all. This includes being a power source, both literally and figuratively. By enabling the community to tap into the Jura Distillery’s electricity, islanders will eventually become less dependent on the mainland — a win-win for anyone making the move to the small isle. After all, says Barboa-Doise, “You don’t move to Jura to be a recluse, you move to Jura to be part of a community.”
“THE HISTORY OF JURA SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY IS A TESTAMENT TO ENTREPRENEURIALISM AND PERSEVERANCE.”