My Love Hate Relationship with Jura and Dalmore

I began drinking whisky in 1991, at the end of my mid 20s. My taste was based upon what I was exposed to during my early whisky developmental years, so to speak. I was all Speyside, simply because that was what I had been poured, knew I liked and these whiskies were easily accessible in my home state of Pennsylvania, USA, and so purchased them in PA. The last item mentioned is rather noteworthy as wine and spirits availability in PA is subject to a state run monopoly. We get one price statewide with additional sales tax ranging from 6% to 8% for whatever the state chooses to carry. Philadelphia is close to New Jersey and Delaware which are regulated free market states.

The Glenlivet range was first for me and for most of the guys I met who drank Scotch. I commenced with a pour of the the 18 Years on ice. Not too shabby. I was hooked. From that point forward, when I’d be at a function, I would usually have whisky, frequently blends that were less than stellar or perhaps a decent inexpensive bourbon. I found I actually enjoyed Chivas 12 over Johnny Black 12 by a lot, and that if choices were Cutty Sark, J&B, Dewars White, or Johnny Red, I would go with a decent bourbon instead.

I worked as a volunteer at a charity event one night with a friend from work and a bartender who insisted we help make sure he didn’t need to carry a bottle of Glenfiddich 12 out f the event;it was a solid introductory dram for a relative newbie. That was the night I learned about the need to hydrate well when enjoying whisky so as to avoid a bugger of a hangover. In those days, I drank whisky on a good bit of ice. It is not a substitute for drinking water to hydrate. Then I was introduced to Glenfarclas and Balvenie and I started drinking whisky neat with cold stones and eventually moved to just adding drops of water or drinking my whisky neat.

The Highlands came next. The Dalmore 12 Years. The Glenmorangie core 4. Dalwhinnie 15 Years. Then came Highland Park and the coastal whiskies with their introduction to brine and peat. That was followed by exploring Islay whiskies, starting with the peatier ones as they were more readily available, the Ardbegs, Laphroaigs, Lagavulin 16 Years, followed by my favorites from Islay, the three Bs (Bunnahabhain, Bowmore and Bruichladdich). Then came the Campbeltowns, starting with a Springbank cask bottled for a group put together by my then whisky sensei. By that point, I had been going whisky shopping outside PA in order to try more expressions of the distilleries carried by PA as well as exploring other distilleries and independent bottlings. I had also been trying more bourbons from time to time as well.

Dalmore became one of my go to distilleries for years, and until the Valour, it was hard to go wrong. I still own many expressions. The rich, layered flavors appealed to me before I had ever heard of Richard Paterson (for those who don’t know, he is the master blender at Dalmore and somewhat of an icon in the world of scotch whisky). My then young daughter was instructed to bring me home a Dalmore 18 on a trip home from a youth group tour. I fell in love with the King Alexander III (one of the most interesting and innovative whiskies in the world, in my opinion) and thoroughly enjoy the Cigar Malt.

My introduction to Isle of Jura was around 2010. Within 5 years, my new wife was bringing home Jura expressions from the U K whenever she was abroad, which was frequently. The whiskies were rich and flavorful. They experimented with differing finishes and ages.

Sounds like love, right? Because it was and to some extent, still is.

However, as my appreciation for whisky evolved, I came to value seeing the whisky as it is supposed to appear from the barrel. I also came to appreciate that moderate to higher ABV whiskies tend to taste richer, fuller and, well, just better to me. And I realized that I preferred the oils and esters in the whisky not be chill filtered out. I came to recognize that some whiskies seemed weak and some seemed overly sweet or syrupy to my palate.

Regarding color, both Jura and Dalmore put E150 (permissible caramel coloring) in nearly everything they produce. I am of the opinion that the E in E150 stands for EVIL, because, in my opinion, there really is no need for coloring, especially beyond introductory expressions. I hope that persons prepared to spend over $75 USD for a bottle would not be hung up on color being standardized. Variations in color of the liquid shows craftsmanship, the importance of barrel selection and aging of the spirit.

I believe chill filtering removes parts of of the interesting character and flavors in a whisky. Again, I don’t appreciate that this unnatural intervention NEEDS to be done. I understand the marketing aspect, but feel as though whiskies of stature should be above the fray to vie for the whisky novice’s dollar. Even if It may be a good idea for the Dalmore 12 or the Jura 10, why is it needed in more aged and more expensive expressions? I posit that it is not.

My final criticism concerns the alcohol content of the whiskies. I will simply state that these distilleries put out too much product at 40% to 43% ABV. I personally feel as though whisky is best at 45% ABV and up. I feel the slightly higher alcohol content gives the consumer a better overall drinking experience, with richer and deeper flavors, fuller mouth feel, longer and more enjoyable finishes. As we know, one can always add water to dilute a whisky to taste, but one cannot remove water.

I understand that the critical nature of this short essay may seem petty to some people. I also appreciate that distillery owners and operators (and in this case, the folks at White and Mackay, whom I do respect greatly, especially the esteemed master blender, Richard Paterson) may feel that my thoughts and opinions are unimportant as I am only one consumer and that their Jura and Dalmore sales figures and market research data don’t support my assertions.

In conclusion, I posit that artificial coloring, chill filtering and lower than 45% ABV levels detract from consumers’ potential enjoyment and appreciation of the whiskies produced at Isle of Jura and The Dalmore distilleries, limit consumers’ ability to truly see, smell and taste what the distilleries are creating, and that changing or at least adding to the offerings from these distilleries to include more expressions with higher ABVs, natural color and non chill filtering would be welcome among whisky consumers and perhaps even be good for business.