Times are changing, however, and the profile and status of the Whyte & Mackay-owned brand has gradually risen, with a number of new releases, including last year's quartet of 'Elements' bottlings, which featured a heavily-peated Jura and another matured in ex-Manzanilla sherry casks.
Global brand ambassador Willie Tait, who has enjoyed a 35-year association with the whisky, says that: "During the last decade we've definitely moved up a gear with Jura.
"It's still the same, wonderful spirit, but our wood policy is superior now and it's great the brand being so well developed."
Most recently, that development has included the appearance of an eye-catching trio of limited edition 15 Years Old bottlings, finished in wine casks, signed by Jura distiller Willie Cochrane, and labelled the 'Jura Paps.' The new line up was launched during May's Feis Ile Festival of Malt & Music, and each expression is named after one of the three iconic, breast-like quartzite mountains that dominate the skyline of Jura.
According to master blender Richard Paterson, "The aim with 'Jura Paps' was to create three different characters of Jura single malt, but with the influence of the secondary cask not masking the essential style of the spirit but complementing it. Elegance was our main intention. The whisky was finished in the wine casks for more than three years. We chose three 'big' wines, in terms of reputation and style, namely pinot noir, barollo and cabernet sauvignon."
The Jura team also plans to release another significant Jura expression later this year in the shape of the heavily-peated Prophecy, which follows in the vein of the existing peated Superstition bottling.
"But this is not Superstition," declares Paterson. "It's got a heavier peating level, perhaps 40ppm, and its final character is influenced by the use of Limousin oak and Matusalem oloroso ex-sherry casks. This is Superstition's big brother, which is quite appropriate for a malt from the island where George Orwell wrote 1984!"
To commemorate that notable Orwellian connection Whyte & Mackay hosts the Jura Malt Whisky Writer's Retreat Programme, based in the magnificently restored Jura Lodge, adjacent to the distillery in the island 'capital' of Craighouse. A number of leading authors have spent time on the island as a result, and the best of the work written there has been distilled into a recently-published volume titled Spirit of Jura, which contains stories, poems and essays by writers including Will Self, John Burnside, Janice Galloway, Kathleen Jamie and Liz Lochhead.
Continuing the momentum of Jura single malt, brand manager Cara Laing notes that "There will be more limited edition series next year, and the 21 Years Old will be coming back. We know it's been missed by real aficionados of Jura. 2010 is also our 200th anniversary, there will be new releases and events by way of celebration."
THE MOUNTAIN OF THE SOUND
CABERNET SAUVIGNON CASKS 46%ABV
Nose: Initial reticence, then developing pepper, nougat and pot still rum notes.
Palate: Big, with fruity, date and lemon oak notes, berries and vanilla toffee.
Finish: Drying, with cereal and nutmeg.