Chekhov wrote that "isolation in creative work is an onerous thing." Perhaps—if the creative work was a Russian play or even a Russian vodka. But for a single malt whisky, isolation can be a great stimulus.
Some of the best Scottish distilleries seemingly occupy the ends of the earth—Blackwood on the Shetlands, Highland Park and Scapa on Orkney, Talisker on Skye, Ardbeg on Islay. The island of Jura is no exception. George Orwell chose the remote location to write 1984. The island has more deer, eagles and snakes—poisonous adders, no less—than people, but the Isle of Jura distillery has recently brought recognition to this small community.
The distillery has always lived in the shadow of its neighbor, Islay, which reigns as the "Queen of the Hebrides." But recent bottlings of independent casks of very young and very peaty single malts have emerged to great acclaim. The best thus far is the Isle of Jura 1999 Five-Year-Old Cask Strength ($75) with a weighty 126 proof. It is now available solely through the Whisky Exchange (thewhiskyexchange.com), an independent bottler and retailer.
Five years is quite young for a single malt, but the 1999 rectifies the "wisdom" that older whisky is better. It's because of its youth that this Jura is so wild and energetic.
Like the best peaty whiskies from Islay next door, there's a sweetness beyond the initial smoke and there are submerged flavors that only come out with a dash of water. The 1999 is one for peat enthusiasts; it explodes in the mouth and is as young and unruly, loud and aggressive as a classroom of schoolchildren when the teacher's gone out.