Whisky Focus - Interview With Graham Logan Jura Distillery Manager

Interview With Graham Logan Jura Distillery Manager

14th September 2017

Interview with Isle of Jura Distillery Manager Graham Logan.

Graham Logan Isle of Jura Distillery Manager

Following the recent launch of the new Jura One And All 20 Year Old limited edition single malt whisky I got the opportunity to put a few questions to Isle of Jura Distillery Manager Graham Logan about what his job involves at the island distillery.

Graham, who has worked at the island distillery for over quarter of a century, took over the position of distillery manager in 2016 when 39 year whisky veteran Willie Cochrane retired.

William Morrison: When and where did you start work in the whisky business, and when did you start work at the Jura distillery?

The answer to those two questions are one and the same - Iíve spent my entire whisky career working at Jura. I first set eyes on Jura aboard the deck of the HMS Liverpool, when I was working as a marine engineering mechanic in the Royal Navy. At the time, Iíd just found out that my parents had moved to the island, and our passing by through the sound of Islay was purely coincidental. When I left the Navy in 1991, I began working at the distillery just two days later as a mash / still man. Thereís nowhere else Iíd rather be.

Describe your career in the whisky business to date leading up to you taking over from Willie Cochrane as Jura Distillery Manager?

When I joined Jura, I began working as a Mash and Still Man, ensuring that each drop of Jura Single Malt Whisky started life in the best possible way, from grain to still by monitoring the mash tuns and the distillation in our copper stills, and keeping a close eye on the spirit safe. Working by Willieís side, and under his guidance, I worked my way up through the ranks, to Trainee Manager before leading the production team and helping to represent the distillery at both a local and national level. Taking over from him as Distillery Manager in 2016 was a proud moment.

What are your main tasks as Jura Distillery Manager?

Day to day, I am responsible for the safe and successful running of the distillery and the work of our team Ė I also get to welcome visitors from all over the world to Jura. No two days are the same on Jura, weíre a remote island, with one single track road and the schedule of our operation is often at the mercy of the weather and the little ferry that connects us to our neighbours on Islay. In my new role I hope to put my own stamp on the distillery, while keeping up the same level of craftsmanship as Willie. Much like Willie, I prefer to be more hands on than sat behind the desk Ė although thereís a bit more paperwork to contend with as manager!

What do you see as your biggest challenges as the Jura Distillery Manager?

Stepping into the role of Distillery Manager after 25 years at Jura was the ultimate reward, today Iím excited for the challenge to take all Iíve learnt from the likes of Willie (Cochrane) and Micky (Heads), and put my stamp on the distillery as I take my next steps developing the team and creating whisky for future generations of whisky fans.

Obviously each expression of Jura is different, but how would you describe the character of Jura single malt whisky?

An incredible amount of dedication from our small and passionate team goes in to making our award-winning Single Malt, and itís this that gives it such a unique character. Our island home is remote and unusual - and thatís not without its challenges. The result is a remarkable whisky which you can almost taste our extraordinary island spirit in. We chose to celebrate our home, our community and our team with One And All because we simply couldnít exist without them, and the passion that goes into every bottle of Jura is, I think, is very clear.

What would you say is the big contributors which make Jura unique? Perhaps the barley, the strain of yeast, distillation process, still shape, maturation?

Our unusually tall stills are a huge contributing factor Ė each one stands at over 25ft high Ė and they give our whisky a very distinctive character. The height of these stills helps us to create a very light and pure spirit, which allows us a degree of creativity when it comes to crafting flavour profiles through maturation.

Making whisky on the island of Jura really isnít an easy feat. Over the years weíve had a lot to contend with, from extreme weather and the resulting unpredictability of local services from the ferries, to a new delivery of fresh produce arrivingÖ even the iconic shape of our bottles was borne from the difficulty of transporting our product across the sea back in the day. I genuinely think that this hard work and overcoming of difficulties results in a much more rewarding finished product.

This particular release, One And All, is unique in that itís been selected by our staff Ė we wanted to celebrate the distillery team and community who dedicate their time to crafting Jura whisky, and have helped shape it to become what it is today, so we held a tasting with the team here earlier in the year. We canít wait to hear what people think.

What is the PPM of the barley used to produce the higher peated spirit you produce at Jura and how does it compare to the PPM of the standard spirit you produce?

We buy good quality Scottish barley. Our suppliers change from time to time to ensure we are using the best quality barley that yields the highest results. Regular monitoring of our distillation and monitoring of the barley harvest are key factors in deciding the phenol level at which we buy our barley, as are external factors such as market conditions and seasonal quality. At Jura we create both sweeter whiskies like Origin and Diurachsí Own as well as the smokier Superstition and Prophecy, so for us it comes down to the art of balancing a number of variables rather than the strength of the phenol on its own.

I know you have the deliciously peated Jura Prophecy but given the increasing popularity of single malts these days and the increase in demand for peated whiskies are there any plans to perhaps add another profoundly peated Jura whisky to the core range?

Jura has enjoyed increasing popularity over the years, and weíre always attracting new audiences and drinkers, so thoughts of new products and innovation is always in mind. Itís something weíll continue to review, listening to our fans and looking for opportunities to create exciting new innovations. But for now, it is business as usual at the distillery!

What is your favourite core range expression of Jura and why?

The 16 year old, Diurachsí Own is a personal favourite. It was named after the locals as a celebration of our community, and the combination of flavours it evokes is something special. Rich and full bodied, it gives off hints of citrus and toffee, creamy chocolate and a bit of cinnamon spice. I particularly enjoy a glass of this expression when itís blowing a gale outside Ė itís really warming.

What has been your favourite limited release expression, past or present, of Jura to date and why?

All bottlings are an achievement, and Iíve helped thousands of casks of whisky to be created and laid down throughout my career. Tastival 2017 was a very special release to me as it was the first limited edition to be released after I became Distillery Manager. However, One And All will always hold a special place in my heart. Being a 20 year old whisky, itís humbling to know I was involved in creating this whisky in the early days of my career at Jura, and now weíre sharing it with the world in this great celebration of the team here and all their hard work.

What other whiskies other than Jura would you pour yourself?

1. Tamnavulin double cask
2. King Alexander III
3. Bunnahabhain 18yo

What have been the biggest changes you have seen in the whisky business since you started your career?

The whisky industry has changed over the years, but Jura is known for always having done things its own way and itís always paid off. As a brand, weíre always looking forward and trying to get new people involved in the world of whisky, so itís exciting to see it evolve as more and more people are discovering the craft and process behind whisky making.

Itís been great to see so many people taking an interest in whisky, and taking the time to discover more about malts, which have been growing in popularity all over the world, with some even making the pilgrimage to our island home. Iíve noticed that, in recent years, weíve been attracting somewhat of a younger crowd, which is fantastic to see.

Given the increasing popularity of single malt whisky and the demand from whisky connoisseurs for more innovative expressions these days how involved are you with new product planning and development? And in what way are you involved?

As I touched upon earlier, weíre always listening to our fans. Whisky is an industry borne of patience, and itís my job to ensure weíre creating and laying down enough whisky for the future, from ensuring warehousing capacity to the safe arrival of casks and barley on the island, planning for the future is paramount in my role.

Tell me about the Jura One And All, the new limited release whisky has certainly been created using an uncommon selection of casks. I see that it contains American White Oak ex-bourbon matured whisky finished in Sherry wood, Sparkling Cabernet Franc casks, Cabernet Sauvignon casks and Pinot Noir barriques, can you share some details of the process of selecting, finishing and blending these different casks together to create the new whisky and who had the final say on the percentage of each type of cask which has gone into the vatting or was it a team decision?

Jura One And All is a unique assemblage of specially selected aged Jura, which started its life in American White Oak ex-bourbon barrels before being separated and enhanced in four different woods - Sherry wood, Cabernet Franc casks, Cabernet Sauvignon casks and Pinot Noir barriques ahead of being married in freshly emptied bourbon barrels. Our Master Blender worked meticulously to create this highly complex expression, ensuring that the percentage and aging of each element is perfectly balanced to create this wonderful, rich whisky.

Many Thanks To Graham.
Many thanks to Graham for taking the time to answer my questions and for giving us an insight into the world of the Isle of Jura Distillery Manager.

If you fancy trying the Jura Tastival 2017 which was the first Limited Edition release to be overseen by Graham in his role as distillery manager or the recently launched, deliciously rich, limited edition Jura One And All 20 Year Old or if you fancy exploring the current Jura whisky range you will find them all available from specialist online whisky retailers such as Master of Malt

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