Laird Archibald Campbell built the distillery in the early 1800’s near a cave where illegal distilling had been carried on possibly from the 1600’s. The whisky produced then was a characteristic peaty malt whisky – not at all like the present day product. The distillery was let out to many people over the years. It was leased to James Ferguson in 1875 and rebuilt in 1884 when it was producing 65,000 gallons per year.
In the early 1900’s the Fergusons seem to have been in dispute with the then Laird Colin Campbell and decided to quit the Jura distillery, dismantling and selling the machinery, which they had installed. The roofs were later removed to avoid paying rates and the distillery became a ruin. It seemed as if whisky making on Jura had come to a permanent end.
In the 1950’s Robin Fletcher owner of Ardlussa Estate and Riley-Smith owner of Jura House and Ardfin Estate got together to see how they could solve a foreseeable jobs crisis on the island. They thought about reopening the distillery to see if new people could be attracted to the island. They were joined by farmer, distiller and architect Delme’ Evans. They raised financial backing eventually, mostly from Scottish and Newcastle Breweries, to build the distillery.
Delme’-Evans designed and built the new distillery on the site of the old ruined one. He said of his plans “My primary aim was to construct an economic distillery within the space available. Everything had to be simple and fall to hand. You could not afford to complicate things in so remote a location. I also had to play mother to the large number of incomers on an island without any policemen - some Saturday nights became quite interesting!”
Everything had to be designed in such a way that the new Jura malt could be produced. “It was our intention to produce a Highland-type malt differing from the typically peaty stuff last produced in 1900. I therefore designed the stills to give spirit of a Highland character, and we ordered malt which was only lightly peated.”
The new distillery was opened on April 26th 1963 and employed a quarter of the male workforce.
The water of Jura has long been believed to possess mystical qualities, owing to a legendary blessing by St Columba nearly 1,500 years ago. The islanders certainly have a history of longevity - legends tell of a man who lived to see 180 Christmases in his own home. Myth or fact, Diuriachs can certainly control the ageing process when it comes to whisky.
Elixir is finished in a mix of American white oak and Amoroso sherry casks to build its complex, yet smooth, structure.