Every single malt whisky is unique in themselves. Each distillery is distinctly different from the next, sometime in subtle ways and some times in ways that are not so subtle. Each one reflects not only the ingredients, but the very location in which it is distilled and aged. This month I am reviewing Scapa Single Malt Whisky. It is the distillery release of the 16 year old Scapa Orcadian. Scapa has traditionally been a 14 year old, but we’re not complaining about another 2 years in oak to soak up the essence of Orkney Island itself!
Established in 1885 by McFarlane and Townsend on the island of Orkney, the Scapa Distillery has seen many owners come and go since then. Closing and re-opening several times, it’s history isn’t exactly what you’d call stable. A huge upgrade in 2004 saw the distillery reinvigorated and revitalized. You may have heard of the current owners – a little mob called Chivas Brothers Ltd.
This 16yo sees a mixture of pre and post-upgrade distilled whisky due to working back through older casks from before the refurbishment of 2004. I remember hearing that Scapa was closing once more, and it would not be seen again, so I am pretty excited to get my hands on this beauty! Thankfully good sense has prevailed and tradition dating back to 1885 will be preserved for the time being.
This little distillery is all about tradition. All its production is released as single malt. Most distilleries only retain a small proportion for single malt with the vast majority being used for blending. When you understand that Jock Pirie, Michael Swanney and Bryan Ross are the 3 guys who run the who operation, you get a sense of how small it is. So small, in fact that, Scapa is one of the few distilleries that don’t offer public tours. There is no automation, computers or robots either. It is all turned by hand – by judgement and feel.
These 3 guys capture the special nature and subtlety that defines Scapa. Being an Island distillery, maritime influences abound, but the truly unique beauty of Scapa is in its water from a spring high in the hills, percolated through wild heather, peat and sandstone before traveling over 1 km through an iron pipe dating back to 1885.
Apart from their single malt, Scapa whisky is in great demand for use in blended whisky and in particular comprises a large part of the Ballatine’s blended Scotch whisky.
Scapa Orcadian has a gentle and subtle nose with hints of heather and peat. Once on the pallet it packs a punch of flavour intensity. From this ball of flavours subtle strings of familiar and wonderful tastes emerge including kaffir limes, cinnamon, treacle, fresh toasted bread.
The Scapa Orcadian is a delight and an extremely easy whisky to enjoy. It’s a truly unique craft whisky, made with passion by 3 unique guys in a truly unique part of the world.