This is another gem I managed to pick up on the way to America a few years ago and have recently found the tasting notes for! If I remember correctly this was one of the few bottles I felt needed to make it back to the UK and made room in my bag for it.
A small bit of history
The Scapa distillery was built in 1885 on the coast of what is known as Orkney Mainland, near Kirkwall. It is named after the very convenient body of water in the center of the Orkney Islands which has been the base of nearly every major fleet in the UK from viking times til 1956 when the UK’s chief navel base was closed in the area.
The business began it’s life as a partnership between a Mr Macfarlane and Mr Townsend, both already successful businessmen, the former of the two already successfully running various distilleries in Speyside. Though the whisky was clearly good enough to last the test of time in the long-run, the business itself did not, and it went the way of most other small distilleries in Scotland.
I was unable to find details of exactly when the original business venture failed, or when the building started to fall into disrepair but it is known to have been relatively abandoned by World War 1, when it was used to house by Royal Navy sailors. It was saved by a group of businessmen calling themselves the Scapa Distillery Company Ltd directly afterwards in 1919.
Though their dream of rebuilding and making a lot of money from the distillery never came into being they did manage to keep it from being torn down until it was eventually sold to Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd in 1954 who immediately expanded and modernised it. Though the whisky was always loved and appreciated by malt lovers it did not get on in blends as much as Highland Park (their neighbor) and was just not profitable enough for the company.
They stopped producing new spirit there in 1994 and the site was to be entirely closed and demolished in 2004. However Chivas Regal (owned by Allied Domecq, soon to be owned by Pernod Richard… you know how it goes :P) had other plans. In November of that year they took the building (by now missing most of it’s roof) and renovated the whole thing, refusing to sell to blenders they aimed to sell single malt exclusively.
Though many sources (including my main man Ian Buxton) claim that the whisky leaving the building from that point onwards was never to the same quality as it was previously (the old 12yo is known as gold) and now goes through the usual chill filtering etc you would expect from something more mass produced, they still admit that it is unique and interesting enough to justify being praised and tried.
The 16 year old came out in 2009 and spent an additional 2 years in American Oak casks (like bourbon) and is the current incarnation.
- 2013 Silver Outstanding Medal by IWSC
- 2012 Silver Outstanding Medal by IWSC
- 2011 Silver Medal by IWSC
This is a very unique scotch and you will get that impression from the very first smell. You will find hay here, honey with floral undertones, orange peel and a hint of lime.
The palette keeps the lime hint, adds freshly cut grass, papaya, cinnamon, coffee and a nice salty undertone that get stronger with each glass. (Complex… a lot of stuff going on)
As you let it rest the finish will bring you an smokey oak finish and a light peppery undertone. It is there for but a few moments.
When I suggest drinking it
Though I will probably never have the opportunity to taste any of the older versions of Scapa, if it was more complex and interesting than this one it must have been quite a drink indeed! Though I don’t think I will keep it in stock here at the house I would definitely encourage everyone make a stop here on their way through their personal journeys.