Scapa’s story is of resurrection. The distillery is located near the town of Kirkwall in Orkney, an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland. It was founded in 1885, rebuilt in 1959, then descended to near ruins by the mid-1990s. Workers from nearby Highland Park opened Scapa for a few weeks each year, using the unique Lomond stills to produce blending whisky. Chivas Brothers restored the distillery in 2004.
It’s said that the current stock used in Scapa bottlings isn’t as briny as Scapa used to be – that some essential character has been lost. My first impression was that it’s a cross between Speyside and Islay – mellow and sweet, with a gentle hint of the sea. Scapa’s web site says no peat is used to dry the malt; water for the mashing is from the nearby Orquil Springs, which is said to be responsible for the mild peaty influence. The whisky is racked into first-fill American Oak casks (casks that have been filled once previously, with bourbon).
In the glass, Scapa 16 is pale gold and seems almost delicate. The nose is intense with honey/toffee, and the impression of an ocean breeze. It starts sweet on the palate, yet remains surprisingly dry. The Islay resemblance comes though, then the dryness becomes spicy – cinnamon and cloves, which expand on the palate. The finish is long and very smooth, ending with an impression of smoke.
An excellent dram – refined, with a variety of tastes to contemplate. A good choice for those who might be uncertain about Islay malts.