Scapa. This distillery is as beautiful as all of the pictures you see on Instagram. It is in a calm harbor in The Orkney Islands, just outside of Kirkwall. As the road winds around the harbor towards the distillery, you can’t miss the large Scapa logoed warehouse. You follow it for a few miles and eventually end up right where you want to be. Scapa is owned by Pernod Ricard/Chivas Brothers. You would think that there would be a huge rivalry between Highland Park/Edrington and Scapa/Chivas, but apparently it is quite cordial on the island!
Despite its neighbor’s history of using peat in every expression, Scapa doesn’t use any amount of peat. It is very light and fruity. This year was be the first time a peated expression was released. It is called Glansa and has been finished in a previously peated whisky aged barrel. I wasn’t able to try it on my visit, but I didn’t exactly care for the Glenlivet Nadurra, which was the same idea. The rest of their bottlings are branded in a clean, simple way and the most popular and widely distributed is the “Skiran” and it is a non-age statement.
Their mash tun still has its copper top and they run three waters through the mash cycle. There are eight stainless steel and steel washbacks and they were installed a few years ago to replace the wooden ones that had been in use since the 70’s. They still use dry distillers yeast, because they can hold a larger stock of it than the liquid. Being on the island and dependent on ferry’s/lorries making it to them in any weather, makes them have to hold stock of anything they can. They run an 80 hour fermentation period and apparently, according to my guide, they used to let the washbacks sit for up to 160 hours. In 2005 they were producing 300,000 liters per year and this year they are about to top out at 1.1 million liters per year. They needed to cut the bottleneck of the fermentation period and in 2014 they cut it in half due to increased demand. Scapa is infamous for their Lomond still. They are the only distillery in Scotland that still uses this style still for whisky production. Other distilleries have them (not many), but they are using it to make other spirits like gin or vodka. As explained in other posts, the Lomond still was supposed to be the “one stop shop” for malt whiskey and grain spirits. Apparently the Scapa distillery was once owned by the Lomond Still designer, so this would make sense that they were one of the first distilleries to install it. When it was found ineffective, they pulled the plates out and to this day use it as true pot still. The new make spirit is definitely representative of their tall and skinny lyne arm pot stills. It is very floral with fresh fruits.
All Scapa expressions are aged in American bourbon barrels., They only have three warehouses on site and the rest of the casks are held on the mainland for insurance reasons and those can be found in Keith. A tanker comes once a week and takes the new make spirit away for filling of the casks. I was able to try the Skiran and it was quite an easy dram. Here is my tasting note..
Skiran- Non- Age Statement
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Vanilla, citrus, honey and oranges
Palate: Honey, quite floral, lemons and basically lemonade.
Next up is something different—Crisp Maltings!...