Scapa is one of those distilleries which is difficult to develop a deep affection for. Sure, it’s not the only distillery to offer either a very limited or even an almost non-existant core range, but it’s the lack of availability from independent bottlers which lessens its impact on the single malt scene. You’ll see many more reviews and talk on social media of Teaninich, Dailuaine, Linkwood or Glentauchers, thanks to their owners’ willingness to allow the independents bottle it.
The core range from Scapa is a problem too. It is currently limited to just two non-age statement offerings. There is the Glansa, which is finished in casks which previously held peated whisky, and the Skiren, which is unpeated, and the whisky I am looking at today. Although i’m sure both will have their fans, they don’t get much attention amongst enthusiast circles, due to the aforementioned lack of an age statement, 40% bottling strength and a price tag which doesn’t make it look like a value prospect. They currently retail at a fraction over £40. Competing against age stated 46%+ offerings from Arran, Glencadam, Ardbeg, Tobermory, Deanston, Loch Lomond, Bunnahabhain, Glen Garioch etc. it’s a tough old sell.
Scapa 16 was lauded by many and that was 40% also, so the strength doesn’t automatically make it a bad whisky, and it’s important to keep an open mind. The 16 was brought out in 2008 to replace a rather short lived 14 year old expression, but it was discontinued in 2015, and with it went the last of the age statements in the core range. With the distillery largely mothballed for more than a decade from 1994 onwards, apart from patchy production from staff at Highland Park, it is likely those aged stocks became depleted, and although in theory they should be able to bring out decent age statements again now, there doesn’t seem to be a desire to do so. There is a pretty extensive distillery labels range available from their website, but with prices starting from £75 for a 10 year old in a 50cl bottle, they don’t offer great value either, despite them being cask strength and a likely better representation of what the distillery is capable of. I must admit that despite the price, I am curious to try a couple of these.
Speaking of Highland Park, Scapa is the reason there can be so much ‘Secret’ or ‘Unnamed’ Orkney on the market with at least the slightest element of doubt as to where it was made. Although we can be pretty certain it will be Highland Park, we have seen a handful of independent releases of Scapa from Gordon and Macphail and Douglas Laing, but they are rather rare.
Honestly speaking I had very little interest in this whisky, and wouldn’t have picked up a bottle at retail, but when a friend who works in a supermarket alerted me to a clearance price of £14 a bottle, I had to grab one. It is matured in 100% first-fill American Oak casks, and although it doesn’t explicitly say so, i’d imagine that means all ex-bourbon. The label suggests notes of smooth creamy sweetness, with a hint of tropical fruit, citrus and coastal heather. All sounds pretty good to me. It has a batch number of SK19, which I am not sure exactly what it refers to. It can’t have been distilled in 2019, as this was purchased in 2021 and has a date printed on the back label of 24th September 2020. However, its nice that they appear to be embracing batch variation in their core range, which is rare to see at this price point.
Scapa Skiren Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Review
Nose : An interplay initially between sweet lemon and orchard fruit – mostly the apple. We then start to get some tropical fruit coming through, with pineapple cubes and a little sharp grapefruit, along with light vanilla, toffee and a little farmyard note. That all sounds great on paper, but its rather light and muted rather than jumping out of the glass with any conviction. However, its still a pleasant nose.
Palate : Sweet and sour sensations on the palate, with more of the apple and barley sugar providing the sweet, and some lime juice bringing in a sour note. We also get vanilla and oak spice. As it develops it gets creamier, but it also gets more oaked too, and its a little too assertive for me.
Conclusions : This is a pleasant enough experience on both nose and palate, with particular praise for the nose. However, its just a little too simple and muted. It goes back to the old line of, “Imagine what this could be at 46%, non-chill filtered and natural colour”. There’s enough there to suggest this could be much better than it is.
The price is a problem also. It retails at just over £40, and that’s just too much for what it is. I will happily continue sipping this Scapa, but I won’t be returning for another bottle until the distillery starts giving us a bit more for our money.
Score : 5/10 Average
(Score descriptions can be found in the About page)
Three Word Review : Fruity. Sweet. Sour.
Related review : Scapa 1985 Gordon and MacPhail
ABV : 40%
Non-chill filtered : No
Natural Colour : No
Maturation : 1st-Fill American Oak Casks
Region : Highland
Colour : E150a