Scapa is the little known ‘Other’ Orkney distillery. Shadowed by the more famous and world renowned ‘Highland Park’ distillery located not far away from it, it produces relatively sweet and unpeated single malts as opposed to many other ‘Island’ drams which are smoky,briny and more coastal.
SCAPA distillery takes it names from the nearby ‘Scapa Flow’ which is one of Britain’s most historic stretches of water – located within the Orkney Islands, off the northeast coast of Scotland. It’s sheltered waters have been used by ships since prehistory and it has played an important role in travel, trade and conflict throughout the centuries – especially during both World Wars.
The distillery was founded in 1885, Mothballed in 1994 and almost got closed in 2004, the same year it had undergone massive restoration and started distilling spirit again. After it’s re-opening in 2004, a new 14 year old expression was bottled replacing the old 12 year old. A couple of years ago, the official bottling of 14 year old Scapa was discontinued, and currently the Scapa core range consists of only a 16 year old expression.
I’ve bought the 14 year old bottle a couple of years ago, before the 16 year old bottling was available, and quite liked it as a honeyed / sweet treat. A few weeks ago i received a small sample of the 16 and then decided on putting them head to head and seeing how they compare. Here goes:
Scapa 14 , 40% ABV , (discontinued)
Nose : As can be expected from a Scapa : honey heather. We’re in for a sweet nose. Also some bakes apples, Caramel and Oak. Sweet but not too sweet. It gets sweet then kind of flat.
Palate : Melon, Spice and some Butterscotch. Lots of spice as it coats your palate.
Finish : Sweet malt , vanilla ice cream. Spices & Wood. Not very long, but quite nice.If you like your whisky sweet, you’re in for a treat.
Nose : Sweeter than its younger sibling (if this is possible!) . Fruity (this time apricots rather than baked apples) wood and some damp soil. yes, oaky dampness and a bit more ‘heavy’ feeling on the nose here.
Palate : Apricots are here as well and the spice is not missing either. A bit more spicier and caramelized.
Finish : Wee more bitter than the 14 , cocoa wood and sugar cane .
Summing it all up:
Those two Scapas are quite sweet on the nose and palate, with the 16 being sweeter on the nose, yet offers more oak and wet soil notes which make it more interesting and complex in my view. The 14’s nose is wonderfully sweet until you sniff the 16, and get a more ‘rounded’ sweetness, which you want to sniff on longer. It’s as if the 14 nose is less integrated and at some point gets a bit number where you wish you had more going on. It’s very hard for me to put this into words, but if you sniff both, you’ll surely understand what i am aiming for.
Palate-wise , Both offer a very sweet, creamy fruitier palate, but i do think i like the 16 better due to the appetizing apricot feeling.
As a whole both malts are very good, not excellent though. It’s not that i prefer older malts, but this time the 16 beat the 14 by one or two points. They are quite similar in many ways, yet not twins that were separated at birth and aged for two more years…
Scapa is not my daily dram, but when i am feeling like a sweet whisky, at the end of a good meal, and not reaching for sherry, there’s a good chance i’d pop open the 14 year old and have a wee dram, and enjoy the sweet things life has to offer us.
many thanks to MG , my friend from down under for the Scapa 16 sample.