Remember when Pernod Ricard purchased The Whisky Exchange? It’s been something like 18 months ago and from an outsider’s perspective not much seems to have changed since. But finally we have some tangible proof of the deal: the new Scapa 2003 19 Years and Strathisla 2007 15 Years that were bottled exclusively for the online retailer.
Pernod Ricard owns both Scapa and Strathisla distilleries (among many others). Neither has a discernible single malt presence. If you’re a fan of either you’ve probably been relying on independent bottlers for your fix.
Maybe these releases indicate a change. Both are the first-ever shop exclusives from these distilleries, and rare cask strength releases to boot. They also both matured in first-fill American oak casks. Indeed, plural. These are not single casks.
Scapa 2003 19 Years (56.7%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, 2022)
Nose: Very much an ex-bourbon driven whisky. There’s some furniture polish, but it’s full of warm vanilla sauce, apfelstrudel and tinned pineapple. Also freshly cut apple parts, bright lemon zest, burlap, and a touch of fennel. Taste: Quite a bit of ginger, white pepper and chalk at first, but then switching gears to apricots, mead, icing sugar and pickled orange peel. Also a good amount of coconut shavings and a soft saline edge. Finish: Lingering spices, chalk and candied bananas, but also a whiff of lemon zest. Finally some mint. Medium length.
There’s an austerity here that reminds me of Old Pulteney, which if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I find a good thing. Scapa at its best.
Strathisla 2007 15 Years (60.3%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, 2022)
Nose: This is rather dense and somewhat shy. A thin veneer of acidity. Some rhubarb maybe. Also whispers of lime, candy hearts, soft minerals and a whiff of lemon pith. Finally some vanilla pods and green bananas. Taste: Much like the Scapa, the ex-bourbon influence is apparent. Not the most polished arrival. Slightly raw and with some bitter touches. But I must say I’m not put off by it at all. Vanilla sauce, sugared breakfast cereals and coconut shavings. Some stewed apples and pear skin, with a touch of shortbread. Finish: Medium to long. Oak, spices. Or oak spices, you could say. Sweet orchard fruits appear after a little while.
Not an easy whisky, but it takes water well and I enjoy how bourbon-forward it is. Some rougher edges are balanced out by sweetness and gentle fruits.
Both very fine whiskies, but the Scapa is clearly the standout. And also clearly the most expensive. I hate that we’re now in a place where a 19-year-old Scapa is sold for 225 quid, but that’s not anything I can control. The Strathisla is more affordable but also far from cheap.
I would say I’m super curious to see what else the partnership between Pernod Ricard and The Whisky Exchange has in store for us. But my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by this initial pricing strategy.