Scapa Distillery: Distillery Tour & Tasting Notes
I went to Scapa Distillery, and I came away unimpressed. I planned to write a nice little report about my visit, but really, there’s not enough material to write an exhaustive blog post about. Let alone illustrate it with pictures. The picture above is the only picture I have. You guessed it, they didn’t allow for any pictures to be taken. The tour was supposed to take 90 minutes. We finished in an hour.
What about the distillery then? Well, its most interesting feature are the remnants of an old Lomond still. I was surprised to hear it was used as the wash still (i.e. for the first distillation), but that was before I knew it was basically a skeleton. The rectifying plates you usually find in a Lomond still (which is what makes is so different), are no longer there. So in effect, what they call a Lomond still at Scapa, is basically an angular looking copper pot still.
The rest of the tour didn’t reveal a whole lot of interesting tidbits. I could list some statistics for you, but that doesn’t make for an interesting read, now does it? Plus, you might as well read about those here. Luckily, because I had booked The Scapa Experience, as opposed to the cheaper The Scapa Tour, I did get to taste a few interesting drams. Most notably, the Scapa new make, but also a whisky drawn straight from the cask, next to the standard Skiren and Glansa expressions.
I was driving, so I brought back samples of each, enabling me to write proper tasting notes of the four different drinks. I sadly forgot to ask for the batch numbers of both the Skiren and the Glansa, but I assume all batches are more or less in the same realm anyway.
Scapa New Make (63,5%, OB)
Nose: Luscious fruits, mainly apple, but some light citrus too, on a backdrop of malted barley and licorice.
Taste: Yes, oily and thick! Something that’s missing from both standard expressions below, as well as the cask sample. Fairly green (broccoli?), with a good amount of apple sauce. Adding a good amount of water reveals sweeter notes like honey, as well as tropical fruit, but there’s also a good amount of barley in here.
Finish: Lingering tropical fruit.
Nose: Cut, bruised apple parts at first. Also some honey, as well as hints crisp apple cider and lemon peel. It becomes quite farmy after a little while, with notes of barley and straw.
Taste: A hint of milk chocolate to start, before settling into a very malty territory, with just a hint of lemon, as well as some bitter oak and cloves.
Finish: Lingering oak-y bitterness, as well as a pinch of salt.
Nose: A light peatiness, which is to be expected from a peated cask finish. It goes hand in hand with a salty sea spray and some brine. A whisper of vanilla, accompanied by a good amount of ripe banana.
Taste: Fairly dry and quite peaty, with some soot and tar to boot. Notes of toasted oak, heather and a light touch of honey round everything out.
Finish: Subtle peat, drying.
Scapa 2004 Cask Sample (53,5%, OB, C#48)
Nose: From a first-fill bourbon cask, this is quite citrus-y. Mainly lemon yoghurt, with hints of vanilla, a whisper of juniper, and a fair amount of oak shavings too. Water brings out menthol notes.
Taste: Surprisingly, even at cask strength this is a fairly thin whisky. In terms of mouthfeel that is, because it is quite aggressive otherwise. Lots of chili pepper heat, accompanied by roasted peanut skin. Some light notes of lemon custard in the background. Tamed by adding water, this becomes friendlier, but the oak also becomes very dominant.
Finish: Pepper-y and oak-y. Medium in length.
While I didn’t rate the new make, it might be my favourite of the line-up. What does this tell me? Well, let’s just say there’s room for improvement if a new make is tastier than the finished product.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.