Four Scapa Whiskies

Jonny checks out whiskies from Orkney's southernmost distillery
By Jonny McCormick
Scapa Distillery wants to be noticed. In April, a new visitor centre opened there, the first in its 130 year history. Master Distiller Brian MacAuley finally took down the 'Sorry No Visitors' sign that had warned off curious tourists who had to console themselves with a view of the white painted warehouses emblazoned with the distillery name. Now, you can see their unique barrel shaped Lomond still for yourself as well as taking in the stunning views over Scapa Flow.

J. T. Townsend built the distillery in 1885, and it was substantially rebuilt in 1959, though in the 1990s it fell virtually silent save for a token annual production undertaken by neighbouring Highland Park's production staff. It required a multimillion pound renovation a decade ago to return to regular distillation, beginning under Allied Domecq, and completed by current owners Pernod Ricard. There are now three dunnage and three racked warehouses and the current production output is about 400,000 litres.

The latest expression to try is Scapa Skiren, a NAS expression of sweet, juicy fruits matured exclusively in first fill American oak barrels, though avail yourself of the Ballantine's 17 Years Old Signature Distillery Scapa Limited Edition whilst you're at it. The modern style of Scapa is based on unpeated malt, and the soft, fruity character makes it ideal for those who prefer a rounded, Speyside character though seek out Gordon & MacPhail bottlings from 30 - 40 years ago to experience the briny, oily notes of old.


10 Years Old


Region: Islands
Recent auction price: £115
Auction: Scotch Whisky Auctions, Glasgow
Date: December 2014

Comment: This Taylor & Ferguson Ltd (a subsidiary of Hiram Walker & Sons) bottling of Scapa is attractively packaged and typically generates competitive bidding from collectors. Michael Jackson scored this 77 in the 4th edition of his Malt Whisky Companion, praising its nose of salt, chocolate, and delicious, soft peatiness.


14 Years Old Chivas Brothers Cask Strength Edition


Region: Islands
Recent auction price: £60
Auction: Tennants Auctioneers, Harrogate
Date: April 2015

Comment: These squat bottles cask strength expressions have given whisky enthusiasts a chance to explore the lesser-known distilleries in the Chivas Brothers fold. This first example bottled in 2006 was distilled in 1992, but there are other Scapa expressions in the series running through to the present day.


25 Years Old


Region: Islands
Recent auction price: £220
Auction: McTear's, Glasgow
Date: March 2015

Comment: Only 2,000 bottles were released of this 1980 vintage that had matured for a quarter of a century, the oldest official expression from the current owners. It remains readily obtainable at auction and in specialist whisky shops.


1960 Gordon & MacPhail


Region: Islands
Recent auction price: £320
Auction: Whisky-Online Auctions, Blackpool
Date: April 2015

Comment: Gordon & MacPhail have consistently supplied whisky drinkers with high quality independent bottlings of Scapa for many decades from their own fillings. Note the Viking imagery of the red and white striped longship sail on this vintage Scapa label.