By Richard Thomas
Named for Scotland’s famous Scapa Flow that served as Britain’s major naval base through two world wars, Scapa Distillery arguably stands as the most remote in a country known for remote places. Highland Park might be half a mile more northerly than Scapa, but it lies in Kirkwall, the largest town in the Orkneys. Scapa is out in the green hills, overlooking its namesake body of water.
Scapa has seen many changes and adjustments since it was reopened roughly a decade ago, and with the distillery opening for tourism earlier this year its parent company, Chivas Brothers, is clearly positioning it for bigger and better things, which gives us Scapa’s newest no age statement (NAS) expression, Skiren, due out in September.
Behind the modern styling and nautical flair of the packaging is a 40% abv single malt, drawn from first-fill bourbon casks. That last point is one of the things that marks out Scapa: everything they do goes into a first-fill, ex-bourbon barrrel.
The rich, gold-colored whisky yields a fruity scent that smacked of pineapple. One might expect something a bit more in the sea spray vein from an island-made whisky, especially one like this one where the distillery can literally expect to be washed with spray on an especially stormy day, but instead the nose is predominately tropical, with a trace of leathery wood.
On the palate, the fruity nature evolves into pear nectar mixed with pineapple juice, seasoned with vanilla, sarsaparilla and a pinch of ginger, underlaid by traces of wood. The finish is moderate and only a touch spicy, but takes its time winding down.
Scotch fans looking for a whisky in the fruity vein usually turn to Speyside. With Skiren, I recommend they take a look at the Orkneys and Scapa as well. Although the distillery’s whiskies have a maritime reputation, Skiren is a single malt with an altogether different character, one that is complex yet imminently approachable.
Scapa Skiren will retail at a recommended $65.