Age: No age statement
Things have been pretty quiet around Orkney’s lesser known distillery for the past decade. Scapa’s 12 year old standard expression was changed to a 14 year old version (much to the dismay of Scapa’s loyal fan base) and more recently upgraded to a 16 year old bottling (much to the dismay of Scapa’s loyal fan base), but not much else was happening on the marketing front. Until recently, when owner Pernod Ricard decided to shake things up by introducing a new range. The 16 year old was discontinued (presumably to the dismay of Scapa’s remaining fans?), to be replaced by Scapa Skiren, a smooth, honeyed dram aged in first-fill bourbon casks. But Skiren now has some company, with the launch of its peaty brother, Scapa Glansa. While the barley used for Glansa’s spirit remains unpeated, it has been finisheded in casks that used to hold peaty whisky, giving Glansa a subtle smokiness.
While some people really dislike the notion of “second hand peat”, I have no particular beef with it. These days whiskies are aged in all sorts of different casks, from the weird to the wonderful. If distillers get to use casks that previously held rum, Sauternes or cloudberry wine, why not one that previously held whisky? In fact, this is common practise, as refill barrels are used everywhere, only this one just happens to have held peaty whisky before. It’s transparent, and the consumer knows what to expect. If you’d rather drink a properly peaty whisky, there are enough great Islay drams on offer 🙂
As an added bonus, Scapa Glansa comes in some very stylish packaging, making it a nice gift for friends or family. It’s certainly an interesting offering from a distillery that’s traditionally been a bit cautious, and I’m looking forward to seeing if there will be any additions to the core range in the near future.
Nose: Exceptionally fruity, like an orchard in full bloom. Lush aromas of ripe apples and peach suffuse into scents of barley, much like a fruity muesli bar. Underneath lurks a layer of oaky complexity, as well as a tinge of salt. This gives way to vanilla custard and a sort of floral cigar smoke. The nose is friendly but not flat, displaying quite some character and enticing you to take a first sip.
Palate: Medium bodied, with a sweetness that carries over from the nose. The flavour of breakfast cereal recedes into honey glazed ham, with a small kick of peat at the back of the palate. After notes of steamed mackerel, a spicier character unfolds, with black pepper and cloves coming to the fore. Then the fruity notes return, reminding me of the gummy bears I used to eat as a child.
Finish: Medium in length. The peat is given more room to develop, but never truly breaks through. The typical Scapa sweetness reaches a crescendo, before a burst of spices comes rushing in. The aftertaste is rather flavourful, and is somehow best described as charred fruit…
Verdict: The more I drink this whisky, the more enjoyable it becomes. And what’s not to like? In many ways, Glansa is a typical Scapa offering: fresh and fruity, with plenty of complexity and more than a hint of the sea. But for a whisky that’s usually unpeated, the extra finish in peated casks is an interesting touch. Don’t expect Islay levels of peat here, that’s simply not the point of this dram. Instead, the subtle smoke complements the Scapa distillery character wonderfully well, enriching the whisky without ever overpowering it. Scapa Glansa is a remarkably pleasant dram that’s dangerously easy to drink. The only thing holding this whisky back is the fairly hefty price tag, but if you have the chance, I do recommend you give this dram a try.