Age: No age statement
Mention Orkney, and to many whisky drinkers Highland Park will come to mind. But that’s doing a disservice to Highland Park’s southern neighbour Scapa. Because the lack of attention for Scapa has nothing to do with the quality of their whiskies, it’s a matter of availability more than anything. With an annual capacity of just 1 million litres and the distillery having been mothballed until as recently as 2005, Scapa will need some time to replenish its stocks. The fact that all of Scapa’s spirit is now bottled as malt whisky will help, but even so, the shift to NAS whiskies has been inescapable. In 2015, Skiren was the first entry to Scapa’s brand new range, followed quickly by Scapa Glansa. Old Norse for glittering, bright skies, Skiren is unpeated and matured exclusively in first fill American oak casks. The result is a soft Island whisky that gives many Speyside distilleries a run for their money. Gorgeously packaged, Scapa Skiren is as good a gift as it is a temptation to keep it all to yourself. Time to enjoy this oft-overlooked Orcadian!
Colour: Shimmering gold
Nose: Drifts from the glass like a crisp sea breeze, carrying sweet, fruity perfumes in its wake. There’s a certain warmth to the aromas, with notes of freshly baked apple crumble, cinnamon and orange peel. This gives way to vanilla custard, lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar, as Skiren shows off its creamier side. On the nose, this Scapa seems to hold the midst between a fruit market and a cake shop. Quite compelling!
Palate: Delicately smooth, with the unmistakable influence of American oak. There is plenty of vanilla, intricately woven with flavours of toffee and milk chocolate. The fruity flavours are still out in force, but suffused with soft barley notes, like a fruit salad sprinkled with granola. Add a pinch of salt too, this is an Island whisky after all. As fresh and summery as this dram is, towards the finish it becomes more autumnal, ending with a touch of heather.
Finish: On the short side, with flavours of winter spices and demerara sugar.
Verdict: Scapa Skiren is an easy drinking dram that’s sure to make many friends. Soft yet stimulating, it provides a bouquet of warm, mellow flavours. If you’re into Speyside whiskies, you’re sure to like Scapa Skiren. It also bears a resemblance to some of the whiskies from Arran distillery, which is a real compliment in my book. Of the current Scapa line-up, I personally prefer Scapa Glansa, but then I’m a sucker for smoky whiskies. Glansa is somewhat fuller, with a more rewarding finish. Skiren on the other hand displays a freshness that probably capitalises better on Scapa’s fruity distillery character.
Many still bemoan the loss of the mighty Scapa 16 year old, but hey, we live in the NAS day and age. With this in mind, Scapa have put down an appealing range of whiskies, with the softer Skiren a shining example of what Scapa is capable of. While dark storm clouds gathering over the distillery might make for good marketing, I’m sure Scapa has a bright future ahead of it.