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Scapa Distillery and the Great Fire of 1919
Scapa distillery was founded in 1885 in Kirkwall. It was named after Scapa Flow, a body of water surrounded by the Orkney Islands. The distillery stands half a mile south of Highland Park, the most northern distillery in Scotland. Scapa was built by Glasgow man John Townsend in order to supply spirit to the big blending houses of the time and this remained its primary function until its forced closure in 1994.
The ’90s closure wasn’t the first time Scapa distillery had almost come to an end. In 1919, a mysterious fire tore through the building, destroying everything in its path. The blaze was spotted by one of the Royal Navy ships stationed in the Flow, and boatloads of men were despatched landward. They formed a human chain to carry water from the beach to the burning distillery. Were it not for the quick reactions of the Royal Navy, it is likely Scapa would have been damaged beyond all repair and lost forever.
Fortunately, the distillery was saved from that fiery doom and in 2004, it was saved from closure again and relaunched as a 14-year-old single malt. The following year it was acquired by Pernod Ricard who introduced a new standard 16-year-old expression and created a visitor centre that opened to the public in 2015.
Scapa ‘Skiren’ is bottled at 40% and is available in the UK for around £30. Skiren is Old Norse for ‘Glittering Skies’.
Smell: Honey, vanilla cream and malt notes intermingle with apple and a touch of almond.
Taste: Spicy and woody. Some biscuit notes with nut and honey. Sadly the palate isn’t quite as vibrant as the nose.
Thoughts: It’s a rather sessionable whisky and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Certainly not a classic bottling, however.
For a no age statement whisky, bottled at 40% abv, it’s a pleasant enough sip. Perhaps lacks something of a unique distillery identity and falls just a little flat on the palate but having bought it on my way out to Malta for a weeks holiday, I enjoyed a few drams in the sunshine and it certainly wasn’t the worst experience I’ve ever had. Could be better, could be worse.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.