Tag Archives: Scapa

Scapa ‘Glansa’ Batch GL01

Bought: Auriol Wines, 11th August 2017

80.26/100 – Whiskybase (average from 33 member votes)

Scapa distillery say about the Glansa on the box and bottle, “taking our signature smooth fruity single malt, which is aged in American oak, this expression is then rested in peated casks creating richness and depth, with notes of warm, heather-honey and soft fruits giving way to a subtle smoky finish.” They also include that it’s batch GL01 and bottled in August 2016. Over a year later and there hasn’t been a new batch, unlike the Skiren released in 2015, which is now on batch 8. It looks like the Glansa is a bit of a one-off.

I saw one comment online suggesting that finishing the Glansa in peated casks (probably from Islay) was a bit of a cheat. This was a weird remark because cask finishing has been common practice for a long time and there are many examples of excellent whisky finished in peated casks. The comment also misses the point – this is a rare release from a fantastic distillery that is trying something different. Those that know the Scapa signature will also know that adding peat should harmonise well. And for Scapa fans it’s a good sign that the distillery is still alive and not close to closing down as it has done in the recent past.

Comments online include “a nice balance between the sweetness of fruit and the smoke/peat”, “delicious stuff, better than many a standard” and “better than Skiren”. The scores back up the last comment where the Skiren comes in at 79.86/100 on Whiskybase, fractionally below the Glansa. Not that there’s much in it but it sounds like the Glansa is a good addition to the history of the Scapa distillery. Long may it continue!

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Fruity sweet notes of soft peach, pineapple, vanilla intermingled with subtle bonfire smoke.
Palate: Peach and ripe flavours and creamy caramel toffee and vanilla balanced perfectly with soft smoke.
Finish: Very long with a markedly smoky finish.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Scapa Glansa (Dec 2016):

Scapa ‘Skiren’ Batch SK01

Bought: Auriol Wines, 12th February 2016

89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
80.1/100 – Whiskybase (from 46 member votes)

“This new Scapa 14yo is not a patch on the old 12yo!”
…{years pass by}…
“This new Scapa 16yo is not as good as the old 14yo, which was excellent!”
…{more years pass by}…
“This new Skiren is not as good as the amazing Scapa 16yo, which I always said was great and the best thing since sliced bread.”

Life is full of memories were we look back through rose-tinted spectacles and no more so than in the world of whisky. Scapa feels like it’s had more than its fair share. New releases are often belittled only to be heralded as great when the next replacement arrives. Was childhood really the best years of our lives? Is the Skiren really that bad? You might think so from comments on Whiskybase such as “I used a spittoon” and “very artificial”.

Here are how the scores compare on Whiskybase for the last 4 main Scapa distillery releases:

  • 80.1/100 – Skiren
  • 83/100 – 16-year-old
  • 81.6/100 – 14-year-old
  • 84.8/100 – 12-year-old

It doesn’t look good for the poor Skiren but overall I wouldn’t say 80.1/100 was that bad a mark. Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible 2017 scores the Skiren 89.5/100 which classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. This is a better score than he gives for the 12yo, 14yo and 16yo. He says of the taste “major malt which steps on the salivation pedal almost immediately; the tannins are layered, offering some ice cream, including cone.” He concludes with a message to Scapa “chaps who created this: lovely, you really have to power this up a bit.” 46% please!

In the video review below, Horst Luening likes the nose and taste of the Skiren but considers it too expensive for a non-aged statement. I would agree but Scapa might argue that, since it’s their only official bottling, its uniqueness is worth paying for. They’ve certainly put all their eggs in one basket and I hope it works for them because I wouldn’t want the distillery to close down.

Scapa Skiren NAS 70cl

Scapa 1980 25-year-old – 500th blog post!

Bought: Whisky Please, 10th December 2015

89.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 17 member votes)
88/100 – Malt Maniacs (from 2 maniac votes)

It’s purely by chance that my 500th blog post is about one of the best whiskies in my collection. As much as I love Highland Park I have a soft spot for their Orkney neighbour Scapa. Whiskybase list 203 distillery releases from Highland Park but only 16 from Scapa, such is the rarity of direct bottlings. Of the 16 bottles the 25yo gets the best rating with an amazing 89.4/100.

Only 2000 bottles of this Scapa 25yo were released in 2005 but you can still see them popping up in auctions and shops quite regularly. Here is how the 25yo compares against other familiar Scapa releases on Whiskybase:

  • 89.4/100 – Scapa 25-year-old
  • 82.63/100 – Scapa 16-year-old ‘The Orcadian’
  • 81.58/100 – Scapa 14-year-old
  • 81.14/100 – Scapa 12-year-old
  • 79.14/100 – Scapa ‘Skiren’

Talk about being ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest! A member of Whiskybase describes the 25yo’s taste as “spicy and malty aroma, cinnamon, pepper, oat porridge, vanilla, red apples, lemon, floral honey, tea and dry hay. Marzipan sweet taste, eucalyptus, pepper, malt, vanilla and walnuts. Medium long and malty end.” Another member summarises with “this is an absolute powerful Scapa with the knowing sweet and malty notes and even the sea breeze in the background. A complex and powerful experience and you might be sure, close your eyes, take a sip and you’ll be on Orkney.”

Scapa 1980 25yo 70cl

Scapa 14-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 5th June 2015

88/100 – Whisky Bible 2009
89/100 – Ralfy – His YouTube Review (March 2013)
81.03/100 – Whiskybase (average from 35 member votes)

I was surprised and delighted to find a video review by Ralfy of the Scapa 14, and 89/100 is an amazingly high mark from him. Compared to the 12yo and 16yo he says the 14yo is his favourite but he admits that it’s more challenging than the 12yo with some sour, bitter notes and a more old-fashioned taste. But if you pour a glass and let it settle, it’s well worth the experience.

The now discontinued 14yo (replaced by the 16yo which has also been discontinued) was a new entry in the Whisky Bible in 2009. Scoring 88/100 it has the same mark as the 12yo, classing it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. Jim Murray, the bible author, says of the taste “fresh barley for its age, a few bands of light oak, but some fruit notes towards the drying middle.” He concludes with “usually, this is one of the true great malts of the Chivas empire and a classic islander.”

One thing Jim Murray and Ralfy agree on is the variation of whisky from bottling to bottling of the 14yo but Ralfy felt the standard was always kept high. Saying that, 81/100 on Whiskybase is quite an average mark. Malt Maniacs give the 2005+ version of the 14yo 81/100 and the 2007+ version 79/100, which is again quite so-so. As a long-time lover of the 12yo I’ll be interested to see what I think of the 14yo. It sounds intriguing!

Scapa 14yo 100cl

Scapa 8-year-old 70 Proof (1980s G&M)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 20th May 2015

83.8/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)

With the Scapa 16yo being discontinued this year and replaced by a younger NAS (non-aged statement bottling) it’s nice to know that the distillery used to produce quality at a younger age. This 8yo miniature could be from the late 1970s but, chances are, it’s from the 1980s. The very basic label is a far cry from the sophisticated packaging we see on whiskies today. Having ‘SCAPA’ in red ink – wow! It must have been like getting a Sinclair ZX Spectrum after using the black & white ZX81.

Although 83.8/100 on Whiskybase seems better than average, both members who write reviews seem underwhelmed by the taste. The nose suggests promising things to come only for the flavour to be “thin”, “innocuous” and lacking body. I will certainly be returning to these tasting notes when I get a chance to try it. It doesn’t sound like a whisky where anyone would want to hunt down a full bottle but there seem to be plenty of miniatures out there if you fancy this old Scapa experience.

Scapa 70 Proof 8yo 5cl

Scapa 8-year-old (G&M)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 20th May 2015

79.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

The auction website I use for buying miniatures has the same postage for 1 bottle as it has for 20. It therefore makes sense to get as close to 20 bottles as possible to spread out the delivery charge, which is about £14. If the auction ends and all you’ve won are 2 bottles for £10, having to pay £14 postage adds an extra £7 to each bottle. I’ve been stung by this before so I always have back-up bottles to bid on towards the end of an auction. This explains why I bought 3 bottles of this Scapa. It’s a distillery I love, and having 3 bottles means I can drink 2 and still have 1 in my collection!

Scoring nearly 80/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable score. A reviewer, Feusi, summaries this whisky with “caramel and vanilla on the nose, honey-sweet with a touch of smoke and sea. Yesterday and today, a dram from Scapa is always worth the time.” I couldn’t agree more!

Scapa 8yo 5cl

Scapa 12-year-old

Bought: Whisky Auction, 8th May 2015

88/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
84.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 14 member votes)

In recent years when I go back home to Scotland, I always make a point of having a dram from the family bottle of Scapa 12yo. As the liquid level dwindles away, it made sense that I should acquire my own bottle. Having been replaced by the 14yo ten years ago in 2005, the best place to purchase the 12yo was at an auction. I was delighted to secure a 1 litre bottle, which I assume was made for airports and duty free as it’s an unusual size for supermarkets and off licenses.

In the Whisky Bible 2015 the review of the 12yo has been reduced to just 3 words – “always a joy” but, back in 2009, the author had a lot more to say about one of my favourite whiskies. Jim Murray describes the taste as “truly brilliant mouth arrival: the most complex delivery of malt and cocoa; the fruit is ripe figs with a thread of honey” and the finish is summarised with “a slight bitterness with some developing toffee, but the malt stays the distance”. 88/100 classifies the Scapa 12yo as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”.

I see that Whiskybase mention ‘The Whisky Exchange’ were selling a bottle for £175 but it has now sold out. There are no shortage of old bottles appearing at auction with winning bids ranging between £40-£60.

Scapa 12yo 100cl

Scapa ‘the’ Orcadian 16-year-old

Bought: Drink Supermarket, 4th December 2014

81/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 65 member votes)

Last year I went home to my parents in Aberdeen, Scotland and cracked open a bottle of the famous, and dearly departed Scapa 12-year-old. It was as fantastic as I remembered from previous tastings. Each year from now on I’ll make a point to have a glass during a visit. Since nobody else in the family is that interested, it could take me 10 years before I finish the bottle. I wonder how much another one will be at auction by then? Some people say that it will be oxidised and horrible after 10 years but I’ve never found this with old, open bottles of whisky. My dear old uncle Hamish, sadly no longer with us, said to give a bottle a shake to mix the top layer in with the rest, and it’s as good as new. If you don’t, you might detect a slight bitterness from the oxidation from the surface layer.

I’ve said in previous posts about being reluctant to get the Scapa 16yo because a) it doesn’t score well enough in reviews, even if it’s supposedly won awards and b) it’s overpriced for what it is. If it hadn’t been for a Black Friday discount allowing me to get the Scapa 16yo for under £40, I still wouldn’t have it today. But I might be doing this whisky an injustice. Jim Murray’s mark in his Whisky Bible 2015 is rather confusing because he gives a different score for a bottle marked ‘the’ Orcadian (which mine is) but says it’s only for the Swedish market. At 87.5/100 it sounds a lot better than the 81/100 he gives to the ordinary 16yo. Perhaps the Scapa distillery realised the whole world deserved the good stuff and not just their Scandinavian ancestors.

I still have hope that one day we’ll see a return of the Scapa 12yo to battle it out with other 12-year-olds from the likes of Highland Park, Glenlivet and Glenmorangie, because the distillery has a lot to offer on a wider world scale. As for this 16yo, I will have to take a sample up to Aberdeen and compare it against its former younger brother. I have a feeling I wont be disappointed with the new 16yo.

Here’s Andy of ‘Single Malt Maniac’ with his review on You Tube (June 2013):

Scapa 16yo 70cl


Scapa 20-year-old Cask Strength Edition

Bought – Whisky Exchange, 23rd March 2014

86.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 26 member votes)

I confess, I’m a sucker for Scapa, and for cask strength, so when I spotted this new offering from Chivas Brothers I had to get it. 86.5/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score with a comment of “a delicious and very enjoyable dram. The nose is really charming like you open a fresh Toppy Frutty mix fruit candy box.”

This 20yo was distilled in 1993 and bottled in 2013 at the full cask strength of 58.6%. What I’ve discovered with high alcohol whisky wasn’t what I expected. I thought it would need more water than a standard 40% to tame the fire but it doesn’t. The higher alcohol content seems to extend the finish rather than increase the burn. But adding water is a personal thing, and can vary from whisky to whisky even when they have the same percentage. Just a case of sup-it-and-see!

This Scapa is part of the distillery owner’s (Chivas Brothers) ‘Cask Strength Edition’ which also includes similar 50cl bottles for Strathisla (19yo), Glenlivet (17yo), Longmorn (18yo) and Strathclyde Single Grain (12yo) to name another 4. They’ve rather cunningly reduced the bottle size down from 70cl to 50cl to sell around the more wallet-friendly £45 mark. Doing some research on Malt Maniacs, I see that Chivas Brothers have been periodically doing this for at least 10 years under the release name of “Cask Strength Edition”. Definitely bottles to watch out for but I can’t help feeling a little cheated that it’s not 70cl. Part of me would rather pay another £10 and get a full bottle than lose out on 20cl. You just know that Chivas Brothers are packaging it this way for their benefit, not the buyer’s.

Scapa 20yo 50cl

Scapa 1988

Bought – Online Whisky Auction, 22nd December 2013

This is my 3rd bottle of Scapa in my collection and every one has been bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. As much as I’ve enjoyed Scapa in the past, I think it will be many years before I purchase an official bottling from the Scapa distillery. They are simply too expensive for what they produce. The entry-level option from Scapa is their 16-year-old which, when adding postage, would be over £50. Then you consider that Jim Murray says of this malt “to be so tamed and toothless is a crime against a truly great whisky” in his 2014 Whisky Bible. It’s a shame Scapa don’t take a leaf from the book of their Orkney neighbours Highland Park, who have a 12-year-old bottling that can sometimes be found in supermarkets for £25 – half the price of their 16yo! Admittedly Jim Murray isn’t impressed with this Highland Park either but with the £25 you save from not getting the Scapa you could put it towards an excellent malt like the Talisker 10yo!

I remember years ago that the Scapa 12yo was excellent, and I believe the 14yo was good too. It’s such a shame that standards have slipped with the 16yo, especially for a distillery that was mothballed in 1994 and was set for closure in 2004. Instead it reopened that year and the 14yo release was a great success. I fear that adding an extra 2 years (making the whisky more expensive) but losing the quality is a dangerous step in the wrong direction for Scapa.

Scapa 1988 5cl