On the windswept, far-flung Orkney Islands, perched atop the Scottish mainland, a mere half-mile separates Scapa from the Highland Park Distillery. That distance may afford Highland Park bragging rights as the most northerly whisky maker in the land, but the modest tract of real estate hardly ruffles the hearty islander spirit of those who produce Scapa’s single malts. Their point of pride, you see, rests solely on the distinctions of having a unique taste and a reputation that continues to stretch far beyond their borders.
The distillery was launched in 1885 and, as is custom with many small operations, its fortunes ebbed and flowed over time, even to the point of being shuttered from 1994 to 2004. But for the past 13 years, Scapa steadily re-established its operation and expanded its reach into the world of Scotch lovers. It remains one of the only remaining manually operated distilleries, which calls for a round-the-clock team of artisans to attend to its two barrel-shaped Lomond wash stills. With their characteristic wide, tall necks, they are the last of their kind.
That individuality comes through in the two noted single malts this distillery produces: Scapa Skiren and Scapa Glansa. They are a study in subtle contrasts. For one, Scapa Skiren reveals a deliciously honeyed profile, which defies the typical peaty character that tends to accompany many other island whiskies. In fact, even though the water at source is peaty by nature, it’s transported by pipelines to limit exposure to more peat. Skiren delivers notes of tropical fruit and citrus, and a hint of heather. The palate is creamy, with soft pear hanging on a sustained finish.
Glansa, a more recent release destined to intrigue both enthusiasts and those new to whisky, shows a faint smokiness after aging in American oak and finishing in ex-peated whisky casks. Its light fruit and creaminess suggest notes of peach, vanilla and caramel.
Thankfully, you don’t have to venture to Scotland to get your hands on these exceptional single malts — just head to your nearby Whisky Shop.
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