Scapa 16 Year Old

After an utterly mad week at work last week, I managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Scotch at The Balmoral for a couple of drams last Friday evening.  Scotch has a fantastic selection of whiskies – over 400 different bottlings, to be semi-precise – and even a whisky geek like me can get a little overwhelmed at times.  So I left the choice in the hands of my drinking buddy, who selected the Scapa 16 Year Old.  And all I can say is thanks Gillian!

Scapa is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland and dates back to 1885.  Located on Orkney, it is the second most northerly distillery in Scotland, only pipped to the post by its more famous neighbour, Highland Park.  Today, the distillery boasts one of Scotland’s only Lomond Stills – a type of pot still with adjustable plates in the neck, which can be shifted to help create different styles of whisky.  However, the plates have now been removed and it is now used as a normal wash still, with most of the distillery’s output going into Ballantine’s blend.  Hopefully owners Pernod Ricard will have the confidence to release further single malt expressions in the future though, as the 16 Year Old is a cracking dram.

The bottling had a difficult introduction to the whisky market in 2009, as it replaced a short-lived 14 Year Old, which had itself replaced the much-loved 12 Year Old.  It’s less peaty than most island whiskies, as its barley isn’t malted over a peat smoke fire.  This makes it quite a light whisky but the nose is still very rich, with toffee and butterscotch notes, alongside dried fruits and orange.  The sweet notes continue onto the palate, as the smooth liquid races across it, followed by a hint of delicate spice.  The finish is gentle and dry, with only a slight undercurrent of smoke.  I’ll be honest and say I probably enjoyed this as it reminds me of my dear old Oban 14 Year Old.  It’s still a cracking dram in its own right though, so be sure to give it a try if you spy a bottle over the festive period.