Around this time of year every year, I get a lot of questions from friends and colleagues about Scotch ideas for the holidays. For some very wrong reasons, Scotch has much more holiday allure than other whiskeys. But, I figured that since I have not done much with Scotch reviews in a while, I will be spending the month of November reviewing some affordable Scotch whiskeys. To kick off Scotchvember at Bargain Bourbon, I am doing a review of Scapa 16 yr., a single malt Scotch whisky from the Isle of Orkney off the north coast of Scotland.
Orkney is most known in the whisky world for Highland Park, and for good reason; Highland Park is a beautiful single malt. That said, Scapa is a wonderful distillery with a much different profile from that of its Orcadian neighbors at Highland Park. The standard offering from Scapa is their 16 year-old, an old offering for a standard entry bottling. One of the most unique aspects of Scapa distilling process is that they usually slow down their fermentation process (sometimes taking up to a week to ferment), which elicits a fruity backbone to the finished spirit. The waxy characteristics of Scapa are also aided by a “Lomond” wash still, which produces a heavy, oily low wine before being transferred to more traditional copper pot still. The Lomond still allows for a lot of reflux, holding heavier vapors in the still for longer periods of time before condensation. The end result is dense, waxy mouth feel in the finished product. Scapa 16 yr. is aged in refill bourbon casks for a minimum of 14 years before being transferred over to first-fill bourbon casks for at least two years before being bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).
On the nose, Scapa is sweet, with a lot of honey and vanilla notes. There are also some notes of barley and heavy whipping cream mixed in. The palate is very distinct, with its buttery mouth feel. There are a lot of sweet notes here as well, with caramel, honey, vanilla, and fresh oak. The finish is medium, and exposes some oak spiciness along with the sweetness of the caramel and vanilla. The whisky really coats the throat well, and goes down buttery smooth. I hate when people say that a whisky is smooth, but this one is very much that on the finish.
Overall, I really enjoyed this malt. Scapa’s sweet flavors and distinct mouth feel tend to get mixed reviews, but it all worked well for me. I think this is a great dram to have on the shelf for the holidays because of its flexibility across different palates. I think Lagavulin 16 yr. might be a better whisky, but Lagavulin certainly is not for everyone. I think most of the folks at your holiday parties will enjoy Scapa, but you know your guests better than I do. My grade: B+. Price: $70-80/750ml. The price point is very affordable, considering its age, making it a great whisky to let it ride with if you’ve been looking for a Scotch to delve into this holiday season.