Review: Scapa, 2001 Gordon & MacPhail

Scapa, 13yo 2001 Gordon & MacPhail

Scapa is very much the second son of Orkney, overshadowed by the much-admired (but also slightly overdoing it with the endless special editions…) Highland Park. It’s had a rougher ride too, and when this whisky was distilled in 2001 it was by a team from Highland Park who were coming in for just a few weeks per year to keep the mothballed distillery ticking over.

It seems to have a lot of fans though, and I still get emails from people asking if I know where they can get hold of a bottle of the discontinued 16-year-old. For the record: I don’t! And I have to admit I don’t understand the attraction: it always seemed pleasant but uninteresting to me, and I haven’t felt compelled to try the newer no-age-statement releases. This, then, is only the second Scapa I’ve tried, and hopefully I’ll find it more entertaining.

Nose: OK, if I was going into this blind I might have said it was Glenmorangie on first impression. It’s really close to their TùsailIt’s fresh, slightly floral and very sweet, with apples, pears (tinned), pineapple and even a hint of bubblegum. A fair bit of barley too, some green sap, and a smidge of ginger. After a while you can start to pick out a certain coastal / mineral quality – a soupçon of pebble beach, if you will. (You probably, wisely, won’t).
Taste: Really quite zesty! Everything from the nose is there, but with the emphasis on the tarter side: lemon barley water, candied lemon, green apple peel, a little pepper. There’s a darker and sweeter note there too, a bit like chestnut honey.
Finish: Chocolate! Very creamy white chocolate to be precise, with little spikes of acidity still popping through. I had a white chocolate truffle with bit of freeze-dried raspberry once and, basically, it’s that. The aftertaste isn’t long, but is all on that cream and vanilla, with maybe just the teeniest bit of salt knocking around.

Well, from the nose I was all set to go with my nice-but-dull Scapa prejudice, but it gets more interesting. It’s still not a big or complex whisky, but still manages to take you on a little journey from tangy citrus to white chocolate that’s quite worthwhile and fun. I was also expecting to complain about it only being at 43%  but, you know, actually it’s fine.

So, I still don’t think I would rush out to seek Scapa, but this is light, approachable, refreshingly tart for the summer and – yes! – not boring.

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