Single Malt Scotch Whisky
St. Ola, Kirkwall
Orkney, KW15 1SE Scotland
Tel: +44 (0)1856 872071
Viewer's Comments about Scapa
Single Malt Scotch Whisky from the remote Orkney Isles,
is well known for its unique heather and honey flavour -
in contrast to the normally robust island malts from other
parts of Scotland. This very special, small distillery,
with only 2 Stills, and has been through a careful rebuilding
program to restore it to full time production once again.
Without this it would fall silent forever.
A Legend Reborn: To any single malt lover the closure
of any distillery is a tragedy. A unique expression of this
most wonderful of all spirits is lost forever as no single
malt can ever be ‘re-developed’ elsewhere. Such
are the complex mysteries of distilling intertwined with
each distilleries unique location.
Indeed few locations we believe are quite as magical as
the Orkney Isles. An archipelago of 70 islands, Scapa is
located on what is called the Orkney Mainland - despite
being one of the islands, it is named as such as it is the
biggest of all. Although remote, lying to the North of mainland
Scotland, the Orkney Isles have a particularly rich and
intriguing history, dating back to at least 5,000 BC.
The Vikings arrived in Shetland and the Orkneys in the
8th and 9th centuries and ruled for the next 600 years.
In 1468 the islands were effectively sold to James II of
Scotland by the king of Denmark. Today the Orkney Isles
encompass a wealth of historic sites from bronze age burial
mound and villages to standing stones and ancient churches
and a wealth of natural history, particularly bird and sea-life.
The history of Scapa distillery itself began in 1885. The
very remoteness of the islands meant that they were perhaps
not the most obvious location to create a new distillery
- especially for a partnership with a history of distilling
in Speyside. However this is exactly what Macfarlane and
Townsend did. The reputation of the islanders for hard work
and an entrepreneurial character may well have been one
of the factors, along with the special character of malt
whisky they believed could be produced at Scapa. The exact
reasons for Scapa's precise location, overlooking Scapa
Bay however, are lost in time.
However there is little doubt that the location is a special
one. Alfred Barnard in his classic Whisky Distilleries
of the United Kingdom described the scene in 1887 in
poetic terms, 'But the beautiful seascape somewhat compensates
for this loss (of trees), for sparkling in the bright sunshine
are the white sails of ships, and boats manned by crews
who know every creek on the coast, and whose voices can
be heard singing the favourite 'Orkney Boatman's Song'.
Interestingly Barnard describes the production as being
40,000 gallons per year or 184,000 litres - the same production
that is planned today.
In 1919 Scapa became the property of the Scapa Distillery
Company Limited, having been an unusual billet for ratings
from the Royal Navy, based at Scapa Flow, during the First
World War. Eventually it was sold to Hiram Walker in 1954.
January 2004 was a defining time for Scapa single malt
– not for the first time but unquestionably the last
it was faced with closure. A choice had to be made between
the expense of trying to re-furbish a distillery to the
latest legislative requirements or simply allow it to pass
into history. The real question being what value should
be placed on over a century of the distillers art?
The end result was one-sided. A decision was made to re-furbish
and restore the distillery to ensure its long-term survival,
hopefully for at least another 100 years. The refurbishment
is focused on quality, the distillery only produces for
single malts and will remain a very small operation.
is now saved for the foreseeable future. We have taken our
distillery from a mothballed and rundown state to the momentous
event in late November 2004 when the first new spirit flowed.
Work of course will continue well into the next few years
to complete the total renovation.
Scapa, is a whisky to be enjoyed not endured. MacFarlane
and Townsend the Scapa creators managed to capture all this
in their whisky. Take a sip and you can imagine yourself
amongst the heather and gorse watching the sun slowly setting
over these beautiful rolling hills and the endless sea as
they must have well over 100 years ago.
Courtesy of Scapa Distillery