The Scapa distillery
Scapa missed out on the title of “northernmost distillery in Scotland” by just under a mile, which goes to Highland Park, the only other distillery in the Orkney Islands. Though it’s certainly a rival, it’s also a friend, because after Scapa was mothballed in 1994, for almost ten years the team at Highland Park kept its production equipment in working order by carrying out short periods of distillation.
Who knows if it was the location, the circumstances or a lack of motivation on the part of Allied Distillers, the group that had owned it since 1953, but one thing is sure, Scapa came very close to being demolished.
Built in 1887, it overlooks Scapa Flow, a famous sound that was the scene of the scuppering of a German fleet in 1919. The rusted hulls of war ships can still be found there, a marine cemetery that attracts the most avid scuba diving enthusiasts.
After returning to production between the 60s and 80s and a major renovation in 1978, having produced enough malt to supply the Ballantine’s blend, Scapa was mothballed. After being completely reorganised in 2004, it was bought in 2005 by the Pernod Ricard group and has since returned to normal production.
Scapa’s wash still had a strange device installed in 1959: a Lomond still. It has the normal shape of a pot still, but in place of a lyne arm, it has a sort of head equipped with rectifying plates, a device that helps create a more unctuous spirit.
Scapa’s other special features include its spring water which runs through a mile-long pipe, and its completely unpeated barley. It’s great news then that we are seeing more and more official bottlings of this velvety single malt which is deliciously fruity and has stayed in the shadows far too long.