Scapa Skiren was launched last year as an addition to the Scapa standard lineup. As with all Scapas the spirit was distilled in Scapa’s Lomond still, the only one still in operation in Scotland. The whisky is issued without an age statement and has matured in first-fill american oak.
Nose: Apples and pears, dry malt loft. Its youth is apparent the moment you add water.
Palate: Malt, yellow apples, apple peel, some bitterness on the finish.
Comments: A pleasant surprise; a simple, but nice, session dram.
Distilled November 1995, bottled December 2013, from a refill hogshead.
Nose: Fruity, lemon, apple and peach, with an overlaying smokiness. With water the smoke is emphasised and the fresh fruit gives way to lemon and lemon peel.
Palate: Digestives with brown goat’s cheese. Smoke and dry oak. With water added I find dry honey, a bonfire-like smokiness and “Non-Stop” (a Norwegian sweet, similar to M&M’s, but with dark chocolate) on the finish.
Friday evening there was a celebratory dinner with all the expedition members, both those just arrived on Celeste and those taking her back the morning. I retired as early as possible and collapsed into bed. I awoke at some point in the middle of the night with no idea where I was. The bed was swaying, but I was obviously not still on the boat. I met Martin at breakfast next morning and he said he’d found himself clinging to the wall in order to get to the toilet during the night, not trusting the floor to stay still, so I wasn’t the only one having problems with sea legs syndrome.
Now, what with all this talk of no sleep and longing for a stationary bed, you might think I’d have a leisurable morning? Bah. There was a whole island to discover (and anyway, with 8 hours of sleep I felt much, much better). The day before I’d asked Martin how far it was to Scapa, whether one could walk there? “No, it’s too far” was the answer. But we’d seen Scapa Bay from the Highland Park rooftops, so I didn’t trust that answer, and Google was on my side, so after a hearty breakfast I set out.
The weather was perfect for a ramble, and there was plenty to see along the way. It was also quite pleasurable to be able to really step out after spending the week on a boat that, no matter how big, didn’t really allow for walking much. It took me a little under an hour to reach Scapa Bay.
The easiest viewpoint from which to see Scapa, and take pictures, is from the bay, or even the water (though I had no boat, so I couldn’t verify that). Once there I obviously had to walk around to see what it looked like from the entrance side, but that had little to offer (as expected). I seem to have heard a rumour that there are plans afoot for a visitor centre at Scapa, so perhaps I will have more luck when I next make it to Orkney. (I can’t remember WHERE I heard the rumour, so don’t jump for joy just yet.)
Well, I had a plane to catch anyway, so I headed back to Kirkwall, choosing a different route, packed my bag and joined a couple of the others in a taxi to the airport.
In Aberdeen I found that there was a Kaffe Fasset exhibition on at the art museum, much joy. I stopped by Casc Bar and Brewdog (I will write specifically about them later), and on Sunday I flew back home. Thursday, almost a week after landfall at Kirkwall, I finally felt the fog of sleep deficiency lift. I think perhaps I should rethink this idea of becoming a sailor.
Some more pictures from my trek over to Scapa Bay:
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After our visit to Highland Park we were loaded on to a coach and transported to Yesnaby, which is on the west coast of Orkney Mainland, south of Skara Brae. The area is first and foremost known for its spectacular cliffs in old red sandstone, and this was what we had come to see. Even with the short time available the organisers obviously wanted us to get a taste of what Orkney has to offer, and other than the whisky, nature is Orkney’s main tourist attraction. I guess you could consider the PR successful, since several of us came to the conclusion that we’d need to come back to Orkney and do a bit of hiking, for example along the Yesnaby Coastal Path. Well, see for yourselves:
We were shuttled to the distillery by the Highland Park minibus. Once there we were first treated to a short film showcasing the history of the distillery (I hazard a guess that this is part of the standard tour as well). We were then split into two groups, Martin showing one around, Patricia the other.
The tour started in the maltings, naturally. 15000 tonnes of barley are malted at the distillery each year, which is around 20% of the barley they use overall. The barley variety is Concerto, and it is all “imported”, that is from mainland Scotland, which adds to the expenses, obviously.
When the malt is carried from the malt floor to the kiln it has around 40% water content. It is then dried with peat for 22 hours, and then hot air until done. While the malt has 35-50 ppm after kilning, there is only about 2 ppm in the newmake.
Highland Park have 12 washbacks, some Oregon Pine, some Douglas Fir and some Siberian Larch. The wash is left to ferment for a minimum of 56 hours, and the resulting alchohol strength is 7-8% ABV. The wash is fruity, sweet, nutty and smokey.
2 wash stills produce a low wine of 25% ABV, 60% of the volume is lost in the process. “Smells like mushroom soup in the stillhouse”, according to Patricia. We had to take her words for it, because we were not allowed into the stillhouse (they were working in there, you know), we had to content ourselves with standing at the door looking in.
Ah, well. They cut from head to heart at 75% and again at 63%, which gives around 4500 liters of newmake from 30,000 liters of wash.
To make up for not getting into the stillhouse, we got to climb onto the roof and admire the view.
We also got to see the inside of the kiln, the floor where the malt is dried. And we got a peek into the kiln they had lit for our benefit (so we could see the fire and practice adding peat). It was empty, but the smell was rather lovely.
Then it was time to climb back down to the ground to enter the hallowed halls of the warehouses.
The tour was naturally concluded with a tasting, led by Martin. He had selected two Viking-related bottlings; Leif Eriksson and Drakkar, followed by Dark Origins, the raison d’etre for the trip, and then we were treated to Highland Park 21 years old. Follow the links for tasting notes for the others, I’ve published notes for Dark Origins before, but on this occasion I noted sherry, burnt rubber, singed popcorn and orange peel on the nose, singed casks, dried fruits and vanilla on the palate. And I still like it.
Contented (and exhausted, we had only arrived the same morning after all) we ended our tour with a visit to the distillery shop.