Whisky Advocate

Review: Scapa 16 yr. old

January 5th, 2009

After dealing with a bad cold and then bronchitis in December, I am finally recovered and have my taste buds working again. That means I’m back to reviewing whiskies. Sorry about the absence. I know that some of you look forward to them.

Scapa, 16 year old, 40%, $75
A soft, easy-going whisky with a foundation of honeyed vanilla, caramel custard and mouth-coating maltiness. Floral and brine notes are sprinkled throughout, as is cocoa, white pepper and subtle edible seaweed. Soft malt and brine finish. A whisky with a gentler personality when compared to most other island malts, making it a nice introduction to the style. I would, however, like to see this whisky bottled at a higher strength and not chill-filtered. I’d be more than willing to sacrifice some drinkability for greater intensity and more subtle nuances. Still, it is an enjoyable whisky and enthusiasts of its predecessor—Scapa 14—should also like it, albeit at a higher retail price.
Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 85

11 Responses to “Review: Scapa 16 yr. old”

  1. Sam S. says:

    “I know that some of you look forward to them.”

    Modest statement.
    Thanks for the review.
    As a Highland Park fan, I was curious to see what you thought about this “island brother.”
    At around the same price point, how would this compare with HP 18?
    Hopefully when it becomes available here in AZ I’ll get a chance to try it.

  2. John Hansell says:

    Sam, the Scapa bottlings are generally bourbon oak-aged, while the standard Highland Park bottlings are usually a marriage of both bourbon and sherry casks, so you’ll get more of the sherry richness and fruit with the HPs (especially some of the older bottlings).

    I think that the HP 18 is an outstanding whisky. The Scapa 16, while very good, isn’t quite in the same class (IMHO).

  3. David S says:

    John,
    Let me use the mention of Highland Park 18, and also your reviews, to bring up something that could be a new topic. How often do you revisit standard bottlings, such as the HP 18, and would you consider reviewing or commenting on them on an ongoing basis? I suspect that many of us feel that standard releases can and do change over the years (I’m sure Laphroaig alone could generate many comments) and this can be either a positive or a negative. And if if there is not an actual change in quality, I am always concerned when an old favorite comes in a new package, something Highland Park has done a few times. Do you take a second look in a situation like that?

  4. John Hansell says:

    David, you bring up a good point–and worthy of a new topic, which I will probably post up tomorrow or the next day. Contrary to many people’s belief (or what a whisky company might tell you), whiskies change regularly–and for a variety of reasons. I keep samples and refer back to them from time to time and it’s amazing how the style of a whisky drifts. I’ll keep it to that for now until I post something up.

  5. David and John:
    I agree that it would be very interesting to discuss which (standard) bottlings tend to be the consistent ones and which ones are all over the place over the years as far as their taste profile is concerned. I suppose some of them vary to a high degree on a yearly basis, others seem to have changed at a certain point in time.
    However, I don’t feel that Laphroaig (especially the 10yo) is one of the really inconsistent ones, apart from slight changes in the body (underlying vanilla depth).
    It is rather the standard Taliker 10 that comes to my mind: Around here (Austria, EC) there was a gift set available some time ago that included two (very fragile!!) nosing glasses. The bottle that came with it contained whisky with very little body to it. You were in for quite a surprise.
    Can you elaborate on why you mentioned Laphroaig? I’d be curious to know!

  6. John Hansell says:

    Thomas, (and everyone else): let’s hold off discussing bottling inconsistency here on this thread and just keep it to Scapa. I’ll start a thread on this specific topic later today. Should be fun. — John

  7. Rick Duff says:

    Thanks John! Your review made me pick up a bottle (but of the 14 year old).
    Your description made it sound like something I’d love.

  8. John Hansell says:

    Rick, let me know how it works out for you. I don’t suspect those 14 year olds will be around for much longer, so it’s good you found a bottle when you did. (I have one squirreled away myself.)

  9. butephoto says:

    The price of this in the UK is already putting a lot of people off. Shame, as Scapa is generally a good dram.

  10. John Hansell says:

    Yes butephoto, the Scapa 16 certainly is a leap in price from the 14 (or even 12 for that matter). Looks like Rick had a good idea–track down a leftover 14 year old and pocket the difference.

  11. Stephanie says:

    I have the pleasure of trying the Scapa 16yr the other day. It’s very different from the old Scapa I know (12 and 14yr). This time . .it’s more “lady” like. The gentle sweetness reminds me of English afternoon tea with a bit of heather honey but without all the facny desserts. The finishing saltiness is quite comforting. Some how the new packaging seem to resemble Macallan.

    I need to try it again. But I’m very glad I still have a few bottles of 14yr in stock.

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