Scapa 16 y.o. Review

The newest, most badass malt club in Calgary is called the sinDicate. Fifty dedicated (lost) souls gather every few weeks to taste sicko whiskies, down a couple o’ pints and bring a little rowdiness to the downtown core. We do things a little more irreverently than most. A little cheekier. And we also try to differentiate ourselves from the pack a wee bit. Not just for the sake of standing out, mind you, but simply to give members experiences they wouldn’t have had elsewhere or through other clubs. Case in point: who’s ever heard of a Scapa tasting? It took us a few years to gather the bottles we thought would make up a decent range, but we finally got there. Members of the sinDicate tasted their way through nine expression from this Orcadian runner-up distillery: five OBs and four IBs. The event? Spectacular. A brilliant night of exploration and getting our Orkney on. The whiskies? Well…a little less spectacular, if I’m being honest, but there were definitely a few gems sprinkled throughout the range.

For a few years beginning around the mid 2000s (after the death of the 12 and 14 year old expressions), the 16 year old was Scapa’s mainstay. Actually, it was sort of their only ‘stay’. There was simply nothing else on the market, barring the occasional indie bottling. And even today, those are about as readily available as hen’s teeth. Alas, fast forward to the present and even the 16 is gone now, replaced by a couple of lesser NAS offerings. (Having said that…the first batch of Skiren showed really well in our range!)

As for the 16…

It took a couple of go’s at this whisky before I could really get a handle on it. It’s not overly complex, nor is it especially colorful. It doesn’t have a big personality, nor does it really lend itself to comparisons that would allow you to describe it to your average malter and have them respond with an ‘ahhhh, I get it.’ In plain speak, this one is, at best, a ‘good’ whisky. ‘Good’ being about as exciting as white bread with butter. Margarine, actually. And even ‘good’ is being a tad generous when you account for how hideously dilute this one is, at its wafer-thin 40% bottling strength.

I guess I don’t mind this, really. It’s an easy sipper. A decent aperitif dram, and a fine summer evening whisky.  Sadly, the price – even back then – was too much to justify this sort of easy quaffer.

40% abv. Sigh.

Tasting Notes 

Nose: Light and kinda pretty. You can feel there’s more to this one, if only it had been left more intact (i.e. not chill filtered). Vaguely perfumed. Almost dry tea-ish. Or maybe heather? The cereal is nicely etched. And it does carry some decent fruit notes. Mostly apple and just a little citrus. Maybe some underripe berry. Just a faint hint of earthiness.

Palate: Very silky arrival (notice how careful we are not to use the word ‘smooth’?). Straight into crisp malt and apple. More lemon and some gentle dulce de leche notes. Slightly bread-y as well, but leaning to the artificial; I guess maybe cake-ish might work as a descriptor. Custard and soft vanilla.

Finish: Oak and a slight tannic note (not bad at all). Mostly a floral, herbal and honeyed denouement. Final dying note (think that last fading chord in A Day In The Life by the Beatles) is more wood.

Thoughts: I like it just fine. I’d drink it if it was poured for me (of course), but wouldn’t buy one, even it was still available. Oh, and do not add water. You’ll drown this guy.



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