Friday, January 2, 2009

I Love The Orkney Islands

I remember that, during a college-years trip to Scotland, I was inexplicably drawn to the Orkney Islands off the northern coast of the country. I couldn't say why. Perhaps it was the ancient ruins, perhaps it was the sweaters, perhaps it was the remoteness of the place, but I knew I would like the Orkneys.

Now I know the attraction: It was the scotch. Unconsciously, I knew there was great scotch there. Recently, I tried and loved the new 40-year-old Highland Park. Now, I have tried and loved the new 16-year-old Scapa. What scotch whiskey comes out of this windswept clutch of rocky isles! Spicy and saline and wonderful.

The Scapa distillery was founded in 1885 and uses a rare Lomond pot-still. The 16-year old is made in first-fill American oak casks. The distillers use water from the heather-scented Lingro Burn spring and distill it in two pot stills with a slow fermentation for up to one hundred hours.

What an involved series of experiences are wrapped within one sip of Scapa 16! It is a light butterscotch hue. This is a hint, for the nectar is also dominantly butterscotch on the nose, with some tangerine, brine and spice thrown in there. It is candy smooth upon first taste. We get that butterscotch again. But then comes a bracing attack of spice to wake you up and remind you you're drinking scotch, not soda pop. That phase then calms down to a silky smooth caramel flavor and finish as long as a country mile.

A great scotch whiskey. Not as much of a hair-raising spice box as Highland Park. But as good in another fashion. At $75, a relative bargain, I'd say.

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