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Scapa distillery

The Scapa distillery is located on the island of Orkney, south of Kirkwall on a picturesque bay. The island’s other whisky distillery is less than 2km east of it.

The Scapa Distillery is one of the northernmost whisky distilleries in Scotland. Positioned on Scapa Flow, a bay surrounded by the Orkney Islands and an almost inland sea. This protects the distillery from the extreme winds and rough seas of the Orkneys. The meeting of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean sometimes causes violent storms on the island and the sea. Scapa is known for its maritime but generally non-smoky whisky. After having been neglected as a single malt brand for a long time, Scapa is still in the shadow of its neighboring distillery Highland park.

House Style

Scapa’s whisky is rather light and sweet. Its light fruity notes and clear vanilla aromas are striking. These are complemented by a light maritime note of delicate saltiness. Light chocolate and nut notes can also be found on closer inspection.


Scapa distillery levereages a Semi Lauter, Stainless steel washbacks and 2 stills to produce 1 million litres of whisky per annum. The water for production is taken from the Lingro Burn, and the process water is taken from various sources near Orquil. Incidentally, Scapa is one of the only distilleries to use a Lomond still. Alas the copper still used as a wash still has been modified, with the plates removed. Most of the production is still in blends like the Ballantine’s.

While the water from Lingro Burn contains considerable peat Scapa whisky is not peated. In spite of this the minerality will influence the flavour in other ways. Peated water does not manifest peat flavours in the whisky as the smoky aromas are only released when peat is burned, during the malting process.

In the main the malt for Scapa is not peated, which is why the whisky has a sweetish and slightly maritime. An exception is the “Scapa Glansa” introduced in 2016, the only peat-smoky Scapa so far. In this edition the peat smoke transferred to the whisky through cask maturation rather than via malting. Barrels, in which previously heavily smoky whisky was stored, were used for maturation. This is how smoke aromas get into the scapa.


Since 1885 the Scapa Flow whisky has been distilled on the coast. The still was built by John T. Townsend and Macfarlane on the site of a former mill. At the end of the 19th century, blended Scotch whisky was booming and Scapa was used for the production of several blends from the John Townsend company . Like many Scottish distilleries of the time, Scapa was also the victim of fires, in 1919 and had to be rebuilt by Scapa Distillery Co. Ltd. In 1936 Scapa was taken over by Bloch Bros. (Maurice & John Bloch), who owned the distillery for about 20 years.

Scapa Flow was an important venue during both world wars. The inland sea went down in history with the self-sinking of the Imperial High Seas Fleet in 1919. The Royal Navy also set up its headquarters in Scapa Flow during the Second World War. German submarines regularly tried to break through the British blockade at this point.

The Bloch brothers needed high quality malt for their blending business, but were ill at ease in the distillery business. They consequently sold the distillery to Hiram Walker & Sons in 1954. In 1959 the unusual Lomond Still was installed, which ran until 1979. There was also its own malt house until 1966, but it was shut down. Instead, finished malt is obtained from Simpsons on the mainland.

In 1978 the distillery was modernized and closed in 1994 for 10 years. The company later became Allied Domecq and in 2005 Pernod Ricard. The distillery was operated sporadically by the employees of Highland Park between 1994 and 2004. Production has been running continuously since 2005.

The New Line Up

As part of the distilleries repositioning in 2004 under Pernod Ricard/Chivas Brothers all of the existing whisky stock was set aside for release as single malts. The 14 year old replaced the entry level 12 year old bottling. It was joined bt Scapa 1992 (also 14 years old) in 2006 but replaced by the Scapa 16 in 2008.

Unfortunately these releases are largely limited to the secondary market, a consequence of the limited supply of older Scapa stock. The distilleries main bottles are now the Scapa Skireen launched in 2015, and the peated Scapa Glansa launched in 2016.

Scapa factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Scapa Highlands Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Active 1885 - Present Malt Scapa Not Available
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group
Brian Macaulay Pernod Ricard

Scapa Timeline:

1701: Distilling recorded at site by Reverend John Brand

1885: Established by MacFarlane & Townsend.

1887: Dissolved and continued by J.T. Townsend & Co.

1919: Sold to the Scapa Distillery Co. Ltd. Fire at distillery spotted by crew member of British Fleet and alarmed. Fire extinguished by a human chain down to the sea carrying water

1934: Liquidated

1936: Acquired by Bloch Brothers

during WWII: A fire threatened to destroy the entire distillery, but was saved by Naval ratings who were billeted in the area

1941: Incorporated as Bloch Brothers (Distillers) Ltd., also owners of Glen Scotia, Campbeltown

1954: Bloch Brothers (Distillers) Ltd. sold the distillery to Hiram Walker & Sons (Scotland) Ltd.

1959: Rebuilt. Two stills, the wash still of the Lomond type. Licensed to Taylor & Ferguson Ltd.

1978: Stills became steamheated

1987: Allied Lyons (later Allied Domecq) purchases Hiram Walker

1979: The Lomond still is decommisioned

1994: Distillery mothballed

2004: Owned by Allied Distillers Ltd.

2004-Jan: Decision had to be made if distillery should be re-furbished or closed. A £2.1 million refurbishment project takes place

2004-Nov: First new spirit flowed

2006: Scapa 1992 (14 Year Old) is launched

2008: Scapa 16 is Launched

2016: The first peated (idirectly) bottling Glansa is launched

Can I tour Scapa?

No, unfortunately Scapa distillery is not open to the public for tours