Scapa 20 Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice – Cask Strength

People seem to really be excited about Scapa. Which always confused me, as I’d had 1 original bottling from them. Two showed up on the lists of whiskies I had in books, and that original bottling was one of them. The other was a distillery only release.

Thus I didn’t give them much thought. I love honey flavours: There’s always honey in the house, I love rusty nails (the drink, not the fun children’s toy), and Balvenie has a special place in my heart for the same reason. You could say it’s my kryptonite if I hadn’t cut back to avoid diabetes and early death. So it wasn’t the profile. It’s that no one gets casks of the stuff.

Yes, I could have grabbed the Orcadian, a NAS release. I’ll try to find a sample at some point.

Enter Scapa 20 Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice – Cask Strength, a single cask pick bottled specifically for K&L Wine Merchants. I read (on the Whiskybase page for this very whisky) that one reviewer mentioned that independently bottled (IB) Scapa was rare (which I can not-at-all verify based on my experiences) and that sherried Scapa was even more rare (I can double not-at-all verify).

How can we verify that? Well I can tell you I had a huge rant written here how I can’t really. I tried comparing the amount of production versus some other distilleries that were similar, distilleries also owned by Pernod Ricard, but it wasn’t close to a proper comparison overall.

Which in turn got me frustrated and I basically came to the conclusion that I’m fed up with not knowing anything for certain and being called out for it and writing these reviews just to feel terrible when someone disagrees with it and tells me I’m a garbage popsicle tongued fuck.

As such, I don’t know. Maybe there’s mountains of sherry cask IB releases of Scapa and I’m just not good enough to find them in the world.

So it’s a 20 year old Scapa that was in a refill sherry hogshead. Picked by K&L. Let’s just see if this unicorn/super common type of whisky is worth it, shall we?

Price: $180

Region: Island

Vintage: 2000

Bottled: November 30, 2020

Cask type: Refill Sherry Hogshead

Cask number 1098

Number of bottles: 208

Bottled for K&L Wine Merchants

Abv: 56.2%

Colour: 10YR 6/10

Nose: Earth, pecan, strawberry jam, honey

Good amount of earth and then the sherry influence kicks in. At first I was a tad concerned there was more sherry influence than I typically enjoy, but the honey notes come through eventually. I expected it to grow a bit more, however mostly with time/water the fruit/berry note grows.

Taste: Raspberry jam, honey, mineral, cloves, grape juice

Very thick mouthfeel, don’t have to wait for the jammy note, and similar to before, seems to have a lot of sherry influence at first, then reassures you it’s balanced with time. The fruit mixed with the mineral and honey notes works quite well together.

Finish: Walnut, plantain, guava, cloves, brine

Interesting finish. Lot more tropical notes, some of the nuttiness/bitter from the sherry, and more of the Scapa brine. There’s also this starchy note that I had trouble figuring out, but it somehow works there.

Conclusion: Solid dram. Bit more sherry influence than I typically enjoy. That said, it has some strong, interesting flavours. I don’t know if this is the norm for older Scapa, as this is the oldest I’ve had. Also reviewing my old notes I haven’t had a sherry Scapa either, and all of them have been ex-bourbon.

If anything I think I would have bought this just for the fun of trying something new. I’m happy with the sample I had because it’s new and interesting, and I can compare it to future ones. For now I’d say grab one, as it’s at least affordable and interesting.


Scotch review #1463, Island review #157, Whisky Network review #2160

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