One of the most memorable scotch buying experiences I have had was at the world-famous Whisky Shop Dufftown on the last day of the Spirit of Speyside festival last May. The shop was bustling with huge numbers of festivalgoers who had come to participate in the hundreds of distillery tours, tastings, and gala dinners that marked the preceding weekend's celebration of Speyside whisky and culture.
Innumerable selections line every inch of the store from floor to ceiling, as well as across the tops of the half-dozen empty casks which serve as shelf space and bartops for visitors to sample the spirits. Everyone who had come into the shop was hunting for the perfect souvenir bottles to take back from the festival, and I tasted more than a few before finally hitting on one that spoke to me immediately: a Gordon and MacPhail Scapa from 2000. It was bottled in 2011 from refill ex-Bourbon barrels at 43%.
Colour: Very pale yellow.
Palate: Initially light in both flavour and feel, with green grapes and kiwi as well as strong woody elements. The all-refill Bourbon cask aging is evident from vanilla and peppery notes. Tangy fruit elements are balanced wonderfully against a salty, buttery flavour that runs through to the finish. Adding a small amount of water opens up it up to an explosion of key lime pie.
Finish: Medium length with a slightly metallic, mineral edge.
Overall: An exceptional bottle with a surprising and unusual flavour. Distilled during a period of low productivity at the Scapa distillery, when additional staff was "borrowed" from Highland Park, this is a hard to find bottling that is nonetheless worth the effort to acquire where possible. It's still available from a dwindling number of online retailers for a very reasonable $60 or so, but if possible the best option would be to make the trip to Dufftown for this year's festival and judge for yourself.