Skiren is the latest single malt release from the Scapa distillery to hit LCBO shelves. Located on the remote island of Orkney, just off the northern coast of Scotland, Scapa is arguably one of the lesser known distilleries in the realm of Scotch whisky. Since most Scapa's yearly one million litre single malt output is consumed by the Ballantine's family of blended whisky, the distillery releases very few official bottlings. Lighter than its neighbour distillery Highland Park, Scapa uses a Lomond-style wash still and long fermentation times to produce an oily, unctuous, spirit that's a close reflection of the grain and expresses fruity notes like pear, a twinge of salt on the palate and a chocolatey finish.
It's been a while since we've seen anything from this distillery in Ontario. Scapa attracted the attention of whisky geeks in 2008 with the spectacular 16 year old expression and, later, the delicious 14 year old that replaced it. However, from about 2013 until just recently, it's been difficult to track down a bottle of either aside from the occasional independent bottling. To the surprise of enthusiasts, Scapa announced a relaunch of the brand in 2015 focusing on no-age-statement releases and a new visitor centre where guests can still find some of the prized 16 year old for sale. While NAS bottlings usually make us skeptical, our love for this hard-to-find spirit demanded that we get our hands on a bottle.
Skiren, meaning "glittering bright skies" in Old Norse, is bottled at 40% ABV, bears no age statement and was matured in 100% first-fill American oak barrels.
Nose: Fragrant with whiffs of woodsy heather, pear, oranges, and a fruity pink bubblegum all floating atop a beeswax and honeyed malt sweetness.
Palate: Rich with an almost creamy texture, the dram shows muted tropical fruit like bitter green mango, honeydew melon and citrus along with fresh pears tossed in brown sugar and toasted oaky vanilla.
Finish: Relatively dry, the finish reveals delicate flavours of chocolate-covered strawberries and a surprising minerality mixed with a slightly mossy twinge that leaves the palate clean and ready for the next sip.
Overall: The tasting panel's conclusion: Skiren is "eminently quaffable!" But, how does it compare to its much-loved predecessors? All the markers of the distillery flavour profile are there with a lovely body to boot. While some opined they'd like to see the whisky at a higher 46% ABV, this was a minor quibble. Would we prefer the 14 or 16 year old? Of course, but there's not enough right now. So while we're waiting, Skiren will do.
At $79.95 in the LCBO, Skiren is affordably priced and is at the upper-limit of what they could reasonably charge for this NAS expression given the low output of official single malt bottlings from the distillery. Still on the fence? If you're a fan of more commonly available drams like Glenfiddich 12 year old, Glenmorangie 10 year old, Aultmore 12 year old, or Old Pulteney 12 year old, Skiren is a great introduction to this lesser known distillery.