Pernod Ricard Group
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There are 65 islands in the Orkneys, 30 of them inhabited by around 18,000 people. Scapa is on the principle island, known to the locals as ‘the mainland’, close to the capital, Kirkwall. Established in 1885, the distillery overlooks and takes its name from Scapa Flow, the famous stretch of sea that forms the natural harbour much used during both World Wars. There used to be six whisky distilleries on Orkney, five in Kirkwall and one in Stromness. Today only Highland Park and Scapa remain.
Scapa was almost exclusively produced for the Ballantine’s blend but the distillery was mothballed in 1994. In 2004 the then owners, Allied Domecq, announced plans to reopen the distillery and embarked on a £2 million refurbishment scheme before themselves being taken over by Pernod-Ricard in July 2005. Now fully refurbished and restored, Scappa is once again fully operational with a staff of three producing 70 to 80 casks a week.
Scapa originally had its own maltings but now malted barley is imported from the Scottish mainland. Scapa has eight washbacks, four originally dating back to the 1950s, and four more added in 1978. Dry yeast is used in a long 60 hour fermentation, so distillation uses the previous weeks mash. The production process uses one mash, one washback and one wash still using water drawn from a spring one and a half miles away.
Scappa boasts a rare barrel-shaped Lomand still invented by Alistar Cunningham in the late 1950s to create different styles of whisky using the same still. Lomand stills are part pot still and part column still with a removable lyne arm and adjustable copper plates in the neck. Adjustment of the plates altered the amount of reflux in the still producing a lighter or heavier spirit. These stills were installed at Scapa, Glenburgie and Miltonduff, all distilleries associated with the Ballantine’s blend. Unfortunately, the plates in the Lomand still are not easy to remove for cleaning and so today the still at Scappa is run without its plates. Its exceptionally wide neck allows heavy spirits to pass up the neck so a purifier has been added to hinder their progress.