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Collection: Scapa Distillery

The second most northern distillery in Scotland on the Orkney Isles


The history of Scapa distillery began in 1885. The very remoteness of the islands meant that they were perhaps not the most obvious location to create a new distillery - especially for a partnership with a history of distilling in Speyside. However this is exactly what Macfarlane and Townsend did. The reputation of the islanders for hard work and an entrepreneurial character may well have been one of the factors, along with the special character of malt whisky they believed could be produced at Scapa. The exact reasons for Scapa's precise location, overlooking Scapa Bay however, are lost in time.

However there is little doubt that the location is a special one. Alfred Barnard in his classic 'Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom' described the scene in 1887 in poetic terms, 'But the beautiful seascape somewhat compensates for this loss (of trees), for sparkling in the bright sunshine are the white sails of ships, and boats manned by crews who know every creek on the coast, and whose voices can be heard singing the favourite 'Orkney Boatman's Song'.

In 1919 Scapa became the property of the Scapa Distillery Company Limited, having been an unusual billet for ratings from the Royal Navy, based at Scapa Flow, during the First World War. Eventually it was sold to Hiram Walker in 1954.

January 2004 was a defining time for Scapa single malt – not for the first time but unquestionably the last it was faced with closure. A choice had to be made between the expense of trying to re-furbish a distillery to the latest legislative requirements or simply allow it to pass into history. The real question being what value should be placed on over a century of the distillers art?

The end result was one-sided. A decision was made to re-furbish and restore the distillery to ensure its long-term survival, hopefully for at least another 100 years. The refurbishment is focused on quality, the distillery only produces for single malts and will remain a very small operation.