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Issue 41 - Back from the brink for Scapa

Whisky Magazine Issue 41
July 2004


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Back from the brink for Scapa

The Scapa distillery on Orkney is to be reopened full time after years of neglect Dominic Roskrow visited it

If the owners of Scapa distillery needed a sign that its time was finally up they got it during a tempestuous evening on Orkney last August. During a storm lightning took the electricity out. Permanently.

“The electricians who were quite young took one look at the wiring and said they didn't know what to do with it,” recalls Allied Domecq's malt distilleries director Jim McLean. “They said they'd never seen anything like it outside a museum.” And so Scapa reached its inglorious end.

Nobody was too surprised. It had been on the critical list for some time, having been effectively mothballed by Allied some seven years before. To keep stocks of the single malt alive it was reopened for a couple of months each year and staffed by former Scapa employees now employed by Edrington at nearby Highland Park.

“But the truth be told, we wouldn't have run any of our other distilleries in the sort of state Scapa was in,” says Michael Cockram, director of malts for Allied Domecq. “And neither would Edrington. So we looked at it and started to ask ourselves why it was acceptable to run it in the state it was in between the two of us.”

That should have been that – and if you were a betting man, you'd have bet your last dram on the fact that Scapa was set to be consigned to history.

June 2004: The Orkney Isles have a habit of rapidly reclaiming to nature anything abandoned by man. From the Neolithic village at Skara Brae, and the ancient stone circles that characterise ...

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