Thursday, April 12, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #59

Scapa 10yo
Premium Bottlers

101 and SCAP102

During one of the stretches of our North American Adventure when we were in Toronto, we had the privilege to meet two very passionate, if not totally crazy, whisky enthusiasts who have taken great risks and faced great challenges to be the first independent bottlers of Scotch whisky in Canada. They undertook this mission to address the lack of availability of independent single cask bottlings in Canada, and specifically at the LCBO. In turns fascinating and frustrating, their efforts are worth celebrating, and their story may take two days to tell...

Every resident in a state, province, or country that has a liquor monopoly has, at one time or another, fantasised about getting their hands on the glorious bounty they realised was available on their travels to Chile or Australia for wine, Eastern Europe and Russia for vodka, and Scotland for the glorious water of life, whisky. The reality is that if we all lived in a vacuum, without the internet or air travel, we would all be quite content with the limited lines of products available to us in the provinces of Ontario or
British Columbia, the states of Washington or Pennsylvania, or the countries of Norway or Sweden, to name just a few examples of government-run liquor monopolies. But to visit Scotland just once and realise that the LCBO, for example, carries less than 5% of the 2500 different brands of Scottish whisky will invariably leave one eternally unsatisfied by a visit to the liquor store back home.

Now, while we have all thought about doing something about this, Barry Stein and Barry Bernstein have actually been determined (and brave) enough to take matters into their own hands. Neither Barry had any experience in the liquor industry but were united by a passion for Scottish whisky.

When they began their journey in 2004, they knew there would be legal challenges ahead, but they could never have imagined just how many obstacles would emerge in the quest to import and bottle spirits in Ontario. In Ontario, only the Liquor Control Board of Ontario(LCBO) can import and sell booze. If the Barrys wanted to sell to the LCBO they would need to be set up as agents of foreign suppliers, have their products purchased by the LCBO, and imported by the LCBO. This was not what they wanted to do; they wanted to source their own casks of single malt whisky and to be the primary suppliers of
the stuff. Thus began a self-guided study of the Provincial and Federal Acts surrounding sale and import of alcohol in Canada. After months of research and conversations with bureaucrats they found out that they could import bulk spirits if they obtained a Federal Excise Distilling and Bonded Warehouse license, but they would first need to form a company, so in February 2005 Premium Bottlers, Inc. was born... on paper.

Their research also informed them that the federal regulations in the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act and the Food and Drug Act mandate that imported Scotch Whisky be blended with domestic spirits before packaging(!). This was obviously going to be a potential problem as their intention was to bottle SINGLE MALT whisky, so more research was needed.
(continued tomorrow...)



Sweet and perfumy. Plastic fruit basket, or fruit scented body lotion on a woman's neck. Warming vanilla like a hot beverage. Dry oakiness. Very appetising, pre-dinner malt.

Palate much deeper than the light perfumy features of the nose would suggest. Fleshy, carob, milk, Grape-nuts.
Lemon zestiness.


A lively and enjoyable whisky with lots of distillery character from the unjustifiably overlooked Scapa. Water let out a lot more oak and wood characteristics. Tasty stuff.



Immediately creamy-effect in the nose, drying with oak in the back, and a flurry of impressions in between. Plain yoghurt, dry breakfast cereal, oil paints, apple juice, green peppers... Busy; I could go on.

Straight forward and confident (more like its nose than the 101): French toast, malted barley, citrus and raw vegetables. Slightly sour. Eggy, warming, and mouth coating in oak on the finish.


Great how Premium Bottlers have managed to find (and chosen to bottle) two very different Scapas. Not sure which one I prefer, tho. It is certainly a mood thing. This cask tastes older. The 101 has a new-make assertiveness, rich barley sweetness that is deeply appetising, and the 102 has more vegetables, green malt, and oak after the bourbon has all been sucked out. Overall, two excellent examples of Scapa from real pioneers in the independent bottling world.

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