Talisker Distillery on the Isle of Skye is one of Scotland’s most revered distilleries in no small part because of its location in Carbost on the ever popular Isle of Skye.
Founded in by brothers Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill in 1830, they acquired the lease of Talisker House from the chief of Clan Macleod. The clan was and remains custodian of much of Skye and is based at nearby Dunvegan Castle. An annual lease payment of £23, 12 shillings was negotiated along with a ten-gallon cask of whisky in return for use of the site.
The distillery was rebuilt 1880–87 and extended in 1900 before a stillhouse fire completely destroyed the site in 1960. Reconstruction took two years and five exact replicas of the original condensing stills were constructed to preserve the original Talisker flavour. Unusually the stills feature swan neck lye pipes.
Now under the custody of drinks giant Diageo, Talisker is one of the most visited distilleries in Scotland and Diageo’s most visited site.
Talisker produces a range of single malts and blends including signature aged bottles at 10, 18, 25 and 30 years old. There are also unaged malts including Talisker Storm and Talisker Syke which are typically younger products. It is also one of the contributing distilleries for Johnny Walker, probably the most famous Scotch.
Talisker’s unique taste comes from heavily peated malted barley from Muir of Ord and water that comes from the hills above Loch Harport. Talisker’s strapline ‘made by the sea’ is a play on words because of the distilleries lochside location and the marine climate of the inner Hebrides. It is not (as is often misinterpreted) made using salt water from the loch which is unsuitable for whisky production.
Tours of the distillery are popular and take visitors through the distillation and bottling process. Of course no visit is complete without a wee dram (or two) at the end of the visit.
Talisker was the favourite whisky of writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Writing in his 1887 poem “The Scotsman’s Return From Abroad”, Stevenson mentioned “The king o’ drinks, as I conceive it, Talisker, Islay, or Glenlivet.”