The Talisker Distilleries

Robert Louis Stevenson praised it in his 1880 poem 'The Scotsman's Return from Abroad' with the words: The king o' drinks, as I conceive it, Talisker, Islay or Glenlivit. Talisker is the only distillery on the Isle of Skye, and is named for a nearby farm. It is located on a lee of Cnoc-nan-Speireag-Hawkhill, near the village of Carbost. It is built on the exposed west coast of the island, on the seaweed shores of Loch Harport and has splendid views of the Cuillins, the dramatic hills of Skye.

Founded in 1830 by two brothers, Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill, from Eigg, Hugh was a senior tenant farmer, who leased land to others. He acquired the lease of Talisker House and estate of Macleod. After their deaths the distillery was acquired by Grigor Allan, Procurator Fiscal of Morayshire, and Roderick Kemp, a wine and spirits merchant. They invested in rebuilding and refitting the distillery in the last decade of that century. It was taken over by Kemp MacAllan Distillery of Speyside and Allan and merged in 1898 to form Dailuaine-Talisker Distillery.

By 1900 the premises at Talisker were greatly extended. They included a pier, a tramway to link it to the distillery and cottages to house the employees and excise officer. The distillery became fully owned by United Distillers through some previous ownership by one of the big five in1925. Today it is operated by United Distillery for Diageo PLC.

Till 1928 the distillery used the triple distillation process though now it uses the standard double distillation. The distillery was severely damaged in a fire in 1960 but five exact replicas of the first stills were rebuilt. Of these, two are wash stills and three are spirit stills. The stills continue to use condensing coils rather than a modern condenser which gives the whisky a fuller flavor. The wash stills have U-shaped lye pipes to take the vapour. A small secondary pipe recycles some of the vapour back to the still.

The water used in production is from a burn on Cnoc Nan Speireag Hawk Hill which flows over peat, adding distinctive peatiness to the whisky. The distillery continues to use the traditional wooden fermentation vats or wash backs. Its own floor malting was demolished in 1972. The distillery primarily bottles a 10 year old Single Malt which was chosen in 1988 by United Distillers for their Classic Malts series.

This 10 year old single malt Scotch whisky, the only one made on the Isle of Skye is golden, shot with pink. It is bottled at 45.8% alcohol and has a warm smoky aroma and welcoming taste, leaving a gentle lingering of peat smoke. There are some limited 20, 25 and 40 year old bottling which are outstanding.

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