Talisker distillery stands on the western coast of the Isle of Skye. Its 10-year-old single malt Scotch whisky has formed part of Diageo’s Classic Malts range since 1988. 19th-century author Robert Louis Stevenson ranked it among the finest whiskies in Scotland. Talisker was the only distillery on Skye until it was joined in 2017 by Torabhaig.
Talisker produces a spicy spirit with a strong coastal character. The whisky is known for its peppery spice, salty tang and gentle smoke.
The malted barley is peated to 18 - 22 phenol parts per million.
Spirit is produced in five copper pot stills of unique design. The wash stills are tall with u-shaped bends in the lyne arm. At the lowest point of the bend is a purifier pipe, which redistributes some of the vapours back to the pot to be distilled again. The second distillation takes place in smaller spirit stills of a more basic design.
Most modern distilleries use shell and tube condensers but the Talisker stills feed into worm tubs. These traditional condensers have a coiled copper pipe submerged in cold water within a wooden tub. The spirit vapours cool back into liquid form as they traverse the copper pipe. The result is a robust, complex spirit.
Talisker is commonly matured in American oak refill casks. However, ex-sherry and port casks have been used for the Distiller’s Edition and Port Ruighe expressions.
Talisker is bottled at a minimum strength of 45.8% which only serves to enhance its spicy intensity.
Talisker was born during one of the darkest periods in Scotland’s history. The Highland Clearances saw thousands of families evicted from their homes and displaced across Scotland and beyond. The distillery was established by landowners guilty of such actions.
Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill acquired Talisker House and the surrounding lands from Clan MacLeod. They immediately set about removing crofters to make way for more profitable enterprises, like sheep farming. Their largest money-making venture came in 1830 however, when they established a distillery on the island.
The MacAskill's failed to achieve significant financial success and by 1848 the distillery had been seized by the bank. It would change hands multiple times in the years that followed.
In 1880, Talisker was purchased by Roderick Kemp, who finally brought an element of stability. By 1898 the whisky was one of the best selling in the country.
Kemp sold his controlling share in the business to the Distillers Company Ltd (DCL) in 1916. He used the profits to buy Macallan distillery in Speyside. DCL meanwhile would grow, through a series of mergers and takeovers, into the drinks behemoth that is Diageo.
Diageo now operates in more than 180 countries worldwide. They trade in various spirits including Irish whiskey, bourbon, vodka and rum. They own and operate 28 distilleries in Scotland alone, Talisker included.
Historically Talisker produced largely for the blended Scotch industry, but that began to change in 1988. Its single malt was chosen to represent the islands in Diageo’s Classic Malts range. The series was designed to showcase the different styles of whisky produced around Scotland. Talisker was one of six brands selected alongside Lagavulin, Oban, Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore and Glenkinchie. It has also featured regularly in Diageo's annual Special Releases.
Talisker is a classic malt in every sense of the word and has firmly established itself as one of the most popular single malt brands in the world.