The Cuillins are the the dramatic hills of Skye, the island home of Talisker. Talisker House is the seat of the eldest son of the MacLeod clan and takes its name from the Norse name for the mountain Thalas Gair or Sloping Rock. The distillery is on the exposed west coast of the island, on the seaweedy shores of Loch Harport.
[The distillery was founded in 1830 by two doctor's sons, Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill]. After a number of false starts on other sites, the distillery was established in 1831 at Carbost and expanded in 1900 at which point it had its own pier, tramway and tied cottages. It even had its own currency, denominated in days worked]. In those days Robert Louis Stevenson ranked Talisker as a style on its own, comparable with the Islay and Glenlivet whiskies. It switched to double distillation in 1928 and was partly rebuilt in 1960 after a fire. It still retains the tradition of using wooden fermentation vats or washbacks. Water for the process comes from Hawk Hill, beside the distillery. The distillery has five stills (a relic from the days when all Talisker whisky went through triple distillation) and the wash stills are unusual in having U-shaped lye pipes to take the vapour. A small secondary pipe recycles some of the vapour back to the still. The wooden tubs for the condensors ('worms') are outside the building and survived the fire in 1960 courtesy of a last-minute change in the wind.
Talisker is the only distillery on Skye though the island is the home of a
company making a vatted malt called Poit Dhubh, and a blend, Te Bheag. Both are
said to contain some Talisker and you can find
an account of them and
other Gaelic whiskies in the Web pages of the
Sabhal Mor Ostaig
(the Gaelic college on Skye). A blended whisky called Islae of Skye is made
by the Edinburgh merchants Ian MacLeod & Co. The style of whisky liqueur
represented by Drambuie is said to have originated on Skye though that product
is now made in Edinburgh by a family-owned company.
A copy of United Distillers' own illustrated pamphlet about Talisker can be found here and there is further UD-orientated material in their scotch.com InfoCenter, here
(Hit the "next" button to join a tour of the other island distilleries)
Carbost, Isle of Skye, IV47 8SE
40 yr old, 102 proof
Perhaps the best malt of the trip. Unbelievable depth and character. A finish that left a pleasant memory for HOURS after my last sip. The perfect combination of all the elements of malt: smoke, peat, smoothness. Did not need to be diluted, despite the high proof; perhaps some of the alcohol had evaporated over the years? [lh]
Hear "Talisker" pronounced in AU or WAV format
Search Dr. Do'g's index for the history of Talisker
There just might be some news about Talisker in The "Scotsman" newspaper