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The Talisker distillery


To reach Carbost on the banks of Loch Harport, you need to follow a long path along the narrow roads of The Misty Island, as though hiding from the watchful eyes of the black “Cuillins”, the volcanic mountains that stand tall in the middle of the island like mistrustful guardians. Will these ramparts be enough to preserve Skye’s inaccessible character? A character unique to the isles, although now somewhat challenged by the construction of a bridge linking it to the mainland.

The only distillery on the Isle of Skye, Talisker has its own special status in the world of whisky which is backed up by a unique aromatic profile. Even the name Talisker (‘sloping rock’ in Norse) evokes Skye’s mountainous landscape. No doubt this isolation must have caused some problems for its founders in 1830 when they had to bring the casks to the mainland by boat. Nevertheless, the whisky described by Robert Louis Stevenson as the “the king o’ drinks” gained huge popularity from a very early stage.

Talisker draws its water, which is naturally filtered through peat, from 21 underground springs from a neighbouring hill. It also practised triple distillation until 1928, a little known fact and one which explains why the distillery houses three spirit stills coupled with two wash stills. In 1960, a terrible fire destroyed almost all of the distillery, but spared the external condensers. Shaped like snakes submerged in wooden tanks, these condensers enable the distillate to cool slowly, giving it its oily character.

The peppery character of the single malt remains an enigma. One taster described Talisker as the “lava of the Cuillins”. A romantic image that also captures something of the island’s flavour!