Talisker distillery was founded in 1830 by Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill, on the shores of Loch Harport, an area steeped in tradition and local custom, where Scotch Gaelic is still spoken. Talisker remained under the MacAskill's stewardship until 1898, when the Dailuaine-Talisker Distillers Company acquired it under the charge of Thomas Mackenzie. They extended the distillery in 1900, before selling the company in 1916 to a consortium including Distillers Company Limited. Following a relatively stable and calm period for Talisker, a still-house fire tragically destroyed the distillery in 1960. Thankfully, the distillery was completely rebuilt meticulously according exact copies of the old stills, and five replicas of the original stills were constructed to maintain the preservation of the original Talisker flavour.
The distillery has changed hands only once since this period, after Diageo added Talisker to its considerable portfolio. It has marketed the brand as part of its Classic Malts range in 1988. Talisker has been a welcome addition to this established series ever since, despite the fact that the distillery itself is pretty unusual. Talisker Distillery has the strange distinction of housing an odd number of wash stills to spirit stills, counting two wash stills and three spirit stills in total. The third spirit still is a remnant from an era in which Talisker used to produce triple distilled malt whisky, which was stopped in 1928, and the extra spirit still was simply never removed or decommissioned.
Talisker Distillery also possesses another striking feature - swan neck lye pipes. The shape of these pipes means that vapour from the stills loops on its way to the worm tubs, so some of the alcohol is already condensed before it has reached the cooler. The alcohol then runs back into the stills and is distilled again. While these features may seem pretty bizarre, some would say that it is these intricacies that help create the distinctive Talisker character, and it's all the better for it (what's so normal about being normal, anyway?).
Anyone who knows the process of making whisky knows that this character isn't just affected by the methods and equipment used, however, but by the base ingredients as well. Talisker has used the same malted barley since 1972, a supply bought in from Glen Ord after it abandoned it's own onsite maltings. This malt is typically peated to a phenol level of approximately 18–22 parts per million (ppm) which, combined with a decidedly brazen terroir and mineral-rich water from Cnoc nan Speireag (Hawk Hill), helps to form a singular profile of new-make spirit, which tends to be aged in American oak casks.
Nose: A fresh and fragrant nose. Through thick, pungent smoke comes sweet pear and apple peels, with pinches of maritime salt from kippers, seaweed.
Palate: It's a bonfire of peat crackling with black pepper, with a touch of brine and dry barley. A welcome delivery of orchard fruit provides a delicate and beautiful balance.
Finish: In a long finish, bonfire embers toast malt and crystallise a sugary underlay.