On the shores of Loch Harport, the village of Carbost is home to Skye’s only distillery producing a wonderfully powerful and award-winning Island malt bottled at above average strength.
Talisker's soft, peaty process water is drawn from 21 underground springs that rise from Hawk Hill (Cnoc nan Speirag) beside the distillery. These same springs have fed Talisker from the beginning. As its name suggests, the hill is home to birds of prey, usually including Peregrines.
Today, 20,000 gallons an hour of cooling water from the fast-running Carbost Burn fill a traditional Talisker feature – five wooden worm tubs, located outside the still house.
Talisker's two wash stills, carefully recreated after the 1960 fire, are unique. The lye pipes leading off from the main neck are U-shaped, to trap vapours from the first distillation before they reach the outside worm tubs, whilst a small secondary copper pipe carries the vapours so trapped back to the wash stills for a second distillation.
Faithfully following the original design, it is believed that this double distillation ensures that all of Talisker’s rich, deep character is captured first time. So there is, indeed, nothing withdrawn or reserved about Talisker – a fact confirmed for visitors whose first experience before they take the distillery tour, is a taste of the malt itself.
Talisker embodies all the spirit of this rocky, storm-lashed island and its strong, steadfast people. Skye's only distillery this may be, but like the men of the island the malt has character enough for ten.
Any traveller to the far flung island homes of fine malt whiskies eventually comes upon Talisker, home to a malt of rare distinction.
Here, lodged far from any neighbour in the small coastal community of Carbost at the head of Loch Harport, is one of the finest yet most remote distilleries of all. It was in 1825 that Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill came here from the smaller island of Eigg, first to bring sheep to Skye, then to bring Skye's wild spirit to the world.
Leasing Macleod land at Carbost, they built Talisker Distillery in 1830 against the fiery protestations of the abstainer and former parish Minister, the Rev. Roderick Macleod, who declared this 'one of the greatest curses that... could befall it or any other place'.
Soon, their elixir was commented on more favourably, by no less a writer than Robert Louis Stevenson. These succinct lines appear in a poem which might have been subtitled 'A simple guide to malt whisky':
'THE KING O'DRINKS AS I CONCEIVE IT, TALISKER, ISLA OR GLENLIVET'
(RL STEVENSON: THE SCOTSMAN'S RETURN FROM ABROAD: 1880)
Stevenson's words clearly had their own effect. The workforce quickly grew and Talisker became the successful enterprise, which it remains to this day. But not everything ran smoothly during the distillery’s history. In November 1960 a simple lapse of concentration led to the leaving open of a valve on the No. 1 spirit still, which was then still coal-fired.
When the spirit reached boiling point a disastrous overflow occurred onto the flames below and the resulting fire burned down the still-room. The distillery was rebuilt fastidiously around exact copies of the old stills. Today, its seductive malt enjoys more adherents than ever before, many of them introduced to Talisker’s charms by its place among the Classic Malts.
Character and Style of Talisker
- White Pepper