The Talisker Distillery is the only functional single malt whisky distillery on the Isle of Skye, one of largest and northernmost islands of Scotland. It has long been known for having a singularly exclusive style and profile of single malt Scotch whisky from all other distilleries across Scotland. Like Islay single malts are known to be heavily peated, whereas Speyside single malts are known for their pleasant light and floral character, Talisker is known for its balance of spicy and peated single malts. Oh! Talisker whiskies are always bottled at 45.8% ABV, substantially higher than the 40% ABV for other Scotch whiskies.
Hugh & Kenneth MacAskill arrived on the Isle of Skye in 1825, and began constructing the Talisker Distillery in 1830. Opposition from the local clergy couldn’t stop the brothers from building the distillery, although things did not turn out well for the MacAskill brothers. Soon, the Talisker Distillery was leased out to a Donald McLellan in 1857. McLellan also failed to turn things around, declaring bankruptcy and passing the lease on to John Anderson, a businessman from Glasgow.
Over the years, the Talisker Distillery changed a few more hands, even being owned by Roderick Kemp, who went on to purchase the Macallan Distillery on Scottish mainland. In 1916, John Walker & Sons acquired the Talisker Distillery from Thomas Mackenzie, the man who finally brought success to Talisker. Until 1928, Talisker triple distilled their spirit like a lot of distilleries in Scotland, although it is still a common practice in the neighbouring Ireland.
The Talisker Distillery suffered colossal damages through a fire in 1960, and replicas of their five original stills were built. Surprisingly, the guys at Talisker managed to recreate the properties that made the Talisker single malt so popular. Today, the Talisker brand is part of Diageo LLC, who consider the Talisker single malt as one of their finest Scotch whisky brands.
Named after the island itself, the Talisker Skye is one of the distillery’s newest releases. It has been released as the standard, entry-level Talisker expression with no-age-statement. Talisker single malts are known to be heavily peated, but the Talisker Skye has been created with an intent to make it more palatable and friendly for first-time drinkers. This allows Talisker to potentially increase their chances of growing on some whisky drinkers that are new to the brand itself, or to the world of whisky entirely.
The Talisker Skye has been matured in two different types of ex-American Bourbon barrels, refill and toasted, with the proportion of whiskies finished in toasted barrels being slightly greater. There is some sweetness going on along with the signature Talisker smoke and spice, and flavours of honey, citrus fruit, white pepper spice and brine provide a rich palate. Not the longest finish, but adequate with more of that white pepper spice and smoke coming in.
Another no-age-statement release from Talisker that was brought onto the market very recently. The Talisker Storm was released in 2013, two years before the Talisker Skye, and undergoes a similar finishing process with a combination of refill, and re-charred Oak barrels. The single malts that make up the Talisker Storm are from a number of ages, and while the Talisker Skye was made to be mellow, the Storm retains the stronger character that the distillery is associated with. What is obvious from the choice of the name, the Storm is very spicy, smoky and just Talisker all the way.
The smoke and spice simply engulf you from the very beginning when you take a whiff of this rich, full-bodied single malt. As the storm passes, the salty sea air, charred Oak and spice make its way out, and they are followed by sweet and salty flavours of honey and pungent brine, citrus and twisted orange peel. Very complex, and the finish is drying and quite unexpectedly spicy to the very end. Very good stuff but sadly will remain underappreciated.
Can be considered a sibling of the delightful Talisker Storm, Talisker Dark Storm one has been matured in heavily charred Oak barrels which explains the name. When we say heavily charred, we mean heavily charred barrels, lending the darker colour, more peat and caramelized wood to the whisky. Let us start from the beginning. This is a no-age-statement single malt in the mould of the Talisker Skye and the Talisker Storm. Talisker may have done just enough to alter them slightly in order to suit the preferences of Talisker lovers as widely as they can.
Now the Talisker Dark Storm was only released as part of Talisker’s Travel Retail range. The people at Talisker are quite confident in their abilities since they have made the 1L bottles available, and not the 750ML ones. As one expects from an Island single malt finished in heavily charred Oak barrels, this one is smoky and smoky all the way. There are flashes of spicy pepper, sweet honey, dried fruit and roasted nuts, but the Dark Storm before everything else, is s-m-o-k-e-y!
For some, this is the original Talisker standard, and it undoubtedly is one of their best expressions. Pretty consistent, and in line with the typical Talisker style of a smoky and spicy dram, the 10 Year Old has been made a member of Diageo’s Classic Malts series. Like the classic Speyside juggernaut such as The Glenlivet 12 Year Old, or the peated Islay monster such as Laphroaig 10 Year Old, the Talisker 10 is the perfect representative of the region it belongs to. Battered by the harsh sea air for 10 years, and distilled from heavily peated malted barley, this is an excellent Island single malt Scotch.
Like we mentioned earlier, the Talisker style is predominantly smoky and spicy, and there is oodles of it brought along by the 10 Year Old. Serial winner in the Island single malt category for Talisker for many years, critics and loyalists cherish the strong smoky and spicy aromas of this expression. A refreshing flood of orchard fruit flavours mixed with barbecue smoke and spicy white pepper fill up the mouth with a wonderful sensation. The finish is long and spicy, and the slightly higher ABV really does the trick.
It may seem like a peculiar name for a bottle of Scotch whisky, but this Talisker is named after the latitude of the Talisker Distillery. Embodying the raw and naturally challenging characteristics of the distillery’s rugged location, the Talisker 57° North has been released as a cask-strength single malt Scotch whisky. It carries no-age-statement, and has been matured exclusively in ex-Bourbon barrels. This expression pays homage to the Talisker Distillery itself, and presents an unapologetically Talisker personality. The people at Talisker took the symmetry one step further, bottling it at a whopping 57% ABV.
As you can see, this is not a whisky that most people would love, but the ones that love Talisker will definitely fall in love with it. This big burly single malt is full-bodied, and super, super smoky. The maritime character is well-defined, and so is the spiciness on the nose. The palate is once again very smoky, mingled well with sweetness, burnt tar and brine with a lingering, peppery finish. This is a cask-strength single malt that won’t feel like one to Talisker loyalists due to its smoothness.
The Talisker Port Ruighe, released in 2013, is named after one of the towns on the Isle of Skye. It is a no-age-statement single malt Scotch with a distinctly peaty and spicy character. The Port Ruighe also derives a part of its name from the Port wine casks from Portugal that were used to finish this whisky for a few months, after they were matured in ex-American and ex-European casks. Talisker says they developed this expression to pay tribute to the Scottish traders who established the wine trade with Portugal by braving the high seas.
Talisker’s flavour profile combined with the sweet, warming influence of Port wine casks sounds like an interesting proposition but does the whisky hold up? As a matter of fact it does work, and the rich flavours of Port blend well with Talisker’s peat and spice. The nose is quite pleasant with aromas of intense smoke, chocolates, dark raisins and sweet biscuits, whereas the palate brings flavours like wild berries, smoke, salty caramel and warm spices. The finish is very rich, long and drying, leaving behind soft whispers of burnt cocoa. Fun Fact: The Talisker Port Ruighe is pronounced ‘Portree’!