word ‘talisker’ can be derived from the High Scots word
Talamh Sgeir and refers to the echo cliff which
lies close to the distillery. In Gaelic, Talisker is
spelled Talaisgeir and has a Norse origin. The
distillery was built in 1830 by Hugh and Kenneth
MacAskill, two sons of a local doctor on the Isle of
Skye. Talisker was located a fair distance from other
distilleries which meant that the workers lived more or
less isolated on the island. For a time the distillery
actually crafted their own coins which the workers could
‘spend’ for food and other necessities.
In 1843 the distillery was moved to its current location
on the beach of
After the MacAskill brothers died the distillery was run
by a relative who unfortunately was not so good with
money. He ended up being bankrupt after slightly more
than a year and the licence was passed on to J R W
Andersson. His flair for business also proved to be
inadequate and he soon ended up in prison for selling
un-existing casks. Apparently he had not taken into
account that the customers would expect their ordered
whisky to actually be delivered.
During the second part of the 19th century
the distillery finally began to prosper again under the
care of its new owners. Production was increased and the
annual output was raised to between 200 000 and 300 000
litres. By the turn of the century a pier as well as
some iron tracks had been built. The pier was built so
unloading could take place regardless of whether the
tide was high or low. Several new buildings were also
At the beginning of the 19th century Talisker
joined forces with the Dailuaine Distillery thereby
strengthening their position in the market. Talisker
tried triple distillation for a time during the 1920s
but soon reverted to double distillation. Like so many
other distilleries Talisker had to shut down production
during WW2 due to the governmental restrictions on
In 1960 the distillery was completely destroyed by a
fire. It is believed the fire happened because someone
had forgotten to close a hatch on one of the stills. The
distillery was rebuilt with exact copies of the
destroyed stills. The owners probably felt some
apprehension during the first run of the new stills, but
they proved to be up to the task and production was soon
back to full capacity. In the mid-seventies Talisker
ceased malting their own barley. Instead they began to
buy their malt from some of the emerging specialised
malting companies. During the years Talisker has passed
through many hands and are now owned by Diageo.
A significant part of the production at Talisker is used
in the popular Johnnie Walker whisky. However, the
number of official single malt bottlings has increased
in recent years. Talisker is known primarily for their
10 year-old single malt which is also included in the
‘Six Classic Malts’ collection. Talisker is currently
the only distillery on the Isle of Skye, although plans
exist to build a new distillery somewhere on the island.
Talisker use water from adjacent
underground springs. Their water is very peaty which
contributes to the powerful taste of Talisker in spite
of the moderate phenol level of the malt that is used
(25ppm). Since 1972 Talisker have bought their malt from
Glen Ord Maltings, one of the specialised malting
companies in Scotland. The mash tun is made from cast
iron, has a diameter of 6 metres and holds eight tons.
Talisker’s six wooden washbacks each hold 37 000 litres.
They use two wash stills of the Boiling Ball model with
a volume of 10 000 litres each. Unlike most other
distilleries Talisker do not use paired stills; they
have three spirit stills instead of two which each holds
7 500 litres. All stills are directly steam-heated.
Another interesting fact about the stills used at
Talisker is that the lyne arms (through which the
distilled spirit leaves the stills) are bent like an
upright horseshoe. Talisker claim this adds to the
complexity of their whisky. The whisky is matured in
used sherry and bourbon casks. The casks are stored on
the grounds in three different warehouses.
Isle of Skye, IV47 8SR
Visitors: The distillery has a visitor centre
which is open all year round.
Opening hours are April-October: Monday-Saturday
November-March: Monday-Saturday 2pm-5pm.
Admission is £4 which is refundable upon purchase.
Did you find this text particularly interesting? Is
there something you miss? Do you wish to read more about some other
topic, a particular distillery, whiskey or whisky? Drop us a line! We at
The Whisky Guide always strive to improve our service, and we welcome
your thoughts and comments.