Approximately five years ago, in a quiet student bar a few miles south of Manchester City Centre, my attention was grabbed by a tall bottle of amber liquid on the back shelf, and so I asked the bartender for a taste. It was like nothing I’d ever tried before: the smoky aroma, the smooth texture, the maritime taste and the slow burn. That was the moment that I really discovered Scotch. That was the very start of my whisky journey. One quick sip by the bar became one glass, and then searching the internet for a bottle. My gateway dram? Talisker Single Malt.
|Isle of Skye|
Talisker Distillery produce some of my favourite whiskies and will always hold a special place in my heart. Based in Carbost on the Isle of Skye, it is no small mission to plan a visit. We drove from mainland Scotland, across the Skye Bridge over Loch Alsh, and then an hour through the narrow and winding roads of Skye to reach the Distillery. Skye itself is well worth exploring (I recommend wild camping on the North Eastern coast), as it is essentially the coastal equivalent of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I’d say you can taste the rugged coastal landscape in the whisky produced here.
In true adventuring spirit, we did not book tickets for the tour in advance. We rocked up to the distillery and hoped for the best. Once we had finally found a place to park the Bumble Camper in the small car park, we were told that all Classic Tours were booked up until the late afternoon. We were in no rush, so booked onto the next available tour and took the time to explore the coast and have lunch in the local pub just a few minutes walk from the distillery.
Entrance Fee: £10
Tour Length: 45mins
There were about 10 people on the tour with the delightful Gordon, who had a good sense of humour was incredibly knowledgeable. We had some trouble-makers in our group, but Gordon was very patient and made sure they did not disrupt the tour too much for the rest of us.
The tour itself was somewhat generic. It started off with information about malting barley. As Talisker is characteristically peaty, we were given some peat to pass around, then peated and unpeated barley to smell and taste the difference. This part was no doubt interesting for the whisky novices in the group, and as a Talisker fan I was happy to taste the barley that goes into the spirits.
We were then taken through the still room and saw the majestic copper stills: 2 wash stills and 3 spirit stills, and we were given a brief explanation of the spirit safe which was cordoned off about 5-10 metres from the public. This was disappointing as the spirit safe is one of my favourite parts about distillery tours! Next, it was outside to see the wormtub condensers. This was the first time I’d seen wormtubs in person as not many distilleries still use this method. We were then taken through a corridor with a glass panel on the wall revealing the warehouse, where we could see barrels of Talisker whisky, but sadly we were not allowed inside. Again, disappointing as I would have loved to have smelt the aromas of my favourite whisky maturing! Finally, we were each handed a dram of Talisker Dark Storm and had a somewhat hurried tasting session before being ushered back to the gift shop and bar.
Overall, the distillery and surrounding land was beautiful to see but the tour itself was not particularly special as it focused more on the production of whisky in general than the things that make Talisker unique. They do offer a Whisky and Chocolate tour for £30 or a Talisker Masterclass tour for £45, which are longer tours with guided tastings of 3-5 additional drams, respectively.
Talsiker do have an exclusive bottling available at the distillery which is available to buy at the shop or taste at the bar. You can find my tasting notes on that here.