Talisker is a distillery of Scotch whisky on the Isle of Skye, northeast of Scotland. Talisker is the only distillery on the island, and the property is owned by Diageo and run by United Distillers and Vintners.
Talisker was founded in 1830 by Keneth and Hugh MacAskill in the town of Carbost. For the first fifty years, the distillery was poorly managed, until 1880, when Alexander Grigor Allen (a public prosecutor) and Aberdeen merchant Roderick Kemp came into ownership. By the turn of the century, Allen had merged his part ownership with Thomas MacKenzie, owner of the Dailuaine distillery. Talisker had its own pier, tramway and cottages for their workforce.
Thomas Mackenzie died in 1916, and a group led by John Walker and Sons and John Dewar and Sons assumed control of Talisker. In 1928, they changed Talisker over from being triple-distilled to being double-distilled, which brought it in line with a majority of Scotch. This group ran the distillery until World War II, when supplies of barley rationed. Due to a lack of raw materials, production ceased. A fire destroyed the still house in 1960, but Talisker was rebuilt in two years, with exact copies of the stills made from plans. In 1972, Talisker closed its malting floor and began to buy malt from a specialist, and converted to steam heating from the older, coal-fired furnaces.
Since 1972, little has changed at Talisker. 1997 brought a new, copper mash tank to the distillery, and five new worm tubs (to condense spirit vapors back to a liquid state). Diageo has owned Talisker since 2004.
Talisker buys malt that ranges in the 18-22 ppm of phenol range, which is a medium level. Their water source for cutting the spirit down to barrelling and bottling proof is Cnoc nan Speireag (Hawk's Hill), which flows over peat. Talisker has a moderate level of "peatyness".
While Talisker bottles a large portion of its production, it is featured in both Johnnie Walker Black Label and Blue Label. It is part of Diageo's "Classic Malt" line. Among the bottlings produced under the Talisker name, there are a 10 year, a 12 year (available through the Friends of Classic Malts society), an 18, 20, 25, and 30 year old versions. They also make a Distiller's Edition that is finished in Oloroso sherry casks.
When young, Talisker has a strong dried fruit aspect, a rounded midpalate with the sweetness of barley playing off the smok and peat, and then a wicked, chili/black pepper finish. Time in barrel does mute this spicyness a bit, turning it more into a glow in the back of the throat.