The first half of our week on Skye we had a cottage right across from the Talisker distillery. My wife booked the cottage without checking Google Maps so I was kind of grateful I couldn’t be blamed for that. It made the decision to go for the extensive tasting tour rather easy since driving wasn’t really necessary to get back home.
Talisker is a Diageo distillery so taking pictures was out of the question, of course. The extensive tour takes you through the entire distillery. Unfortunately we couldn’t get close to the washbacks since they were steam cleaning them. That would have imposed a too high risk to everybody in the room that wasn’t a professional. A fairly good reason if you ask me.
Our guide, Michael, was incredibly knowledgeable and had quite some experience in the world of whisky. He also wasn’t too shy to talk about the difference between Talisker and other (non-Diageo) distilleries. I find a lot of times tour guides almost deny the existence of other whisky companies.
The added extra of the extensive tour was that we got to see the worm tubs out back from the still room. Normally people don’t go up there so that was a nice extra.
The distillery itself is very beautifully located on Loch Harport and is a rebuild from 1960, when it burned down. They did everything exactly the same, even the extra still that hadn’t been necessary since 1928, when they stopped triple distillation. They still use that one, but have integrated it into the spirit distillation.
If you want to get an idea of how pretty the location of Talisker is, read up on the distillery in Alfred Barnard ‘Distilleries of the United Kingdom’. He takes about two pages to describe how lost for words he is on the rugged beauty of Skye, and Loch Harport.
What stood out was the strange way of mashing. The entire process is more or less the same as in other distilleries, with the first water being the most sugary and that sitting in the mashtun for a few hours to extract as much as possible. The difference here was that the second and third waters are actually the same and they pump it right through without the water being in the mashtun for long. After about 40,000 liters they stop collecting and another 40,000 liters is pumped through for the third water. This all happens by approximates so the amounts are not 100% exact. A very interesting way of doing things, and one I had not encountered before.
The tasting after the tour was nice too. There were six expressions if you count the new make as an expression. We sat for an hour or so discussing everything whisky and quite a few people on the tour were rather knowledgeable about booze as well, which made for interesting conversation.
The five other expressions were the 10, Distiller’s Edition, 18, 25 and 57 North. Reviews will follow. Back in the shop I was able to get a very wee sip of the Port Ruigh and Storm, preferring the Storm.
Concluding, the tour is great, the whiskies are great and it was terrific to have an honest and very up-to-date tour guide instead of someone from a temp agency. Absolutely great, but still a real bummer about not being allowed to take pictures.