One of the most fascinating things about whisky is the rich history which surrounds it. Many of Scotland’s distilleries have been around for over 200 years and there’s many a story intertwined with their own. I thought I’d maybe delve into that a little bit over the course of the next few reviews. So with that in mind, let us look to the Isle of Skye and Talisker distillery.
Talisker’s story is somewhat rooted in a particularly dark period of Scotland’s past. Following the Jacobite defeat in 1746 the traditional highland way of life was changed forever. The authority of clan chiefs was outlawed, highland dress banned and land stripped from Jacobite supporters to be redistributed to those loyal to the crown. The years that followed saw the new landlords drastically increase rent, forcing many tenants from their homes as they struggled to keep up their payments. The time also saw the rise of mass sheep-farming and it wasn’t long before profit-hungry eyes saw the potential in the land and set to forcibly evicting thousands of families. The isle of Skye was not exempt from all this, far from it. In the 12 years from 1763 to 1775 some 20,000 people emigrated. In the 40 years following 1840, 1740 ‘writs of removal’ were served involving some 40,000 people.
In 1825, brothers Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill of Eigg bought Talisker house and the adjoining lands from the MacLeod of MacLeod. They immediately set about removing tenants to make way for both sheep and a much grander scheme – whisky. Talisker was built in 1830 while all around it people were forced from their homes. Many headed south to the cities, where poverty and disease were rife. Many set off for the new world of North America, many died in the attempt. To this day, much of the highlands and islands of Scotland remain barren and empty, stripped of the rich life that once thrived there.
As for Talisker, things didn’t work out too well for the MacAskills either and by 1848 the distillery was under the control of the bank. A variety of owners came and went over the next 30 years until it was bought in 1880 by Roderick Kemp and Alexander Allen, who ushered in better times and by 1898, Talisker was one of the best selling malts in the country. Ownership would change again in 1916 when a group made up of John Walker & Sons, John Dewar, W.P. Lowrie and DCL took over. This group became United Distillers and later, Diageo.
Talisker 10 year old has been part of Diageo’s ‘Classic Malts’ range since 1988 and as such it can be found just about anywhere with a half decent whisky selection. It’s fame is well justified for a dram of Talisker is an intense experience. On the nose there’s Brine and Seaweed, some Honey & Heather, a little bit of Dark Chocolate and then lots and lots of Pepper wrapped in a wave of Smoke. The palate is almost dominated by Pepper and Sea Salt with a touch of Honey, Vanilla, Lemon and Smoke.
The Scores: About the scoring system
Smell: 17 / 20. A classic maritime malt character. The coast leaps out of the glass at you.
Taste: 18 / 20. Intense. The explosion of pepper and peat smoke may not be to everyone’s taste but if you like that kind of thing Talisker will never disappoint.
Value: 8 / 10. It’s bottled at 45.8% ABV, a reasonably high strength for the price. I presume that some chill filtering has taken place but there is good weight to it regardless. You should be able to find this for around £35 and at that price you can’t really go wrong.
Total: 43 / 50