Talisker distillery

Islands Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Talisker has retained the five still set-up and continues to produce a highly individual new make which mixes smoke, fruit, sulphur, salt and pepper. The malt is medium-peated, the worts clear, the fermentation long. It is in distillation that things go slightly strange.

The wash stills are very tall with an exaggerated U-shaped bend in the lyne arm with a purifier pipe at its lowest point. This refluxes any heavy elements back into the body of the still to be redistilled. After rising up the ‘U’, the lyne arm coils itself inside cold worm tubs.

While there is a lot of reflux taking place, there is little copper contact which provides the sulphury notes in the new make, and could give the signature pepperiness in the mature spirit. The purifier pipe adds oiliness, while the reflux helps to refine the fruity elements created during fermentation.

In contrast to most distilleries where the spirit stills are the workhorses, at Talisker the second distillation takes place in small plain stills, again with worm tubs. This adds mid-palate weight. Maturation is in refill and rejuvenated casks with ex-fortified wine casks being used for the Distiller’s Edition and Port Ruighe expressions and occasional special releases. 

  • Region
  • Production type
    Single malt
  • Distillery Status

Talisker History

Talisker’s founders, brothers Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill were classic Clearance landlords. Having bought the tack [rent] of Talisker House on Skye and extensive lands in 1825, they set about forcibly shifting the resident population from their farms, either to new settlements at Carbost and Portnalong on the shores of Loch Harport and Portnalong, or off the island entirely.

As well as replacing subsistence farmers with more profitable sheep, another of the MacAskill’s money-making schemes was distilling. In 1830, they opened their Talisker distillery in Carbost using the cleared populace as its workforce.

Their venture into whisky-making was not a success and by 1848 the bank was in control. For the next three decades Talisker stumbled through a series of other owners who found it hard to keep afloat a distillery which is remote even by 21st century standards.

In 1880, Talisker’s fortunes changed when Roderick Kemp and Alexander Allen [see Dailuaine] bought the distillery and proceeded to expand the site and construct a distillery pier – until then all the casks had to be floated out to waiting ships.

Kemp sold his share in 1892 in order to buy Macallan and on Allen’s death in 1895, his business partner Thomas Mackenzie took charge and three years later Talisker was formally merged with Dailuaine (and Imperial). When Mackenzie himself died in 1916, a grouping of major blenders, John Walker & Sons, John Dewar, W.P. Lowrie, and DCL took control, an indication as to the quality of the spirit. Talisker has remained within the same grouping (the firms all merged and eventually morphed into Diageo).

In 1960, the distillery burned down and was silent until 1962 while it was being rebuilt. A decade later the maltings closed and the distillery began getting its requirements from Glen Ord.

Talisker had long been available as single malt from independents such as Gordon & MacPhail, and also officially, predominantly as an eight-year-old. In 1998, it was given greater prominence as a founding member of the Classic Malts Selection when the age was upped to 10 years. An 18-year-old joined the range in 2004, but since 2008 the range has expanded dramatically with no-age-statement quartet: 57˚North, Storm, Dark Storm and Port Ruighe. It is now one of Diageo’s most important single malt brands.


  • 1825 Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill purchase the rent of Talisker House on Skye
  • 1830 The MacAskill brothers found Talisker distillery in Carbost
  • 1848 The brothers go bankrupt and the lease is transferred to the North of Scotland bank
  • 1857 The bank sells Talisker distillery to Donald MacLennan for £500
  • 1863 MacLennan markets the distillery for sale after failing to make a go of it
  • 1867 Glasgow's Anderson & Co takes control of the distillery
  • 1879 John Anderson is jailed for fraud, after selling imaginary casks of whisky to clients
  • 1880 Alexander Grigor Allan and Roderick Kemp take over operation of Talisker
  • 1892 Kemp sells his share in the distillery to fund the build of Macallan
  • 1894 The Talisker Distillery Co. is founded
  • 1895 Alexander Grigor Allan dies and his business partner, Thomas Mackenzie, takes over
  • 1898 Talisker Distillery Co. merges with Dailuaine-Glenlivet Distillers and Imperial Distillers to form Dailuaine-Talisker Distillers Co.
  • 1916 Mackenzie dies and a consortium of whisky companies, including John Walker & Sons, takes over
  • 1928 Talisker's regime of triple distillation is stopped
  • 1960 A major fire breaks out at the distillery, halting operation, and a major repair job begins
  • 1962 The distillery finally reopens after two years
  • 1972 Talisker ceases its own malting and buys malt in from Glen Ord
  • 1988 Talisker 10 becomes one of the six Classic Malts; the distillery's visitors' centre is opened
  • 1998 The distillery is upgraded with a new mash tun and five worm tubs
  • 2004 Talisker 18 Year Old joins the core range
  • 2005 Talisker 175th Anniversary bottling is released
  • 2008 No-age-statement release, Talisker 57° North, is launched
  • 2013 Talisker Storm, Dark Storm and Port Ruighe are released; the visitors' centre is given a £1m upgrade

Talisker Facts

  • Condenser Type i
    Worm tub
  • Fermentation Time i
    Min 65 hrs
  • Filling Strength i
  • Grist Weight (t) i
  • Heat Source i
  • Malt Specification i
    Medium peated
  • Malt Supplier i
    Mainly in house
  • Mash Tun Type i
  • New-make Phenol Level i
    Medium peaty
  • New-make Strength i
  • Spirit Still Charge (l) i
  • Spirit Still Shape i
  • Stills i
  • Wash Still Charge (l) i
  • Wash Still Shape i
    Neck ball
  • Washback Type i
  • Water Source i
    Cnocnan Speireag Burn
  • Wort Clarity i
  • Yeast Type i


Current owner

Previous owners

  • United Distillers 1986 - 1997
  • Distillers Company Limited 1925 - 1986
  • Dailuaine-Talisker Distilleries Co 1898 - 1925
  • Talisker Distillery Co 1894 - 1898
  • Alexander Grigor Allan 1892 - 1894
  • Alexander Grigor and Roderick Kemp 1880 - 1892
  • Anderson & Co 1867 - 1879
  • Donald MacLennan 1857 - 1867
  • North of Scotland Bank 1848 - 1857
  • Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill 1830 - 1848


Talisker Distillery
Isle of Skye
IV47 8SR
United Kingdom
+44 1478 614308
Visitor Opening Hours
9.30am (Apr-Oct), 10am (Nov-Mar) to 4.30pm (Nov-Mar), 5pm (Apr-June, Sept, Oct), 5.30pm (July and Aug)
9.30am (Apr-Oct), 10am (Nov-Mar) to 4.30pm (Nov-Mar), 5pm (Apr-June, Sept, Oct), 5.30pm (July and Aug)
9.30am (Apr-Oct), 10am (Nov-Mar) to 4.30pm (Nov-Mar), 5pm (Apr-June, Sept, Oct), 5.30pm (July and Aug)
9.30am (Apr-Oct), 10am (Nov-Mar) to 4.30pm (Nov-Mar), 5pm (Apr-June, Sept, Oct), 5.30pm (July and Aug)
9.30am (Apr-Oct), 10am (Nov-Mar) to 4.30pm (Nov-Mar), 5pm (Apr-June, Sept, Oct), 5.30pm (July and Aug)
9.30am to 5pm (Apr-Oct)
11am to 5pm (June-Sept)


See also

  • Auchroisk Auchroisk Auchroisk Distillery & brand


    One of Diageo’s ‘nutty-spicy’ sites.

  • Benrinnes Benrinnes Benrinnes Distillery & brand


    A highly individual Speyside whisky.

  • Blair Athol Blair Athol Blair Athol Distillery & brand

    Blair Athol

    The home of Bell's blended whisky.

  • Caol Ila Caol Ila Caol Ila Distillery & brand

    Caol Ila

    Islay distillery belonging to Diageo.

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