Founded by brothers Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill in 1830, Talisker distillery was built at Carbost on the Isle of Skye. The founders had acquired the rent of Talisker House in 1825 and began to displace the local farmers from their land in favour of more profitable sheep farming. Much of the population was settled in Carbost and Portnalong, with the new residents of Carbost forming the workforce for the budding distillery.
Sink or swim
By 1848, the MacAskills were bankrupt and ownership of the Talisker distillery was transferred to the North of Scotland bank. The struggling distillery passed through a number of different owners over the next three decades, before Roderick Kemp and Alexander Allan bought the distillery and brought a better standard of management. In 1900 the distillery owners built worker housing, a tramway and a private pier. Prior to this, casks had to be floated out to waiting ships, making Talisker one of the most remote distilleries in the country. The distillery flourished thanks to its improved infrastructure, with Robert Louis Stevenson describing Talisker as ‘The King o’ drinks as I conceive it,’ in The Scotsman’s Return From Abroad. By 1916, Talisker had become one of the country’s best-selling single malt whiskies and the distillery was primed for a takeover by a consortium of the biggest names in the industry including John Walker & Sons, John Dewar & Sons, and Distillers Company Ltd.
Made by the Sea
Talisker found its identity in 1998 when the 10-year-old was introduced as a founding member of the Classic Malts Selection from Diageo. The range was expanded in 2004 with the addition of an 18-year-old expression and since 2008, several non-age-statement variants have joined the stable including Port Ruighe, Skye, Storm and 57°North. Powerful, salty and smoky, Talisker is renowned for its maritime character with each expression in the range reflecting the distillery’s rugged surroundings on the shores of Loch Harport.