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  • Writer's pictureRichard Murff

The Only Whisky That is Talisker

Let other poets raise a fracas

‘Bout vines an’ wines, an’ drunken Bacchus,

An’ crabbit names an stories wrack us,

An’ grate our lug:

I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us,

In glass or jug.

"Scotch Drink" - Robert Burns

Talisker, as its makers point out, is “made by the sea on the shore of the Isle of Skye.” And so it be. It is a singular Scotch, often lumped in with the Islay bunch, but that’s not exactly right either. Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, Skye is the largest and northernmost. As such, is a complex whisky, peaty and smoky with that almost iodine hint of the windy North Sea. The water comes from a nearby spring Cnoc nan Spiereag – which means in Scot’s Gaelic… well you don’t care what it means. Whatever you call it, the water flows over peat making almost certainly awful to drink raw but it certainly makes the whisky interesting.

It is a brilliant gold in color, it is warm and peaty without the tar of some of those heavier Islay whiskies like Laphroaig. Then there is that saltiness, a hint of brine. Drink it neat, or with a couple of drops of water. Lovely as it is, don’t drink it in the shower.

In 1825, Hugh MacAskill of Eigg acquired Talisker House on the ancient island that was once called Sky´ey – the isle of clouds – by the Norse. While they export heaps of scenery, not a whole lot else has come from Skye save Flora MacDonald - the kidnapped bride who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie

escape the Hanoverians during the Jacobite rebellion. Far more impressive, she was able to convince an irate Prince of Wales that she'd acted out of Christian charity and not treason at all. Still, for all her troubles the Scottish clan system was broken up and the Hanoverians reign over the U.K to this day, right up to this cute little fella here...

The climate of Skye is mild, wet and windy. MacAskill and his brother built a distillery that was producing by 1830, and is currently the only distillery on the island, which accounts for its singular profile. By the end of the century, the Brother MacAskill's malt whisky was one of the best-selling in the U.K.

So unique is it that in 1960, when a fire destroyed the distillery, newer stills weren’t installed, but exact replicas of the old ones. There just really isn’t anything else like it. Islay whiskies are close – and fantastic – but Talisker is just that.

While Talisker has jumped on the innovative bandwagon for new expressions of this timeless whisky, it’s eight and ten year have been a stalwart of the fine whisky world for the better part of 200 years.

Ah, but you are a hep cat and you don’t want to drink your grandfather’s Scotch. Well, as Sukhinder Singh of Whisky Magazine put it as late as 2011, Talisker is "A malt equivalent to The Rolling Stones "Satisfaction": it's exciting and fulfilling no matter how many times you come to it, on one level it's mainstream, if slightly on the heavier and rockier side of the taste spectrum; on another there's an edgier and less safe edge to it. A rich body is decorated with pepper and peat."

Hell what’s the point of reviewing a whisky if that’s already been said about it? Because it’s great Scotch, that’s why.

Read more at the 4717


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