I’m not sure what the most popular tourist attraction is on Skye, but I suspect it might be a trip to the Talisker Distillery. Perhaps assisted when the heavens open and it rains heavily; forcing everyone into indoor activities!
The drive itself takes you through some memorable countryside to the distillery by the edge of Colbost. For this reason I’d recommend actually phoning ahead and booking your place, as it only takes one coach load to fill up a couple of tours. Even if they are every 30 minutes you can still find yourself having to wait a while. And in such a remote location there’s only the distillery shop or the scenery; neither a bad shout in my opinion but not for everyone.
Actually, if you find yourself with a few moments to spare then walk down past the warehouse and towards Loch Harport. Along this path you’ll see an old pier/slipway. This is where the whisky was originally loaded to be shipped off the island. Of course its all changed nowadays even in this most traditional of professions.
This is the original site of the Talisker Distillery, but the facility has been rebuilt after a fire in 1960, including the stills. So don’t expect to take any pictures on the tour, as history shows what can happen on occasion and the devastating effects! Sadly the tour no longer allows us to go outside and see the ‘worm’ pipes in the huge outdoor vats. It seems to be a health & safety issue and a real shame in my opinion that it wasn’t included.At least we can see one of the warehouses and some casks from 1979, which apparently are being kept for a special bottling to be revealed sometime… There are 14 warehouses in total on the Isle of Skye before the casks are shipped to Leven in Fife for bottling.
Whatever time you have to wait for the tour, its more than worth it. This is partially due to our guide today who has an infectious enthusiasm for whisky (also doing the blind tasting) and using everyday examples to describe the process. For anyone new to whisky or with no interest; this is the tour to experience. We’ve been on a few and sometimes many of the phrases and situations become typecast but not here. For instance the Talisker Distillery uses the yeast process to its natural completion i.e. when the yeast dies unlike other Distilleries. This wasn’t something fully explained at other facilities and very interesting.
One thing that is different about the tour is the dram comes first. So allow a few minutes beforehand to check out the ‘goods’ as it were. The tour doesn’t play too much on the flavours; Talisker is smoky after all but I did enjoy the 10 year malt edition here and will try the ’57 degrees North’ edition sometime soon.
I’ll actually blame the brother-in-law for my distaste of Talisker until now, I’m not sure what bottle he had, whether it was a Distillers or extra special smoky version, or even a bootleg! I dunno, it certainly wasn’t representative of the warm, peppery and candid 10 year old malt that I left with. Disappointingly, my preferred 18 year edition had sold out, next time perhaps.
As ever you can view more pictures here. There will be more whisky tours when I can get around to them; the islands and Morayshire are calling out to me, as is Balblair.