Talisker 10YO

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The Isle of Skye is an enchanting place of rugged beauty capable of radical changes in weather.  One day we went out for a drive in pleasant sunshine and returned in wild storms, with the walls of a glen transformed into raging torrents of water.  As a result I always had one eye on the sky as we climbed to the base of The Old Man Of Storr, or in Gaelic Bodach-an-Stoir.  We left the car-park to clear warm weather, as the climb got steeper the layers of clothing came off.  As we rounded the headland for the final scree to the base the wind was like an ice knife, so back on went all the cloths!  The views are breath taking across the water to Raasay.  As we started our descent I spotted rain clouds heading in and got to the car as rain spots started.  Some of the slower ones were not so lucky and ended up like drown rats.

The drive back to Carbost was again in glorious sunshine.  We parked at the Talisker Distillery and walked up the street a little to an old hotel on the banks of Loch Harport for lunch.  One of the dishes was described ad ‘Squat Lobster’; they came out in a pint glass cooked in oil and garlic and were delicious.  They were like small lobster tails the size of your thumbnail; I showed concern that if they were baby lobster it was irresponsible to eat them, but was assured they were full sized and until recently thrown back as bi-catch.

Stimulated by our climb and fortified by lunch we headed back to the distillery for our tour and dram.  I am a bit of a Talisker 10YO fan, having shared some with my brother the previous year, so I was interested to see how it compared to the whiskies we had tried earlier on this trip.  Talisker is in the Diagio stable, so uses barley from their huge maltings.  That said, this does not compromise the individual nature of Talisker.  I was not disappointed; the 10YO has medium peatiness, giving it a distinctive smoke and pepper character with good balance and weight.  There is some salt and seaweed, but more subtle than in Islay malts.  The palate is smooth and layered; the alcohol starts on the side of the tongue and follows the dram down to your stomach, with no excess burning.  I guess the 10YO is mid-way between the peaty Islay and the subtle Speyside malts, and therein lays its appeal; it has the best of both worlds.

The tour was a good balance of information and informality ending in a well-appointed tasting room and shop.  Our tour guide hung around and chatted with us and produced a bottle of higher strength 57* north for an ‘off the record’ tasting.  It has more body than the 10YO because of the higher alcohol, its a fine dram, but not for the faint hearted.  Some call it 57/57/57 because it was distilled at 57*, is 57% alcohol and costs £57 a bottle.

We then went back to the Isles Hotel in Portree to shower and change, having booked the Harbour View Restaurant for dinner, as it was Neil’s birthday.  They were quite busy so we did not get a table until 9:30pm, but being so far north the daylight was just fading when we went in.  The meal was magnificent, with Neil enjoying a giant plate of huge langoustines.  Skye is a place of contrasts, rugged mountains, harsh weather, sublime seafood and good malt.

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