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Isle of Skye, Scotland
The Isle of Skye was once home to seven registered distilleries as well as numerous illicit operations. Established in 1830, only Talisker survives, a super star amongst malts, revered for its uniquely salty pepper character.
A modern landmark bridge now connects the Isle of Skye to the mainland, but the Talisker distillery remains remote, lying on the far western coast of the island where it nestles on the shore of Loch Harport, tucked into the hills that rise from the loch. Beyond, the 23 jagged peaks of the Cuillin Mountains dominate the skyline.
Carbost, the coastal hamlet that has grown around the distillery includes many houses originally built for distillery workers. Confusingly, Talisker Bay and its imposing House, after which the distillery is named, lie some six miles away by single, sheep-infested track. Talisker Bay takes its name from the Norse word for the mountain above the bay, ‘Thalas Gair’, meaning ‘sloping rock’. Legend has it that Cuillin, the Irish giant, strode ashore at Talisker and fought a victorious two day battle in the mountains that now take his name.
Talisker House was the property of the chiefs of the Clan MacLeod and was traditionally the home of the second son. In 1773 Boswell and Dr. Johnson stayed at Talisker House for two days during their Highland Tour in order to meet Flora MacDonald, who in 1746 had famously helped the fugitive Bonnie Prince Charlie evade capture and bought him to Skye after his defeat by the British at Culloden. She was arrested and imprisoned but after her release in July the following year returned to Skye. After their meeting, Johnson wrote that Flora MacDonald would be, “mentioned in history and if courage and fidelity be virtues, mentioned with honour.” Today the public footpath to Talisker Bay passes through the grounds of what is now a private house.