Notes of seaweed, peach and baked bread: meet Talisker whisky's master blender

Maureen Robinson at Talisker whisky
Robinson has built up an extraordinary portfolio of whiskies Credit: Addie Chinn

When Maureen Robinson, the master whisky blender behind such famous brands as Talisker and Lagavulin, started in her job, many expressed surprise that a woman could create great whisky.

Thirty years on and 'it isn’t big news any more’, she says. 'Plenty of woman have diverse, senior roles in the Scottish whisky trade.’ 

And plenty more of us will be pouring a dram or two on Burns Night, perhaps from bottles created by Robinson, who has built up an extraordinary portfolio of whiskies at distilleries owned by parent company Diageo.

One of my favourites is Talisker Skye, released last year, which I recommend wholeheartedly for its subtle whiff of wood smoke and honeyed citrus finish. 

A typical day sees her in the lab working on 'seven or eight whiskies’, sampled from coloured glasses so she isn’t distracted by their appearance, concentrating on the aromas and flavours alone.

Credit: Addie Chinn

She seems firmly led by her nose, so one whisky smells 'spicy, bready, like a cake baking’, while another has whiffs of 'aniseed, clove, peach and pear’. (And a faulty one can recall the delightful scent of 'baby sick’, apparently…)  

At home she is not above drinking whisky mixed with ginger beer or coke, but to savour the finer qualities, will sip it simply poured on a little ice, or with a splash of water. And, yes, it will always be Scotch whisky for Robinson; American whiskey having far 'too much sweet wood flavour’. 

Note her favourite whisky and food pairing: a platter of smoked salmon, fresh oysters and caviar with a glass of a rich and peaty whisky like Lagavulin.

That’s the (rather upmarket) starter for Burns Night sorted, then.

Try these

Talisker Skye Single Malt Whisky (Waitrose, £38 down to £27 until 27 Jan)

Robinson’s new whisky for the Talisker distillery on the eponymous island has more restrained smokiness than usual, with warming pepper, fresh orange and a dab of honey.

Haig Club Single Grain Whisky (Co-op, £45 down to £35 until 23 Feb)

David Beckham-promoted Lowlands whisky, easy-going and mellow, which Robinson says she likes 'in the lighter style’ and for cocktails. Try it if you don’t like heavier, smoky styles.

Lagavulin 16 Year Old Single Malt Whisky (, £47.95)

A properly pungent, intensely flavoured Islay malt, dense with peat smoke, with a note of seaweedy iodine and a full, lingering spicy finish. One of Robinson’s stars.