...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Littlemills for my little girl: Littlemill 20 year old 1992 Archives

Whenever most folks start writing about Littlemill Distillery, they usually start with some information about it possibly being the oldest whisky distillery (excise officer accommodations built in 1772, the possibility that production started in 1750, a brewery being on site since the 1300s).  But, sadly, because the distillery has been closed, dismantled, and burnt down, it can't be in the running because it no longer exists.

Littlemill is one of those distilleries that has bounced from ownership to ownership to ownership throughout the years.  That didn't seem to effect production negatively in the 1700s and 1800s.  In fact, when it was owned by William Hay in the 1870s the facilities were refurbished and expanded.  When it was bought in 1931 by an American, Duncan Thomas, the distillery's triple distillation practice was ended.  Glenlivet and Barton Brands of Chicago bought the distillery in 1971 then mothballed it in 1984 during the glut.  It was then sold to Gibson International who reopened it in 1989.  Gibson International was then bought out by some of its own corporate officers two years later.  Then all of that company's assets went into receivership and it was bought out by Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Limited (later to become Loch Lomond Distillery Company, owner of the Loch Lomond and Glen Scotia distilleries) in 1994.  They then dismantled the Littlemill distillery in 1996.  The remaining buildings burned to the ground in 2004.

The whisky glut was probably the death knell for this distillery, but the constant shifting of ownership and management over its last 25 years certainly would not have helped keep production consistent.  It truly escapes me why Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Limited (whom I want to call Glen Latrine) found Loch Lomond Distillery of more interest than both Littlemill and Glen Scotia.  Loch Lomond was expanded and fitted with new stills, while Littlemill went to hell and Glen Scotia was left to run only a few weeks a year by the Springbank staff.  I'm going to assume it had something to do with blending contracts, but it's tough to imagine that a historically difficult malt like Loch Lomond would be more in demand for blends than a light fruity Lowlander like Littlemill.  But maybe I'm just bitter.  It would have been fun to have an old school Lowland single malt to compete with Auchentoshan (Beam Suntory) and Glenkinchie (Diageo).

Okay, so today's Littlemill was bottled by the Whiskybase fellas under their Archives label.  One of these days I'm going to get around to buying an actual full bottle of one of their releases because they're samples have been decent to very good so far.

Distillery: Littlemill
Independent Bottler: Archives
Age: 20 years (Feb 1992 - November 2012)
Maturation: ex-bourbon hogshead
Cask number44
Limited bottling: 339
Region: Lowlands
Alcohol by Volume: 54.8%

For the color, see the comparative photo above.  The nose holds lemons, papaya, roses, and orange hard candies.  There are more subtle notes of vanilla bean, butterscotch, and citronella floating in and out.  It's all very lovely.  The palate starts with some salt and dried savory herbs then......wow, it's otherwise the same as the nose: soft oranges and lemons, flower petals, vanilla bean. Then there's a soft rumble of malt following it all. It's a very easy drinker and has a nice thick texture.  The finish is just as pretty as the nose.  Flower petals and lemon zest and vanilla pudding.

The nose starts with caramel sauce and lemon candies.  Then the nougat in a Three Musketeers bar. Maybe some tangerine juice? Lots of flower blossoms after a few minutes. In the palate, there's a malt note that is almost chocolatey, followed by orange peel. It's slightly sweeter but not cloying.  The finish, though shorter, hasn't changed much, which is a good thing.

There's a reason I went with Littlemills this week, aside from the cute name.  There's an imaginary Lowlands stereotype I've built up in my mind, and this fits it perfectly; it is all light citrus, flowers, and butterscotch.  A beautiful baby girl of a whisky.

In more vague whisky-talk, it's neither burly nor heavy, yet very full and fragrant.  It focuses in on a half dozen notes and hits every single one head on.  Shoulda bought a bottle of this, but it's sold out now.  Dang it.  Congrats to those who beat me to it, you have a good one there.

Availability - Sold out, here's the original link
Pricing - around $130 w/o shipping, depending on exchange rate
Rating - 92


  1. Older Bladnoch (like the kind made by UD) tends to fall under that Lowlands stereotype. Too bad the distillery is going through some issues. I'm hoping Daftmill will also go for that style once they start releasing some whisky. Littlemill certainly doesn't have the same reputation as Rosebank or St. Magdalene (a distillery I really want to try) but I'm sure that reputation will build when both those closed distilleries run out of stock. In fact, I haven't seen any Rosebanks on the shelves lately even though it was closed a year before Littlemill. Surely Diageo plans on doing something with those stocks.

    I typically don't pay too much attention toward oldest distillery claims. Glenturret is technically a 20th Century facility built on top of an older distillery (Hosh Distillery) dating to 1775. Rosebank also claimed to be founded in 1773 but the historical record is really spotty from that period.

    1. Yeah, I agree with you on all of this. The oldest distillery claims are now just marketing tools, see Bushmills' 1608 tale.

      I have a few Bladnoch samples (UD era) here, so I'll need to do a week of those someday. I've liked the Bladnochs I've tried but don't have a firm opinion on them yet. I'd LOVE to do a St. Mag week someday. And, as you mentioned, indie Rosebanks are nowhere to be seen anymore. I wonder if Diageo bought back other people's casks. It took me only seven sentences to blame Diageo for something.