...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Littlemills for my little girl: Littlemill 20 year old 1992 Berry Bros & Rudd

In the days leading up to Mathilda Rose's birth, my whisky drinking slowed to a stop.  I needed to be in Ready Mode at a moment's notice.  Plus with stress levels being high, I wanted to avoid utilizing it for medicinal purposes.  So for three weeks, I was down to a maximum of one drink per night; then the final week I stopped altogether.

But now she's here and to hell with restrictions, right?  Well, wrong.  First, I'm a responsible dad.  Secondly, when I opened my celebratory bottle of Yamazaki 18 I found out quite quickly that my former meager tolerance had been reduced by half.


To celebrate, I have four weeks of reviews of very different whiskies.

I'm leading off with Littlemills for my little girl this week.  I've tried a handful of indie bottlings of this closed distillery over the past few years and enjoyed all of them, in fact, I've liked them better than the pair of Rosebanks I tried during the same time frame.  So, at the moment it's the only Lowland distillery (current or former) that I consistently dig; though, I have heard that the old official 12yo can be a bit hideous uninspired.  In tomorrow's post I'll include some more info about the distillery, but since I've pished around so much in this post already, I'm going straight to the booze.

This is the first of three Littlemills this week.  Three, no more, no less.  Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three.  Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three.  Five is right out.  Once the number three, being the third number, be reached...

Distillery: Littlemill
Independent Bottler: Berry Bros. & Rudd
Age: 20 years (1992-2013)
Maturation: likely an ex-bourbon barrel
Cask number10
Region: Lowlands (though close to the Highlands border)
Alcohol by Volume: 54.9%

Thank you to Eric S. for another great sample!

The color is amber with some brassy notes up top.  At first there's lots of youth in the nose, especially chlorine and varnish, then big notes of barley and yeast.  Hints of sawdust and caramel.  Lime-flavored gummy candy, salty beach scents, pencil eraser, and white vinegar.  It grows more buttery with time.  The palate focuses mostly on barley, salt, and walnuts.  Gradually notes of caramel hard candies, spicy basil leaves, and tart oranges emerge.  Lots of heat still present.  The finish is simple but sturdy: cocoa powder, hazelnuts, and toasted barley.

The nose grows more bourbon-like with a boost to the sawdusty caramel.  There are orange peels and lime peels, flower kiss candy, and the inside of a Big League Chew bubblegum bag.  More water leads to more flowers and peels.  The palate is saltier and slightly savory.  The orange peels show up, as does an herbal bitterness.  The finish has the mild bitterness as well, along with toasty barley, and sour citrus.

A decent malt.  It's lean, pleasant, and with hints of greater things.  Its pleasures depend on how one feels about spirit-forward whisky.  In this whisky's case there's still tons of youthful barleyness present.  If one requires more oak in the presentation, then this may bore.  Personally, I like the low oak quotient.  But "like" is a far as I'll go.  It was a fun whisky to try but there's no need for me to get a bottle.

Serge Valentin is almost over the moon
 about this one, though he's clearly finding more going on in the palate and finish than I do.  But his reference to wormwood is right on; I liked the bitterness but wasn't sure what it reminded me of and Serge's review came to the rescue.  The whiskybase community also loves this stuff, but because only one person wrote up tasting notes I don't know what they're raving about.

Now, back to my opinion...  This whisky wins a couple extra points from me because I admire Berry Bros & Rudd for bottling the cask when they did.  They could have let it age for five more years and doubled the price.  Or they could have waited until it was 30+ years old and quadrupled the price.  But had they done so that sawdusty caramel note from the oak would have gradually taken over all the other flavors by the third decade.  A buyer would then shill out $500 for a "super-premium" single malt only to get the sort of oak juice that can be found in many 12+ year old bourbons at 1/10th its expense.  But instead, this Littlemill is brisk and spirity with subtle stirrings of American oak.

Tomorrow another 1992, but for today:

Availability - UK/Europe only, not sure if this specific cask has sold out yet
Pricing - around $130 w/o shipping, depending on exchange rate
Rating - 85