...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Littlemills for my little girl: Littlemill 20 year old 1984 Hart Brothers

So, apparently it's difficult to publish blog posts in an expeditious manner when one has a newborn.

"What? How could I ever be a distraction?"
This week I've been drinking Littlemill samples in honor of my new daughter, Mathilda.  Tuesday's Littlemill, bottled by Berry Brothers & Rudd, was decent, light on the oak and bigger on the malt.  Wednesday's Littlemill, bottled by the whiskybase folks under their Archives label, was very pretty; all light citrus, flowers, and butterscotch.  Today's Littlemill was bottled by Hart Brothers, an indie brand I've often seen but never tried.

This bottling is at 46% ABV, which is good, but I've never seen a Hart Bros. cask strength release even though in the U.S. their whiskies are often priced like they were full strength.  On their official site, they list 30 current(?) single malts, only one of which appears to be at high strength.  On a more positive note, none of those thirty whiskies is younger than 11 years.

My sample was obtained via a swap with Mr. Opinions (Thank you, sir!).  He found some curious notes in his review of his bottle, which he had picked up when it was on clearance at Binny's.  So let's see what I find...

Distillery: Littlemill
Independent Bottler: Hart Brothers
Age: 20 years (April 1984 - January 2005)
Maturation: ex-bourbon barrel
Region: Lowlands
Alcohol by Volume: 46.0%

The color is a pinot grigio. The nose starts out with rolled oats and matza in rubbing alcohol.  In fact, that takes front stage for almost 15 minutes.  Then lemon sugar cookies and store-bought nectarines (you know, the out of season ones that sit on trucks for a week or more and never ripen well? Specific!) appear.  Something creamy and vanilla-ish.  Then, after more time, sour milk and (um) urine.  Meanwhile, there's still a whole lotta wet maztos in there.  The palate starts out a little soapy.  Lemon flavoring, mild graininess, geraniums, the aforementioned stone fruits. It's tart and a little "fizzy" (a borrowed descriptor).  Lots of dish soap in the finish.  A mild maltiness meets notebook paper.

Fewer unusual notes in the nose.  More citrus and tropical fruits.  In the palate, the citrus and malt get bigger.  The soap lessens and the fizziness remains.  The finish gets bitterer and the tartness ramps up as well.

An odd duck indeed.  Despite the fact that the notes may sound off-putting, the nose is actually a lot of fun.  Lemon cookies, matza, rubbing alcohol, and pee?  Good times.  The soap on the palate isn't too tough and not a deal breaker, but the finish is tragic.  When is joy not joy?  When it is Lemon Joy.  Water evens out the nose but doesn't help the whole package that much.

As MAO mentioned at the end of his review, there's something reminiscent of the "FWP" Bowmore period in this whisky.  All it's missing is the peat, then swap out the geraniums for lavender and violets.  Like some of the indie "FWP" Bowmores I've had, it seems as if the cask was picked for its nose and no one actually tasted the thing.  Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh.  Perhaps the soap notes grew in the bottle; they certainly expand with air.  This isn't a total throwaway whisky, it noses well, but if you're soap sensitive, beware.

Availability - Released in the US, likely sold out
Pricing - originally $110-$130
Rating - 76

NEXT WEEK, the celebration continues with another "L" distillery, one with a character noticeably different than Littlemill's.  Hint: It's not Lost Spirits.