There are a number of dodgy claims floating around by companies pertaining to be amongst the oldest distilleries in Scotland. However with Littlemill it might just be true, at least it would if it hadn't been very sadly closed on us. Littlemill is one the few distilleries that...
There are a number of dodgy claims floating around by companies pertaining to be amongst the oldest distilleries in Scotland. However with Littlemill it might just be true, at least it would if it hadn't been very sadly closed on us. Littlemill is one the few distilleries that can genuinely and accurately claim a history stretching back to the 1700s. It is also a fantastic whisky to boot. For years unjustly judged by the lazily constructed official 8yo bottling, as more independent aged examples have emerged in recent years it has become increasingly clear that Littlemill is yet another Lowland distillery whose loss is well worth lamenting.
Littlemill had long abandoned the traditional lowland technique of triple distillation by the 1960s, which is when the oldest bottled examples originate from. The most prominent is beautifully resinous and citrusy 1965 35yo by Douglas Laing which shows some unusually beautiful notes of herbs and medicine. Littlemill was closed in 1984 but reopened for a hopeful five years between 1989-1994. This era, which seems to go against the historical trend in distilling circles, was also when the distillery produced its best casks. The ones that have only just started to make its name.
1989-1994: New Littlemill
The distillate produced at Littlemill during its short-lived rebirth was a much more consistent and complex distillate than had been made over the preceding decades. Another important factor was that much of this stock was willingly sold on to other companies which have led to the raft of independent bottlings over the past five years. Without these bottlings, we might never have known how good Littlemill could be.
Distinct from fellow deceased Lowlanders like St Magdalene and Rosebank that had already achieved a comfortably legendary status, Littlemill is a lighter lowlander, closer to Glenkinchie than Rosebank. However, despite its inherent lightness it is no dullard of a distillate. Try one of the many great bottlings from the early nineties and you will find a spirit full of austere citrus, minerality, yoghurt, herbs, little notes of wax, camphor and a nice balance between white fruits, flowers and more vegetal aspects like celery and a fresh yeasty quality. It is not whisky for beginners and it is certainly not a style of whisky that is made anymore but they can be very beautiful examples of a more old-style Lowlander. The best bottlings come from Malts Of Scotland, Gordon & MacPhail and Cadenhead's.
It seems that for now there will be a steady stream of Littlemill bottlings. Whether the spirit will age well remains to be seen, light spirits can age very nicely but at the same time this rule doesn't seem to apply very well to Lowland malts. Only time will tell. What's for certain is that there are more Littlemill bottlings around at the moment than at any other time in history so you should take advantage before they all sadly disappear. And since the distillery was demolished then further destroyed by fire in 2004, disappear these beautiful bottlings surely will.