Let’s start the month with a closed distillery—that seems appropriate for the pandemic. Earlier this year I reviewed a 29 yo Littlemill that was distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2018. This one was distilled a few years later but also bottled near the very start of the Littlemill renaissance when several excellent casks from the late 1980s through the early 1990s suddenly became available in Europe. The distillery’s low reputation—well earned by official releases—rebounded dramatically and prices for these releases started going up before they eventually all but dried up. This particular cask was bottled by the Whiskybase store in Rotterdam under their Archives label. Menno of Whiskybase is a Littlemill collector and that always seemed like a good guarantor of quality for their Littlemill releases. They’ve put out eight or so of these casks, of which I think this was the second. I’ve previously reviewed the first one, which was from a refill sherry hogshead. I quite liked it. This is from a bourbon hogshead. I’ve had it open for more than a month now and have been dipping into it on the regular. Here now before I finish the bottle before remembering to take notes (which has happened on some occasions), is my review.
Littlemill 20, 1992 (54.8%; Archives, Anniversary Release; bourbon hogshead #44; from my own bottle)
Nose: Leads with bitter citrus (grapefruit, lime peel), chalk and a strong mineral note (aspirin, olive oil). On the second sniff there’s whiffs of gasoline and glycerine but they’re fleeting; the fruit expands a bit with more tropical accents (hints of passionfruit, a bit of melon). A few drops of water push the austere notes back, pull out more of the fruit and add some vanilla-cream to them.
Palate: Comes in very much as on the nose, with the bitter, slightly astringent citrus notes in the ascendant; faint hints of glycerine here too. The acid and the mineral notes give it a good bite at the reasonable cask strength. More chalk and a bit of grass on the second sip. Water makes the fruit expand here too—the bitter lime gives way to the passionfruit; those faint hints of glycerine remain though.
Finish: Long. The lime peel carries into the finish but then the fruit begins to expand: as on the nose, there are bigger tropical accents here (passionfruit, melon, a hint of guava). Trails out with the chalk. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This presents the quintessential Littlemill mix of fruity and austere. I’ve had this oscillating in the 88-90 point range since I opened the bottle. Tonight I think I’ll go right in the middle.
Rating: 89 points.