At this point everyone knows that a whole slew of casks filled at Littlemill in the 1988-1992 period and bottled 20+ years later by various indies has made us forget how awful the distillery’s official releases before it closed were. One wonders how many distilleries with indifferent to bad reputations that scenario might not work out well for. All this to say, I’m expecting this sample to blow my socks off and if it doesn’t then I will blame Michael K.
Littlemill 22, 1990 (54.3%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 17 for Total Wine; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Lemon, grapefruit, tart pineapple, a whiff of gasoline. Chalkier and more mineral on the second sniff and there’s some gooseberry in there too now. With a few drops of water the acid backs off a bit and there’s some cream and a leafy note. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
This Littlemill is one of the older casks in K&L’s 2019 run of exclusives. As a 29 yo from 1988 the latest it would have been bottled would have been in 2018—I guess it just took a while to get to California. It may also be the oldest Littlemill I have had from the large parcel of late 1980s/early 1990s casks of Littlemill that began appearing from independents in the first half of the last decade (see here and here, for example). Most of those have been very good, with a big dose of fruit balanced nicely with oak and malt, with none of the funkier notes that can sometimes overwhelm Littlemill. Let’s hope this one is in that vein as well.
Littlemill 29, 1988 (55.%; OMC for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: A little spirity to start. After a few beats there’s a funky mix of malt, a light rubbery/plasticky note (a new beach ball) and lime peel. As it sits some sweeter fruity notes begin to emerge but don’t quite pop—some vanilla with them too. With more time there’s cereal and the fruit gets muskier. Less funky, more fruity with a few drops of water. Continue reading
This is the fourth Littlemill I’ve reviewed this year. The first was the old Littlemill 12, which was, as I said then, as unloved an OB whisky as you could hope to find. The other two were much older, part of the revival of Littlemill’s reputation that got underway in the early years of this decade as a number of casks bottled in the late 1980s came to market that had been matured to a far greater age than was probably intended for them at time of distillation. One of of those I really liked—the Archives 22 yo distilled in 1989. The other—a Berry Bros & Rudd 21 yo bottled distilled in 1992—was quite good but nothing so very special. This one from the Creative Whisky Company, under their Exclusive Malts label, is older than both of those and distilled the earliest. That might lead you to think that it’s got a good chance of being the best of the lot but things don’t always work out that way with whisky: the idiosyncrasies of individual casks are hard to predict and not all bottlers can be relied on for consistency. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
In my review last week of the very good Littlemill 22, 1989 from Archives, I said I’d have more older Littlemill next month. But here I am, a week early. And to think people say my reviews are untimely. This was distilled in 1992, a couple of years before the distillery closed. It was bottled in 2014 by Berry Bros. & Rudd. I believe this was a US release—I don’t think the cask number was specified.
By the way, though the distillery officially closed in 1994, distillation ended in 1992: the distillery was mothballed till 1994 before being dismantled and largely destroyed over the next decade. Given that a housing development now occupies the site, this is one dead distillery that will not be coming back to life anytime soon. Anyway, let’s see if this is as good as the Archives bottle. Continue reading
After my review of the old, unlamented official Littlemill 12, I’d lined up reviews of a number of more recently released older, indie Littlemills from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Somehow, I never got around to posting any of them. Here’s the first one.
This was released by Whiskybase as part of the inaugural release of their Archives line. As you may know, Menno B. of Whiskybase is a renowned Littlemill collector, and all the Littlemills released by Archives have very good reputations. Unlike the other Littlemills of this era that I’ve reviewed—see this 20, 1990 from the Nectar and this 24, 1989 from the Whisky Agency—this is from a refill sherry hogshead. I opened this a while ago and liked it so much that it disappeared in just a few months—that might seem like a long time but I usually have bottles stay open for at least a year. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
As you may know, in recent years malts from the closed lowlands distillery, Littlemill have become among the most sought after whiskies on the market. This mania, I should quickly clarify, is focused entirely on much older casks from the late 1980s and early 1990s that began to come to market in the early years of this decade. There was something very ironic about this development because when Littlemill was in fact open nobody had very much positive to say about it. I joke sometimes that more unsung or disliked distilleries should close down to turn their reputations around, but in Littlemill’s case this seems to be what’s happened. The truth, of course, is more likely to lie in the fact that once the distillery had closed, more of its surviving casks accidentally aged to a quality that was previously undiscovered in the official releases. For example, in this 12 yo, which is as unloved an OB release as you can hope to find. Having been warned away from it when I first began to pursue single malt whisky, this will actually be my first time tasting it. Will the bad reputation be warranted? Or will I regret not having tried it when bottles could easily be found on shelves in whisky stores everywhere? Let’s see. Continue reading
After yesterday’s 20 yo from the Nectar here is a 24 yo Littlemill from another respected European bottler, the Whisky Agency–this one released once the Littlemill renaissance was well underway. Will this bust my streak of soap in Littlemill and finally take me into the 90s for this distillery? Let’s jump right into it and see.
Littlemill 24, 1989 (50.4%; The Whisky Agency; refill hogshead; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Lime peel and ginger and juniper. The lime transitions quickly to darker/sweeter citrus: orange peel now. Gets sweeter as well as more fruit begin to emerge: some peach, some grapefruit. Some malt too and a hint of white chocolate. With time, quite a bit of vanilla and it’s quite reminiscent of fresh pastry with a tart-sweet lemon filling. The citrus gets brighter with water. Continue reading
There’s been a bit of a Littlemill renaissance in the last few years. As so often seems to happen with closed distilleries that had ho-hum reputations when they were open, casks of Littlemill that have now sat around for two decades or more since the distillery closed have matured to display very positive characteristics: in particular, an intensely fruity character. Casks from 1988-1990, just before the distillery closed, are the ones that seem to be receiving the most plaudits. This one, bottled by the Nectar, is from 1990 but was released a few years ago, a little before the Littlemill renaissance really got underway. Let’s get right to it.
Littlemill 20, 1990 (54.3%; Nectar of the Daily Drams; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: A little spirity at first but floral and fruity aromas emerge, the latter quite sweet (peaches, ripe melon). Quite a bit of malt too and a bit of pepper. Seems a little closed. Let’s give it some time to settle. With time there’s a fair bit of lemon and the malt’s still there. Some vanilla too now. With a drop of water the lemon recedes a bit and there’s some prickly bite. Continue reading
This is the last of the four Scott’s Selection bottles I purchased and split with four friends. None of the others have disappointed, though only the Highland Park has made me wish I’d bought an entire bottle. What will this Littlemill’s story be? The only other 1984 I’ve had from this distillery (and the only other Littlemill I’ve reviewed) was a rather odd one from Hart Bros. (and that was a 20 yo too). Let’s hope for the best.
Littlemill 1984-2004 (62.1%; Scott’s Selection; from a bottle split with friends)
Nose: Over-ripe, almost rotting melon (cantaloupe) with some honey and lime peel and white pepper. Some acetone and something a little sweaty too. Quite reminiscent of the Hart Bros. 1984 but without that one’s whiffs of gasoline. With time there’s a darker sweet note too–toffee maybe. The fruit is rather intense though and there might be some over-ripe banana in there too. With time the over-ripe melon note calms down a little and there’s some vanilla too now. With a few drops of water the fruit is in better balance with the vanilla and the lime peel (makrut lime) is doing more talking now. Continue reading
Littlemill, a closed distillery from the Lowlands region, is yet more proof of the fact that the best thing a distillery can do for its reputation is to shut down. Never beloved by the masses when it was open, the bottles available in the first decade and a half after it closed (in 1994) did little to change anyone’s mind. But every worm turns and in the last couple of years a number of highly regarded Littlemills from the late 1980s and early 1990s have been released by a number of indie bottlers. I have a few of those in the stash, but this is not one of them.
This bottle is from 1984–considered by some to be part of a problematic era at Littlemill. However, the sudden recent uptick in the reputation of the recent releases made me wonder if older ones from earlier in the 1980s might in fact be better than the distillery’s reputation might suggest (whisky geeks, alas, are very prone to herd mentality in confirming the virtues or faults of entire distilleries or eras at distilleries that are supposed to be exceptional one way or the other). And the very low price asked for it by Binny’s as part of their ongoing closeout sale emboldened me. Good idea? Bad idea? Let’s see.