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 (kaffir 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.