A recent excursion to Glasgow for an overnight stay brings with it the exposure to the city’s vibrant population and nightlife. Amidst such a flying visit, a female friend brought up the question of whisky. Being from the Highlands, she felt it was long overdue that an appreciation should be formed of Scotland’s favourite tipple.
Living in the fashionable Finnieston area of the city, which is populated by bars, bearded types sporting Tweed, tattoos and brogues, it’s likely that this environment and culture of fashionable whisky themes had rubbed off on her. Thankfully, she was devoid of the beard and as far as I’m aware a tattoo as well.
Before reaching out to me regarding whisky, she sighted trying a dram in one of these fashionable establishments where the barman suggested something from Islay – a very questionable selection for someone starting out in whisky. Whilst I tend to recall trying a mass-produced blend as a youngster and the taste sending me reeling towards the kitchen sink, at least this would have been more palatable than a single malt from Islay. Upon further questioning, whilst the name of the whisky was erased from her memory – unfortunately not the taste itself – the fact it cost her £15 is I’d suggest the real motivation from the barman.
For many that would be the end of their whisky investigation and it’s a story that I hear consistently. Such an experience and the outcome makes it entirely reasonable as to why you wouldn’t want to try whisky again, or that it’s just not for you. In these situations, I always reply that you just haven’t found the right whisky yet and exploring is half the fun.
Needless to say we now had an opportunity that afternoon to try and salvage some whisky appreciation. Glasgow is home to several great whisky pubs and arguably one of the best is not situated in a fashionable annexe, but rather in the heart of the city centre. The Pot Still is a name that may reverberate to visitors to the city with its unassuming exterior and let’s face it the interior as well. It offers a place of refuge away from the bright city lights, slick advertising and excessive materialism that festers in all cities nowadays.
The walls within are decorated with empty boxes from bygone releases, whilst behind the bar itself an impressive array of bottles almost touches the ceiling. Frankly you’re not paying for the music, the environment or bar snacks in here. It’s all about the whisky and banter with locals, or mainly tourists who venture inside wishing to discover what whisky is all about. It is one of those establishments where I feel immediately at home, as would my Tormore4 brethren. Abodes such as these are where we can relax, enjoy a dram and talk with complete strangers over a whisky about almost anything. I’m sure Dave uses these as open sessions for anyone seeking psychology input.
Just writing this piece the day after the sad passing of Joe Brandie from the Fiddichside Inn in Craigellachie. Like so many others upon hearing this news, I recall our visits and the joy of a whisky whilst watching the world go by with friends. It’s places such as the Fiddichside and Pot Still that I gravitate towards rather than their modern counterparts, as fine as they are.
Back to our story, taking a table at the back the pub the drinks were on me this afternoon. Noticing the monthly specials on offer were the Douglas Laing regional blends for just £2.50 for 30ml, there may have been a temptation to start with something from this range. Except, I felt a more leisurely gateway was required and you’ll know I’m far from a fan of the Epicurean. In these situations, you cannot let your own personal favourites dominate proceedings. We commenced with a Balvenie in the form of the Caribbean cask and whilst slowly nosed, tasted and discussed it was positively received. At least this gives us something to build upon. For the record, noticing a bottle of the Gordon & MacPhail 2002 Tormore Cote Rotie up above, I could not resist a nip of this and shared the glass with an American tourist at the bar who immediately became a fan.
Bars such as these also offer the opportunity to try before you buy, as I’ve been questioned a couple of times regarding the revamped Bladnoch range. My cash only goes so far and whilst I try to accommodate everyone, at times it’s not possible to buy everything. However, the seed was planted and on prominent display behind the bar was the revamped Bladnoch range. Querying a helpful member of staff, she suggested the 15 year old Adela as being the best of a bunch. Arguably upon tasting, the best of a bad bunch as this was devoid of the Bladnoch flavours I’ve come to love.
At any tasting, you try to finish on a high, so palates effectively neutralised once more, I proceeded with the Littlemill I had spotted languishing amongst the rank and file of bottles. Distilled on 15th October 1990 in an oak cask (number 2970) for 13 years, before being bottled by Signatory on 19th November 2003. This would have been during the short period of ownership from Gibson International that was in effect the last hurrah of production until bankruptcy struck in 1994. After this, the site was sold to the Loch Lomond distillery who made little effort to revive or sustain Littlemill. Oddly, they make no reference to this within their recent lavish bottlings of the Littlemill what retail for in excess of £2000 nowadays. In comparison, this Littlemill was a modest £13 and was coming to the end of its existence having been enjoyed by patrons from its dwindling level. A fitting end, more so than the flamboyant bottles we now see arriving at retail.
The colour here was almost neutral and this suggested a whisky light on wood, which I felt would be more palatable for the non-bearded or tattoo hidden friend.
Signatory Littlemill 1990 13 Year Old – Review
Colour: crystal clear.
On the nose: freshly chopped green apples and icing sugar with a twist of citrus lime juice. Pear drops and a hint of playdough with a refreshing grapefruit quality towards the end.
In the mouth: delicious with more of the lime aspect and icing sugar followed by vanilla and meringues. Almonds and melon follow towards the finish with white sugar cubes and rock candy coming through.
Gentle, refreshing and very drinkable. A lovely example of a balanced Lowland whisky that was well received at our informal table. A style that is sadly rarely seen nowadays but always one to saviour.