What was all the chat about technology? Wouldn’t it make our lives easier and less intense? Instead the exact opposite has manifested itself in recent years. It’s fantastic being able to have a conversation with someone in California through a variety of social media channels, but then you have to keep the things updated.
Everyday on Malt we start with an article such as this. That’s our commitment to bringing your something hopefully worthwhile, everyday. Honest and informed opinion. Hey, you might not agree with it and I sometimes don’t agree with every review, but I respect the opinion of others. Social media knocked down those walls that existed between continents and time zones. Now there is no escape and there’s an ocean of opinion.
After each article is published we have the Facebook post, the official Instagram and Twitter channels, my own Instagram and then we have a new arrival to keep refreshed in Patreon. Some mornings I do forget to update one of these but that’s human nature. Time is a more scarce commodity nowadays then I can previously recall and it certainly isn’t on our side. This tenuous link takes us to the lost Lowland distillery of Littlemill.
Whenever I think about Littlemill a constant theme is that of time. If the distillery was still around today it would arguably be Scotland’s oldest exponent. Yes, this is murky territory with many distilleries only becoming recognised by the state when they became legal in 1824 or thereabouts. A select few were already in existence and managed to survive the harsh cycles of boom and bust plus excessive taxation. Many of the big names from this era had departed by the 1800’s and if they had survived then the whisky landscape may have been slightly different. Take Kennetpans distillery on the banks of the Forth that still stands today. I’ve visited the site a couple of times and should return so but its well worth reading about in more detail.
Littlemill is a chameleon in terms of dates with a general foundation of 1772 being highlighted, but a strong suspicion that distilling was practised on the site as far back as the 1750’s. We’ll never know for sure, but it makes for great marketing. I’ve been fortunate to have the peated variant of its spirit called Dunglass that is incredibly rare. Produced for only a couple of years at most, it confirmed Lowland probably wasn’t a welcome pairing with peat.
Time today still plays tricks with us when it comes to Littlemill. For years the distillery and I just didn’t see eye to eye. An assortment of youthful and unimpressive official bottlings putting it mildly didn’t inspire confidence. Then the key component for any whisky came into play. Patience and the realisation that Littlemill like a handful of other distilleries has a sweet spot, but not until it reaches a modest 20+ years of age. Now time and time again we’re seeing Littlemill in a new light and we’ve reviewed a few here on Malt. As Littlemill is only a recent entry to the closed distillery ranks, there are still casks across Scotland, maturing patiently. In other words, plenty more delights to come.
Then we’re back to that time topic once again. I question how many of these new distilleries appearing across Scotland will give the time to their whisky that it could require, or won’t we let them have that option to wait? Yes, business plans and foreign investment into many of these distilleries ensures the leash is extremely tight and short. I envisage some will tumble before they’ve been able to truly show their potential. Much like Littlemill, we’ll be lamenting the loss of Islay Distillery #78 in a couple of decades when its been bulldozed. Those endless debates in bars about why didn’t anyone catch onto this distillery until it was too late? Whisky is all about cycles and we’re just repeating the behaviours of our fore-drinkers.
This Littlemill would make for an interesting comparison piece with the 13 year old Signatory release I reviewed recently. That particular bottling had been reduced to 43% strength and whilst still very drinkable you did wonder what it may have offered without such a reduction. Instead this 12 year old is bottled at a robust 54% and was sampled at the glorious Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar. Well worth a visit if you’re in the neighbourhood.
Littlemill 12 year old full proof – review
Colour: desert sand
On the nose: a lovely fruit vibe with apples, pears and some lemon peel thrown in for good measure. It’s not hugely layered at this age – nor should it be – but it’s a joyful balance. Salted caramel, sunflower oil and a gentle lashing of cinnamon, followed by a touch of melon. There’s vanilla in here and dried oranges, but nothing forceful with coconut flakes towards the end. Water brings a fresh lightness but nothing monumental apart from a hint of paraffin.
In the mouth: it steps up a gear and benefits from that 54% strength. More peeled oranges, sliced apples and grapefruit. Still picking up a bit of coconut on the finish. There’s also milk chocolate, green olives and that touch of alcohol so its water time. Now there’s lime, pear drops and mint leaf and a general lightness.
A very good Littlemill and refreshing to actually sit down with what is essentially a youthful example compared to the recent bottlings we’ve seen released including a 27 year old from Cadenheads this month. The excellent Whiskybase 1990 Littlemill at 26 years of age is still the benchmark to aim for.