From my recent interactions here on MALT and over on my own Instagram channel, it’s become clear that there is a real divide being unearthed and exploited within the whisky sphere. The haves and the have nots. Those that have a bottle and no intension of opening, exploring and sharing; versus those that are desperately seeking such a liquid experience.
The case in point right now is Daftmill that has seemingly exploded in demand. The scampering and temperatures soaring that we’ve seen around the recent single cask releases are extremely disheartening, as well as the behaviours. I’ve been told some cracking stories by retailers regarding tricks the general public have tried to pull in order to secure a bottle. The situation hasn’t been helped when some retailers never put out their allocation of the UK exclusive single cask for sale. Allegations that one in particular was withheld by its owner for their own use – possibly to drop into their own auction at a later date – are disappointing to hear, if indeed true.
But in reality, I ask, what can you do? A small distillery with a small output, only has a finite number of casks and maturing stock. A recent visit to Daftmill in March underlined the emptiness of the original warehouse; much to Francis’s dismay. Luvians and Royal Mile Whiskies have run their own social media campaigns encouraging owners to open their bottles and potentially win a prize. Then, there was chatter about a buy back scheme, where if you returned the empty bottle, a retailer would refund X-amount that was built into the original selling price. Have we all gone truly mad?
I opened my Inaugural Daftmill for a tasting as part of the Fife Whisky Festival earlier this year. The attendees over 2 sessions were delighted to have the opportunity to try this whisky as part of a stella line-up. Now that bottle is fetching £1000 and rising, but I don’t regret my decision whatsoever. At the end of the day its all about the whisky and this is being overlooked by many. This was underlined at a recent Edinburgh Cadenhead’s tasting when the topic drifted towards the Fife distillery and the co-ordinated sighs of disappointment from some who only wanted to taste a drop. A kind hearted onlooker offered to send out a sample free of charge. Proving that such generous acts are possible and we’ve not all lost ourselves to gold fever.
By around now, you’ll be asking but this is a Littlemill review – what’s this got to do with the new hot thing in the sizzling top 100 distillery chart? Well dear reader, my point is extremely simple and a reflection of the madness. To try experience and gauge what a drop of Daftmill can truly be like, then I’d suggest that you need to seek out some teenage Littlemill.
Ok, this release we’re reviewing today is slightly older I’ll admit. On MALT we try to bring you a topic or point of view daily. I think it’s a fair reflection of today’s whisky society that you have to seek out a release from a closed distillery in order to have a glimpse of what a new distillery tastes like. I’ll admit it is slightly bonkers in a Dizzee Rascal style, but I have tasted similarities between a young bourbon Littlemill and some of the vatted Daftmill’s. The fact that Francis was aiming for a Lowland style of whisky and specifically Rosebank, merits highlighting. Yet I’m not going to recommend you track down some Rosebank – have you seen those prices?
Littlemill itself hasn’t been immune from the auction antics or even illusions of grandeur from its previous owners. As I mentioned during my Loch Lomond 2006 review, the remaining stocks of Littlemill along with Loch Lomond, Glen Scotia and other brands have been sold to a foreign investment firm for a pretty sum, circa £400 million. Those last barrels of Littlemill were subject to some truly abhorrent behaviour from the previous owners. Taking some of the so called ‘best casks’ and then finishing in sherry casks seemed a real contradiction. Then packaging up the whisky into lavish display packs with a price tag of £2,250 seemed ridiculous. Only then to produce a 40-year-old Celestial Edition in 2018 for a laughable £5988, that really underlined the crazy times we’re living in. For the record it’s not the oldest Littlemill ever released – it jointly holds that honour with the 40-year-old Cadenhead’s released a couple of years ago with a price tag of £400. Do the maths and ask who is really wining here? It’s not punter and I doubt smaller distilleries such as Daftmill really enjoy seeing the fruits of their labours in great quantities across every auction site.
I’m not suggesting you go out and purchase a bottle of Littlemill. Rather, next time you’re in a bar and wanting to try a Lowland style, or form an appreciation of what Daftmill could be like. Look on the list for a teenage Littlemill, ex-bourbon matured and an independent bottling preferably. Signatory bottled loads of the stuff to varying degrees of success and I’ve been in bars recently, where you could purchase a dram for £10-£15.
On that note, let’s move onto this 27-year-old. I purchased this at the aforementioned Cadenhead’s tasting as a special cage sample. A 10cl bottle for a reasonable cost of £30. That’s a few drams of a closed Lowland distillery for a worthwhile price. Distilled in 1992 and bottled at 49.8% strength, this was matured in an ex-bourbon cask and released in May 2019 with an outturn of 270 bottles.
Cadenhead’s Littlemill 1992 – review
Colour: bashed gold.
On the nose: very musty with old wooden floors and wet tweed. Plenty to explore here with milk chocolate and cinder toffee. There’s black peppercorns, honeycomb, sandpaper and a dull lemon. The fruits are subdued at first and need work plus patience. There’s something enticing that I just cannot place. Withered pineapple, green mangoes, vanilla icing and papaya all drift past intoxicatingly so. A real sense of balance with the spirit and the wood.
In the mouth: now the Lowland style tropical fruits arrive with aplomb – see above. Liquorice, syrup and beeswax are also present. Some apples and a dustiness are present alongside ginger, lemon drizzle cake and caramel. A delicate and gentle whisky on the palate thereafter, with a touch of smoke that lasts through until a timid finish.
This is a banging Littlemill that falls just short of greatness due the slight limitations of the palate and finish. There’s plenty still to enjoy, in what is an excellent whisky. The experience underlines just how enjoyable these Littlemill’s are and a style of whisky that you rarely see nowdays.
Why on earth would you need to finish this in a sherry cask like the aforementioned luxury releases? Sacrilege and greed in the pursuit of profit. Thankfully, this whisky offers more bang for your buck than most modern releases nowadays wrapped up in visual bling. Let them chase down those vanity releases and leave the quality whiskies to those that’ll appreciate them – cheers.
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