It’s the little things in life …
I’ve lost count of the times I have heard this phrase, cannee think what most of the conversations were about but – none where about that little thing Littlemill whisky. I had a sample only the once and I liked it. My pal works for LL group and how many times (unsuccessfully) have I asked for a sample? Brand owner Loch Lomond Distillery. A wee ditty on this little gem; Founded 1772 now demolished, water source was the Kilpatrick Springs , it had a chequered history; Mothballed 1929 to 1931, 1984 to 1989. Dismantled in 1997, burned down in 2004. Littlemill Distillery was a Scottish malt whisky distillery in Bowling, West Dunbartonshire, on the border of Lowlands and Highlands, its’ products were generally classified as lowlands whisky. Although I class it as sublime whisky. The year when whisky was first produced is uncertain. Littlemill was part of the purchase of Auchentorlie Estate in the 1750s. In 1772 houses had been constructed for excise officers, which is also the year Littlemill claimed as its foundation year, from which it claimed to be the oldest distillery in Scotland. Before my time. The distillery changed ownership to Matthew Clark & Co in 1817 after the Customs and Excise Act 1823 had passed, allowing distilling of whisky at much lower licence costs, Jane Macgregor became the licensee of Littlemill. Around 1840 ownership went to Hector Henderson, who was also shareholder in the Campbelltown Distillery in 1837 and founded the Caol Ila Distillery.
It closed in 1929 until it was bought and reopened by Duncan Thomas in 1931 who experimented at with different techniques. He used a new design of a Saladin box for malting with two ventilation towers and a single kiln. The copper pot stills were aluminium coated, used rectifying columns instead of swan necks to gain greater control over the distillation process, production switched from a triple distillation to a double distillation technique. 1971 the distillery changed hands again, this time to Barton Distilling (I’ve never heard of these people, have you?), who had been a shareholder since 1959. Barton was then bought by Amalgamated Distilled Products in 1982, which joined the Argyll Group in 1984. It closed and reopened by Gibson International in 1989, closed down again in 1994 after Gibson International went bankrupt, was sold to Loch Lomond Distillery who own the brand now. It was dismantled in 1997, and the remnants of the distillery were destroyed in a fire in 2004. A housing development is now on the site. The distillery produced three different kinds of whisky, which was made possible through the rectifying columns on the stills: a heavily peated variety under the name “Dumbuck”, a full bodied whisky named “Dunglas” and a light traditional lowland whisky under its own name “Littlemill”. Dumbuck and Dunglas were discontinued in 1972. Although technically a Lowland distillery, Littlemill, like its fellow Lowlander Auchentoshan, draws its’ waters from above the Highland line, from a spring in the Kilpatrick hills.
So this wee gem, where can you find it? In shops and good whisky retailers if you are lucky, prices starting from £300 and moving upwards fast, collectors and auctions have some – but I don’t. Has there been another whisky distillery in Scotland that has opened, closed, been sold as often I wonder? There is your next task … away now and find out, mind to let me know. PAUL MCLEAN