Sunday, January 5, 2014

005 - Littlemill

I'm posting this early today so I can run some errands before the Packers-Niners game.
It's thanks to my whisky friend +Joshua McGee that I even know about Littlemill. Its one of the few distilleries that are in the Lowland region. The Littlemill distillery stopped production in 1996 and was demolished in 2005. I was fortunate to find some Littlemill last year at K&L in Redwood City, CA (from a cask that they acquired for their customers) as well as the 24 years old; single-cask bottle that I describe below from an independent bottler, which I found at Beltramo's in Menlo Park, CA. Now I am always interested in expressions from this distillery since the two I've had have been very different.

Without planning to do it this way, the first four expressions I outlined already in this series are from four of the five Scotch whisky regions. With Littlemill, I will have touched on each of the five official Scotch whisky regions (listed here in alphabetical order):
  1. Campbeltown
  2. Highland
  3. Islay
  4. Lowland
  5. Speyside

I regret mentioning Littlemill because it's not easy to find, and as a result it's not cheap. I generally try to promote the many excellent Scotch whiskies that are quite affordable, lest I give the impression that Scotch is only for people with significant disposable income.

So...how does it taste?


  • Tree fruit like apples or quince on the tongue
  • Vanilla and soft oak notes in the nose 
  • 49.8% abv (99.6 proof)
  • Spicy - cinnamon under peppercorns
  • With water:
    • Subtle honey sweetness emerges with a mild tartness
    • Water cuts the heat and allows some of the leather and tobacco (oak) notes to emerge


Notes:


One thing sets many Lowland drams apart is the use of triple distillation (a technique employed commonly in the production of Irish whiskey) because that is rarely seen elsewhere in Scotland. I'll see if I can get Joshua to confirm whether Littlemill used this technique.

Don't confuse triple distillation with the other Irish distillation technique - continuous or "Coffey" stills - that are used heavily in Scotland to produce the grain alcohol that is used in blended whisky.

The effect of triple (vs. double) distillation is that the new-make spirit may reach higher proof levels as it enters the cask, and the flavors may be either lighter or more concentrated, depending on the shape of the stills and on the way they are operated.

I have never had the chance to compare samples from the output of a second (or third) spirit still, but the number of variables is much larger than just the number of stills involved in producing a given finished spirit. All single-malt Scotch whiskies have exactly the same three ingredients: Water, malted barley, and yeast (as well as time, in that they must be aged in oak barrels for at least 3 years) -- yet there are literally thousands of single-malts on the market and they all taste different, despite the fact that most are distilled twice.

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