Littlemill 12 Years Clear Bottle: Exploring the Legacy of a Historic Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Littlemill, a distillery located in Bowling, West Dunbartonshire, holds a significant place in the history of Scotch whisky. Situated on the border of the Lowland and Highland regions, Littlemill is generally classified as a Lowland whisky. With a history dating back to the 18th century, Littlemill is recognized as one of Scotland's oldest distilleries. Although the distillery ceased production and was eventually demolished, its legacy lives on through the cherished bottles of Littlemill whisky, including the esteemed Littlemill 12 Years Clear Bottle.
The Oldest Distillery Claim:
The exact origins of whisky production at Littlemill remain uncertain. References to Littlemill date back to the 1750s when Auchentorlie Estate, of which Littlemill was a part, was sold. It was in 1772, the year of its official registration, that Littlemill claimed to have been founded, making it the oldest distillery in Scotland. The distillery was surrounded by houses for tax officials who collected duties on whisky production, indicating its presence during that period.
Ownership and Evolution:
Throughout its existence, Littlemill changed hands several times. In 1817, Matthew Clark & Co acquired ownership. Following changes in the whisky taxation system in 1823, Jane Macgregor became the licensed holder of the distillery, taking advantage of the lower production costs. Hector Henderson, an entrepreneur involved with the Campbelltown distillery in 1837 and the founder of Caol Ila, owned Littlemill around 1840. In 1875, under the ownership of the Hay family, the distillery underwent renovations and expansions.
Innovation and Modernization:
Littlemill experienced a period of closure in 1929 but was revived when Duncan Thomas took over in 1931. Thomas implemented innovative techniques at the distillery, including the construction of a Saladin Box for malting with a unique design featuring two ventilation towers and a single kiln. The copper stills were covered with an aluminum skin, and rectification columns were added to the stills for precise control over distillation. Unlike the typical triple distillation used by Lowland whiskies, Littlemill adopted double distillation.
Closure and Demolition:
In 1971, Barton Distilling acquired Littlemill, having been a shareholder since 1959. However, in 1984, the distillery ceased operations under the ownership of the Argyll Group, which had merged with Amalgamated Distilled Products. Littlemill briefly reopened in 1989 under the ownership of Gibson International but closed again in 1994 following Gibson International's bankruptcy. The distillery was later sold to Loch Lomond Distillery but was not reopened and was eventually dismantled in 1997. Tragically, the remaining buildings were destroyed by a fire in 2004.
Whisky Production and Legacy:
Littlemill was known for simultaneously producing three different types of whisky, made possible by the rectification columns that allowed for varying degrees of distillation. The "Dumbuck" was a heavily peated expression, "Dunglas" was a full-bodied and rich whisky, while the distillery's eponymous "Littlemill" offered a light and traditional Lowland style. The production of Dumbuck and Dunglas ceased in 1972, leaving the Littlemill expression to carry the distillery's legacy.
Littlemill 12 Years Clear Bottle is a testament to the rich heritage of the historic Littlemill distillery. Despite its closure and eventual demolition, Littlemill's influence on the whisky industry endures through its distinct whisky expressions. As whisky enthusiasts uncork the
Littlemill 12 Years Clear Bottle, they embark on a journey through time, savoring the flavors of a bygone era and paying homage to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of this iconic Lowland distillery.