In addition to the economic woes of the 1980s, demand for blended whisky far outstripped that of single malts. This resulted in many distilleries that were not producing whisky suitable for blends being forced to make cuts and eventually closures.
Largely thanks to brands like Glenfiddich and The Macallan in the late 1980s, single malts were eventually given the attention and indeed the marketing they deserved. Believe it or not even in 2015, single malt whisky still barely accounts for 10% of overall Scotch whisky sales.
Though there were many ‘lost but definitely not forgotten’ distilleries that were forced to close during the 1980s and early 1990s, including the likes of Banff, Brora, Dallas Dhu, Glenlochy, Linlithgow, Port Ellen and Rosebank, luckily some still live on through remaining ‘get them while you still can’ stocks of whiskies.
Released mainly through independent bottlers but occasionally through official distillery releases, from the companies that now own the brands and casks, we’re still able to capture and enjoy the essence of the distilleries that once were the cornerstone foundations of the industry that now contributes nearly £5bn to the UK economy.
One of the distilleries to close during this era, which now has whisky enthusiasts eagerly seeking out its ‘lost but definitely not forgotten’ whisky wares is Littlemill. Distilling since 1772, this iconic Lowlander fell on hard times during the 1980s and was eventually mothballed in 1994. It was then tragically destroyed by fire in 2004.
In addition to a trickle of usually quite exquisitely excellent independent bottlings, from the likes of Berry Brothers & Rudd, there are very occasional official releases such as the new Littlemill 2015 Private Cellar 2015 Edition 25 Year Old, which we were very fortunate to recently sample.
The nose: kicks off with vibrant and vivacious waves of vanilla, followed by a sumptuous swathe of sherry soaked sultanas, forest fruits and a harmonious hum of spiced honey.
Aniseed twists, grilled pineapple rings and oven baked peaches make for the next set of nasal niceties, along with toffee apples, candied citrus peel, fresh ginger and a teasing whiff-ette of wood smoke.
Spent coffee grounds, chocolate bourbon biscuits and oodles of opulent oak help to provide a belting bounty of balance, followed by a fresh finessefull frenzy of cherry blossom and rose water.
The palate: kicks off with another appearance from those now full on and feisty aniseed twists, along with more of those grilled pineapple rings, oven baked peaches and accompanying slices of ripe mango that have been dusted lightly with cayenne pepper.
Spiced banana bread, vanilla fudge and sherry soaked cherries make for the next set of palatable protruding pleasures, along with charred oak, ground black pepper, cocoa, mixed spice and a good zesting of pink grapefruit.
A little shy to begin with, but once this gracious and giving, lush yet light Littlemill, has been given five minutes to breathe and open up in the glass, it well and truly likes to tell its full and glorious story.