When it comes to independent releases from Speciality Drinks we’ve been a bit quiet since The Whisky Show. However, we’re leading off the new year with a pair of bottlings.
There was a preview of the first one at The Show last year: a 19 year old Ardmore from 1992 that m’colleague Tim F quickly labelled as his value-for-money dram of the weekend. The rest of the bottles have now finally arrived and they’re accompanied by a dram from now-departed Littlemill, closed in 1992 and since demolished.
So, what do Tim and I reckon?
Nose: Cooked cereal, honey and a thread of burnt wood straight off the bat. A hint of oiliness next, chopped almonds, some faint liniment and sooty fabric plasters. A lightly menthol, leafy character. A drop of water opens up a slightly smoky tropical fruit (melon, passionfruit) character.
Palate: Sweet smoke, growing in intensity, becoming very honeyed, with hints of candied pineapple. Becomes quite warm & spicy. Definitely more phenolic presence on the palate than the nose suggested – lovely earthy peat with sooty hints. Water lifts the sweetness and the fruit from the nose, taming the peat.
Finish: Decent length, with a little lemon & grapefruit as the smoke recedes.
Comments: Pitch-perfect mediumweight clean, fruity, peaty dram. Delightful.
Nose: Sooty smoke, old campfires and a touch of menthol hide some fruit, which appears with a bit of time in the glass and nasal acclimatisation – green melon, floury apples and maybe some passion fruit.
Palate: Sweet up front, quickly hitting a smoky wall. Oil, sour fruit, gravel, a growing earthiness and a touch of tarry phenols. Water freshens everything up, with the smoke hiding behind sweet fruit and a hint of menthol making itself known.
Finish: Sour apple, citrus smoke and some pleasant wood.
Comment: Smoky but balanced, with lots of tasty fruit and more sweetness than the nose suggests. Water changes it quite a bit – two different whiskies for the price of one?
Nose: Rich & syrupy, with milk chocolate, brown sugar, chocolate raisins, dark gingerbread and the faintest trace of burning leaves. Mince pies. In the moments when the sherry subsides a little – and when water is added – hay and a rich maltiness are discernible.
Palate: Very sweet immediately, then the warmth from the alcohol arrives with some lovely old polished wood and some earthy notes. This will benefit from a drop of water…yes, that’s better: chocolate and fruit cake emerging now, still a little hot. More water…there we go. Lovely sherry fruit, clean maltiness with hint of linseed and that very faint bonfire hint from the nose.
Finish: Long, warm, pleasingly drying, sweet & earthy
Comments: A really lovely drop from a rarely-seen distillery. Fascinating.
Nose: Slices of cold custard served with grown up fruit cake. Spicy leaves, drying bark, and a vegetal edge that hints at forest floors. A meaty savouriness, with the burnt bits on the edge of a roast. It changes as it sits in the glass, picking up rich cocoa and caramel.
Palate: Sour cherries, spiced apple, cloves, cinnamon sticks (whole, not ground). As it sits it gets more chocolatey, with caramel and more woody spice. Towards the end wood takes over, with old dark beams and polished floors coming through. A slug of water (it can take it) brings out even more, with a touch of oiliness, even more fruit and some chocolatey goodness.
Finish: Restrained wood, with vanilla and coconut, dark chocolate and lingering drying red berries.
Comments: Rich, fruity, oily, woody and balanced. My first Littlemill and a good one to start with.