The True Story of Littlemill Distillery: A Journey Through Time
Over Two Centuries Ago…
The story of Littlemill Distillery takes us back to a time over two centuries ago, in the year 1750, when Archibald Buchanan acquired the Auchentorlie Estate situated near Loch Lomond’s banks from his brother Andrew. Along with this estate came a brewery known as Littlemill. This acquisition marked the beginning of an extraordinary journey that would shape the history of Scotch whisky.
The Vision of the Buchanans
In the 15th century, beer was a popular drink, and Auchentorlie’s brewery supplied beverages to various customers, including the nearby Paisley Abbey monks. Archibald and George Buchanan, however, aimed higher. They aspired to create something more intricate and valuable. In 1772, they succeeded in establishing Scotland’s first licensed whisky distillery, pioneering a legacy that endures to this day.
The Birth of the Distillery
By 1772, the Buchanans had not only achieved their vision but also erected accommodations for Excise officers next to the distillery. These officers ensured proper documentation and taxation of the distillation process. This hints that distillation might have been happening unofficially on-site even before the official establishment of the distillery in 1772. The brewery associated with Dunglass Castle, nearby, might have been producing liquor as far back as the 14th century.
The First License and Beyond
On November 2, 1773, Robert Muir of Littlemiln was granted the inaugural license by King George III’s government to retail ale, beer, and other liquors. For more than two centuries, the date “1772” was proudly etched on a warehouse gable, symbolizing the founding of Littlemill. However, in 1994, the distillery ceased operations, and its stills fell silent. The remnants of the distillery were ultimately destroyed by fire in 2004.
Innovation and Evolution
The journey of Littlemill experienced various changes in ownership and innovation. Notably, American entrepreneur and chemist Duncan Thomas revitalized the distillery in 1931, introducing novel approaches such as hybrid stills and different distillation methods. Littlemill became a pioneer in the art of distillation, offering three distinct single malt styles: the traditional Littlemill Lowland whisky, the peated Dumbuck, and the robust Dunglass.
Legacy and Character
Throughout its existence, Littlemill Distillery was known for producing exceptional Lowland malt whisky. Using water from the Kilpatrick Hills and materials like Stornoway peat and Perthshire malt, the whisky exuded flavors of vanilla, flowers, honey, and fruit. The distillery’s last liquid is now protected by Master Blender Michael Henry, who ensures that the legacy lives on in every expression, carrying the essence of the oldest distillery in Scotland.
The Final Homage
Looking ahead, the legacy of Archibald and George Buchanan continues. Master Blender Michael Henry will meticulously select the finest remaining casks of Littlemill whisky to create a limited series of expressions, a tribute to the distillery’s true character. These precious bottles pay homage to the past while allowing fortunate individuals to savor the final chapter of Scotland’s oldest distillery.
In these last drops from the distillery that began centuries ago, we raise a toast to the Buchanans and their enduring contribution to the world of whisky. Slàinte mhath!