Littlemill Distillery opened when Scottish poet and literate Robert Burns was a teenager and no doubt in later working life as an Exciseman he was well aware of its existence as a malt whisky.
By the early 1800s Littlemill was equipped with a wash still with a capacity of 112 gallons and a spirit still of 47 gallons; it produced around 2,000 gallons of whiskey a year which was sold in Scotland and not exported. Whilst many distilleries in Scotland used raw grain and produced large volumes of cheap, coarse spirit Littlemill used only malted barley and so it may be presumed that Littlemill whiskey was a superior-quality product.
Through the following years the stills were increased in size and output expanded although it continued to produce around just 1% of the total whiskey produced in Scotland. By 1825 there were 166 licensed distilleries in Scotland including Littlemill whose stills then had a capacity of 200 and 112 gallons. By then Jane McGregor had taken over the distillery and was one of the first women in Scotland to hold a license to distil whisky.
Production continued to increase and casks were stored in warehouses at the distillery and also in Glasgow. In 1830 Jane was fined £300 most probably for failing to pay duty on some of her whiskey and so may have achieved another first for female distillers. Malt whiskey continued to be produced by double distillation until 1875 when the distillery was rebuilt by William Hay who installed three stills with a total capacity of around 4,000 gallons and began a triple distillation process which continued until the 1930s when production reverted to double distillation with just two stills.
Littlemill’s potted history came to a close in 1994 when the owners went bankrupt and then the remaining buildings were destroyed by fire in 2004. Today, part of the site is occupied by modern apartments.
Few independent bottlings of Littlemill appear on the market today, so we thought a fitting tribute to this lost Lowland malt was in order. For our Burns Malt series we’ve picked a single sherry hogshead 21 year old distilled in 1990 which is now available to order here while stocks last.