While the latest official Littlemill release may be on sale for ten times what most 25 year olds are now priced, this positive evaluation of its status is a very recent phenomenon.
With a few exceptions, only a few years ago the highest praise you were likely to find for Littlemill was "Well, it's not bad." And more frequently some variation of 'awful' was found in tasting notes. To put it mildly, there weren't that many people who were all that sad it had been shut down.
The official bottlings played a major role in developing that reputation. I tried the green bottle 8 Year a while back and found it underdeveloped but interesting. As with the rest of the beige label 12 Year lineup put out by Loch Lomond for their various active and inactive distilleries during the early-2000s, the general consensus was not overwhelmingly positive.
This was bottled at 43%, almost certainly with coloring and chill filtration.
Littlemill 12 Year
Nose: sweet malt, metallic, cardboard, vague fruitiness (mixed Starburst candy), dried flowers, a touch of fish oil. After adding a few drops of water all of the strangeness coalesces into something that makes me think of burning berries, rubber, and roots/vegetation with a little vanilla.
Taste: malt sweetness throughout with a slightly metallic edge, cardboard-y oak, big but slightly artificial fruit flavors (berries, banana, melon) around the middle, fading out through dry malt and growing cardboard and metallic/rubbery character. After dilution the sweetness becomes more straightforwardly sugary, edging out some of the other flavors but making everything seem brighter overall.
Finish: vague fruit esters, dry malt, metallic oak
My initial impressions of this whisky were, to put it mildly, not good.
While you can tell from my tasting notes that it eventually settled down, it never lost that sense of being aggressively weird.
Given what Littlemill is now going for (the same bottle I just reviewed now goes for upwards of $150 in Europe), this is likely to the be last one I ever try. For the $30-odd I paid for it, this was totally acceptable as a curiosity. While the initial awfulness burned off, it never blossomed into anything spectacular, just acceptable. If you're burning to try a Littlemill, it wouldn't hurt to sample some at a bar, but I wouldn't spend any effort hunting this down. Despite all the current Littlemill hype, it's just not that good.
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