I have frequently commented in this column on how prices of whiskies from lost distilleries have skyrocketed in recent years as a combination of increasing rarity and speculation have driven prices through the roof.
That came home to me in spades a few weeks back with the unveiling of a special bottling of Littlemill, a rather forgotten Lowland distillery on the north bank of the Clyde. Interestingly, it sat just south of the so-called Highland Line (which determined whether it was a Lowland or Highland whisky) at Bowling near Dumbarton. After a fraught last few years with a few changes of ownership, it finally folded in 1997. Sadly, the buildings caught fire in 2004 and the site is now private housing.
Anyway, some four or five years ago I can vividly recall buying bottles of 12-year-old Littlemill from my favourite bootlegger for about £29 each. Obviously, the bottles had sat there a long time, possibly largely ignored on his shelves for years on end.
Anyway, some whisky website suddenly realised that cheap bottles of Littlemill were lying ignored and unappreciated in off-licences across Scotland and urged anyone with spare mazooma to go out and buy them. The price of Littlemill doubled and then quadrupled within a few weeks and the whisky virtually vanished soon after that.
Until now. Loch Lomond, the final inheritors of Littlemill, some weeks ago announced they were now marketing a special ultra-rare 40-year-old bottling of Littlemill. Only 250 bottles are available at (hold on to your hats) £6,000 a bottle. I shall now hold on to my last bottle of 12-year-old with renewed determination.
It is some years since I drank Littlemill but I recall it as a pleasant lowland malt with a dry, slightly nutty finish. The bottles were plain glass with unobtrusive labels inside a yellow-beige cardboard cylinder. So, a spot of advice: if on holiday abroad you spot a bottle in a dusty Spanish bodega or French cave de vins et spiritueux at a reasonable price, go for it. However, I reckon you have more chances of winning Euromillions.
Anyway, if you have a spare £6,000 and want to buy a liquid nugget of whisky history, there may be the odd Littlemill bottle still unsold.