Scotland’s oldest licensed distillery revealed

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Brothers George and Archibald Buchanan – the original owners of Littlemill – were trailblazers for the rich tradition of Scottish whisky production, and Littlemill continued to lead the industry for over two centuries.

UNEARTHED documentary evidence has proven the whereabouts of the oldest licensed whisky distillery in Scotland.

The discovery came about following the discovery of the local Justice of the Peace’s records for Dumbarton and has revealed that on 2nd November 1773 ‘Robert Muir of Littlemill’ was granted the first ever license by the Government of King George III to “retail ale, beer and other excisable Liquors.”

Charles MacLean, whisky historian and author added: “The wrangle about ‘the oldest distillery’ has been running for ages, so this is a significant find. 

“The Dumbarton Justice of the Peace records do not refer explicitly to distilling, since prior to 1781 private distilling was perfectly legal so long as the spirits were not offered for sale.

“This license to sell excisable liquors amounted to a license to distil as we understand it today.”

For over 220 years a date stone on the gable end of one of the distillery’s warehouses carved with 1772 offered the best suggestion as to the age of this world-renowned distillery, but there has been no documentary or legal proof until now.

Colin Matthews, CEO, Loch Lomond Group said: “We are thrilled and excited to have discovered these clear and unambiguous documents dating back to 1773 that confirms that Littlemill was indeed the very first Scottish distillery to obtain a licence to sell ‘excisable liquors’.”

The distillery itself has a rich history, in 1772 accommodation was built next door to the distillery to house the Excise officers who represented the King – and ensured any distillation was duly recorded and the relevant taxes calculated and paid.

This suggests that something was already happening onsite before 1772 and cements Littlemill’s position as Scotland’s first and oldest licensed whisky distillery.

Notably, it was one of the first distilleries to have a female licensee, Jane MacGregor, in 1823 and later, in 1931 under the stewardship of the American Duncan Thomas, Littlemill was at the forefront of still innovation with technical designs that could create three styles of single malts from full-bodied to light.

Whisky production at Littlemill continued until the distillery fell silent in 1994 and was subsequently destroyed by fire in 2004, never to produce a drop again.

Loch Lomond Group launched the Littlemill 40-Year-Old Celestial Edition (46.8% ABV) in late 2018, the oldest expression ever to be released from the lost Littlemill distillery.

This rare release of only 250 bottles celebrates the life’s work of Littlemill owner Duncan Thomas and represents the culmination of his knowledge and experience, capturing the essence of his pioneering distilling process.

The latest addition to the Littlemill range will be released in September 2019. Littlemill 29-year-old is the third release from the Private Cellar Collection, comprising only 600 bottles which will be released across the world.

 
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