Littlemill has unveiled that Chapter One in its new Vanguards Collection will be a 45 Year Old single malt whisky. The series will feature a total of four annual releases and celebrates the pioneers behind Scotland’s oldest licensed distillery.
The Littlemill Vanguards Collection – Chapter One is a 45 Year Old whisky drawn from the oldest and rarest reserves of the Lowland distillery, which fell into silence in 1994. The release was distilled on October 11, 1977 at the original site in Bowling, West Dunbartonshire, using the distillery’s patented straight-neck copper pot hybrid stills, which were first introduced in the early 1900s.
The liquid was stored in refill American Oak casks before a final five-year finish in a first-fill Oloroso Sherry Hogshead. The result is a single malt boasting aromas of honey, elderflower, and nutmeg. The palate offers a silk-like mouthfeel with flavors of melted brown sugar, vanilla, and fresh fruits, before a long finish unfurls, delivering notes of citrus and caramelized sugars.
Bottled at cask strength of 50.5% ABV, only 250 individually numbered bottles are available worldwide, priced at £12,500 ($15,600 USD). Vanguard Chapter One is the first of four new expressions in The Vanguard Collection, which will be released annually, each partnering with a global artist to pay homage to the trailblazers who shaped Littlemill’s story.
The first expression is dedicated to Robert Muir who was granted the first license to ‘retail beer, ale, and excisable liquors’ from King George III in 1773. It is potentially the first time whisky distilling was officiated and was certainly the beginning of the world’s whisky industry.
This moment will be remembered through a new collaboration with British artist, illustrator, and wordsmith Vic Lee, who has been transcending the art world for the last ten years with his iconic and intricate approach to penmanship. Vic has worked with some of the UK’s most loved and forward-thinking brands, including McLaren Automotive, Nike, Atkin Guitars, Brompton Bikes, and The Tate Modern. Using traditional screen printing, Vic created 250 cotton paper artworks, which reimagine the original license through contemporary illustrations including Littlemill’s original stills and warehousing, and the trade ships on the River Clyde in Scotland, nodding to the bustling international exporting of the time.
Printed on off-white cotton paper, the bespoke artwork, hand finished in Indian grey ink for individuality, will be encased in a handmade ash display cabinet, handcrafted by Littlemill’s most trusted carpenters and woodworkers. Inside is a hand blown Glencairn crystal decanter with delicate cuts in the glass, inspired by a traditional writing quill which would have been used by Robert Muir to sign the original license. A glass portal in the cabinet door provides a window through time to Vic Lee’s hand-finished artwork, each individually hand signed and numbered by Vic and Master Blender Michael Henry. Each cabinet also houses a branded 50ml miniature and a hardback book of the Littlemill story.
Founded in 1772 in Bowling, West Dunbartonshire, Littlemill was at the forefront of innovation for its time. It was lost to a fire in 2004 and since then, Henry has held guardianship of the last remaining rare casks, drawing on the limited reserves for the first Vanguards Collection release.
“Littlemill’s was Scotland’s first licensed distillery, but the journey thereafter is what makes it remarkable,” said Henry. “It’s legacy is defined by unsung heroes and quiet trailblazers at its helm. These vanguards of their time were overturning traditions in production, innovating with still designs and craftsmanship, and quietly leaving their fingerprints on Littlemill and the wider whisky industry. Much like Littlemill itself, these individuals passed into history before their contribution could ever be applauded, but their influence lives on in these last precious casks, which I am lucky enough to have under my personal care and custodianship.
“This creation of the first in The Vanguards Collection has been a fascinating process, as we have gone back to explore again the wonderful history of this intriguing whisky distillery. Robert Muir is a pioneer of his time, and this latest release is a celebration of that.
“Quite unlike anything else, Littlemill is a beautiful summer whisky, with characteristics of gentle vanilla and floral notes on the nose, with the sweetness of honey and creamy fudge, accompanied on the palate by classic Lowland fresh fruits. It’s a unique and special character, which we work hard to preserve without compromise.”
“Working closely with Michael and the team, we sought to create something bespoke and unique that could accompany each exclusive bottle,” said Lee. “The artwork had to respect the original license from 1773, and through a detailed and time-consuming approach, I drew upon historic penmanship and printing methods, while applying my own contemporary feel.
“There is so much beauty in works and letters; they can incite so much emotion and understanding of a period of time, which was exactly what was required for this remarkable Littlemill launch.”
Littlemill Vanguards Chapter One will be available for purchase via enquiry through the Littlemill official website and other specialized retailers.
Last year, Littlemill partnered with world-renowned photographer Stefan Sappert to launch another exceptional 45-year-old liquid, commemorating the distillery’s 250th anniversary.