The Oldest Exclusive Release from the Oldest Whisky Distillery in Scotland
"Fancy a Dram?"
Exhibit are proud to be in partnership with Scotland’s oldest licenced distillery, Littlemill, as they announce their oldest and most limited release to date, The Littlemill Testament.
You might be familiar with the movie ‘Angels’ Share’; Four kilted miscreants from Glasgow pose as Whisky enthusiasts writing for a paper in order to rob some of a recently discovered and highly coveted antique spirit. So, when we were approached regarding a secret ‘last cask’, I immediately wondered how I could replicate the heist. I have the accent and no one would suspect my irn-bru bottles were filled with priceless golden liquor. Surely this was my chance...
Alas, we would settle for the great pleasure of curating beautiful antique glassware for the exclusive Littlemill Testament release. We are thrilled to be shedding some light on the historical context and significance of both the distillery and the period drinking glasses that are to be included in the unique special edition release. Not to mention, the golden liquor itself.
The Final Legacy of Littlemill
This exceedingly rare Single Malt Scotch Whisky is taken from a single distillation date of the 4th of October 1976 and is a true last drop release of just 250 bottles.
With inspirational passion and the aid of today's specialists, Littlemill pays homage to the original master distillers and craftsmen. Housed in a bespoke cabinet handmade by Moran’s traditional wood-smiths, and crafted in handblown Glencairn Crystal, each release is a truly unique labour of love that celebrates the very essence of their legacy.
The Littlemill testament allows collectors to possess their very own piece of the history as treasured fragments of the distillery, distillery manager's house and even the Littlemill barrel, have been skillfully incorporated into each set. An engraved date of 1772 shows adoration for the carved founding stone that had remained proudly in place at the gable end of the distillery, for over two centuries.
This gable stone was the only indication of the distillery's initial founding, until 2019 when an investigation into the Justice of the Peace’s records revealed new evidence. The findings show that one Mr Robert Muir of Littlemiln was indeed bestowed a licence for “ale, beer and other excisable liquors”, by His Majesty King George III’s Government, dated 2 November 1773. Finally confirming Littlemills unrivalled heritage and place in the historical records as Scotland’s oldest licenced distillery.
In true collectors fashion a redeemable 5cl bottle is included to maintain the integrity of the pack, a second is also then available at a later date should you wish to pass the set on. Retailing for around £8000. You may enquire directly with Littlemill here: https://www.littlemilldistillery.com/ or check with major stockists such as the whisky exchange.
Littlemill’s Testament To The Past
Echoing this commitment to craft and heritage, we are especially excited to showcase the stunning Littlemill Testament special edition. Only four exist with each release being an entirely unique, 1 of 1 creation.
18th Century Drinking Glasses | Exhibit Antiques
A genuine pair of hand blown 18th-century wine glasses accompany each crystal decanter. Specially curated by Exhibit Antiques to authentically reflect and toast to the Littlemills founding era. These delicate glasses remain a precious link to the past, to be treasured and savoured. Each pair is individual to the set and boast intricately engraved decorative bowls upon stunning faceted stems.
Inspired by the illustrious facet-cut period of George III, Littlemills’ decanter reflects this Georgian style by incorporating a fully faceted base. The engraved finish has been mirrored to each of the four decanters, wedding them together in harmony and creating a truly inseparable one-of-a-kind combination.
18th Century Facet Cut Drinking Glasses | Exhibit Antiques
Remnants of the distillery have been collected and preserved after a fire in 2004 brought about the final demise of the Littlemill distillery. Now given a new life with the creation of these exclusive brass-mounted dress stoppers, each complimenting their own unique case.
The Age of Elegance
During the British Georgian era ingenuity ruled the day and certainly by the 1770s high calibre glass cutters had begun to transpose the captivating nature of mirrored glass to tablewares and the stems of drinking glasses.
These precious glasses represent a period in which faceted glassware adorned the homes of society's most fashionable and affluent. Brilliant and lustrous, the style granted a new kind of interior splendour. Chandeliers suspended above grand tables would illuminate an array of dazzling table arrangements, all laid to perfection.
Spectacular refractions can be seen in bright sunlight or by firelight over a spiced dram.
18th Century Facet Cut Drinking Glasses | Exhibit Antiques
Each pair of antique drinking glasses have been painstakingly hand-blown, cut and engraved, sometime between 1770 and 1790. All made possible by the preceding centuries alchemists in their endeavour to stabilise and perfect the cristallo material. For if you had to attempt such an endeavour as cutting on glassware not fit to withstand the pressures, it would surely shatter before your eyes. That is to say nothing of finding the correct chemical composition, as the first of their kind fell to ‘glass corrosion’, which could be described as a slow shatter over time.
A remarkable entrepreneurial cottage industry, cutting and polishing could be achieved using a hand or foot-operated wheel. Due to the nature of cheap manual labour, it would take almost a century for large scale steam-powered workshops to compete effectively in the market. While the glasses themselves were produced inside so-called glass cones, immense conical brick structures, some towering over 100ft and housing many furnaces.
The Leith glass factory's cone-shaped furnaces appear in the background of painter William Reed's Leith Races.
Authors’ Note: I can say from experience that pulling a gather of molten glass from a 1500°C furnace is a palpably tense situation. My admiration ever since for those pioneering master craftsmen who worked by candlelight in the suet and searing heat, knows no bounds. Glass cutters are of their own league, I again stretch myself to imagine but have had some experience in using a modern polishing wheel. Once again struck by the risk of injury and immense difficulty, my appreciation for the craftsmen has been solidified by the wondrous nature of their achievements.
If you would like to see what we currently have available in this range, you can visit our live exhibit here:
Browse 18th-Century Drinking Glasses
If instead, you would like to see our archive of 18th-century glassware or indeed some more facet-cut glasses, you may visit those here:
Visit the 18th-Century Drinking Glass Archive
Living Breathing Casks
For those a little unfamiliar with the process, as I was, this I hope serves to highlight the value of time spent and the expertise required to blend the perfect golden spirit.
Some 500 pounds (36 stone) or more of whisky can be stored in each cask. The traditional barrel shape allows a single labourer to more easily tilt, shimmy and roll them around. You may notice that old whiskey barrels look tremendously discoloured, this however is not due to the aforementioned rolling around. Casks are very rarely moved, usually only when they’re being transferred between storage areas. This discolouration is instead born from the porous nature of wood causing the whisky to leech its way to the outside and evaporate, formally becoming the angels’ share, while leaving residue on the surface of the barrel.
It is commonly thought that about 2% of the casks liquid is lost per year, however, this can be understated as it depends entirely on the maturation process. Higher storage temperatures lead to an increase in the barrel's pressure and subsequently, more loss. To complicate matters, a higher humidity like with Scotland’s climate can increase the water content within the barrel, reducing the proof, whereas in Texas you may struggle to keep the spirit within legal limits as so much is lost. You may think this is dreadful news to whoever owns the cask but not quite so, this expansion and contraction through the wood, as costly as it could be, is entirely necessary.
Upon distillation, whiskey spirit is surprisingly crystal clear. Its famous golden colour comes from the ageing process and will differ in depth of hue depending on the type of wood the whisky is stored in and for how long. Using a new barrel made from ‘virgin wood’ is not preferred in the ageing of whiskey even though more colouration occurs from fresh wood. Instead, whisky is typically aged in a re-filled barrel. The colour and flavour of a whiskey can be drastically impacted by a barrel's previous spirit, for example; bourbon, brandy, sherry, or even port casks can be used to craft very particular tasting experiences.
It’s up to the master blenders to determine the preferred maturation conditions and to then carefully maintain a consistent fluctuation of the liquid, almost as if they are to keep the cask breathing as calm and as steady as possible.
Taste The Exceptional Character
In each presentation cabinet, there can be found a neatly tucked away booklet providing the much-discussed tasting notes for the admirer. For our final investigation, I shall hand you over to someone with an extensive blending portfolio, the man who is now responsible for safeguarding the last of the Littlemill liquid, master blender Michael Henry.
To quote Mr Henry; “On the nose, there is a crisp green apple and zesty grapefruit with notes of fragrant elderflower and ginger. Then, when you taste, it delivers a vibrant fruity flavour with hints of pineapple and peach, overlaid with lime citrus which is complemented by a melted brown-sugar sweetness and creamy vanilla. This gives way to a deliciously long finish with mouth-watering fruit, gooseberry and watermelon, and a gently warming cinnamon and nutmeg spice.”
Using water sourced from the Scottish Highlands in the Kilpatrick Hills, peat from Stornoway, and malt from Perthshire, Littlemill perfectly captures the Lowland whisky style. Michael Henry has achieved the preservation of the distillery in style and character, ensuring the legacy of the Littlemill Distillery lives on in each expression.
We hope that you thoroughly enjoyed this article and would like to take the opportunity to formally thank those involved for their passionate commitment to the project. It has been an absolute pleasure to discuss and advise from a historical perspective. Paying particular thanks to Gary Mills at the Loch Lomond Group, who had the task of convincing the team that 18th-century drinking glasses might be more exciting (and less precarious) than crafting the liquid into 18th-century decanters, the results have entirely exceeded our expectations. A final thanks to all parties involved, the detail and care with which the Littlemill's Testament has been handled and presented is a flawless work of art that any collector would be proud to own and share.
For any further information regarding these releases, or others, you may contact the Littlemill Distillery here: https://www.littlemilldistillery.com/ or the Loch Lomond Group here: https://www.lochlomondgroup.com/distilleries/littlemill/
Shop Antique Drinking Glasses
Related books of interest
Eighteenth-Century English Drinking Glasses An Illustrated Guide
Published by Antique Collectors Club
The Decanter; An Illustrated History of Glass from 1650
Published by Antique Collectors Club Limited, Woodbridge, Suffolk First Edition
Article Author | Nicola Smillie