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Littlemill distillery

Had it survived Littlemill, claims to have been founded in 1772, would beat out both contenders Strathisla and Glenturret for the title of the oldest Scottish distillery. Alas it was not to be.

Quietly Littlemill has disappeared from retail shelves. Like an extinct species it will never return. It stopped production in 1994 and a fire in the fall of 2004 was the final nail in the coffin. Littlemill was one of the oldest distillery in Scotland, established in 1772. The Lowland region was at one time the biggest Scotch producing region now only Auchentoshan, Bladnoch and Glenkinchie remain open. Littlemill was characteristically light with lavender and lemony notes. A distinctively different whisky which, in part, made it so great.

Littlemill Distillery

The remains of the Littlemill distillery lie to the northeast of Glasgow on the way to the Kennacraig-Islay ferry. After the foundation in 1772 and the first official deed of ownership from 1817. As with many other Scottish distilleries over its more than 200-year history, ownership often changed faster than it was possible to bring new bottlings onto the market. Like many Lowland distillers, Littlemill used to triple distill its whisky. The practice stopped in the 1930s.

The distillery was also the first to introduce the predecessor of the Lomond still. Developed by Duncan Thomas, an American inventor who bought the distillery in 1931, the still combined a pot still with a rectifying column. By moving the position of the collecting plates, the distiller could mimic the effect of altering the length of the still neck, allowing them to produce different aroma and flavor profiles in their whisky.

Littlemill was particularly interested in the shape of the stills. Instead of the usual curved goosenecks, column-like stills were used, which were later often used in Japanese distilleries.


Unlike many other distilleries, Littlemill only has very few original bottlings. Littlemill was bottled as an 8-year-old, which was later followed by a 12-year-old, both were particularly popular. Independent bottlers offer a significantly larger selection but these are becoming fewer and further between.


In 1772 Littlemill distillery was reportedly built on the site of a former brewery. Evidence of iIllicit distillation at this location are certain from as early as 1750 though production seems to have stopped in 1813. In 1818, the new owner Matthew Clark reopened the distillery. Another change of ownership took place in 1821. The new owner Peter McGregor passed away in 1822. His wife is granded necessary license in 1823 (as the first recorded female distiller) and ran Littlemill until 1839. Hector Henderson, the founder of the Caol Ila distillery on Islay purchased the distillery in 1840 but withdrew in 1846. Littlemill closed the year later when McCulloch & McAlpine go into liquidation.

In 1875, William Hay acuired Littlemill distillery, renovating and enlarging it. Acquired by Duncan G. Thomas in 1931 who ended the era of triple distillation. In 1959 Chicago-based Barton Brands acquired shares in Littlemill. Loch Lomond distillery was founded as a joint partnership between Thomas, and Barton Brands between 1964-66.

In 1971, the distillery became the sole property of Barton who introduced the other bottlings in addtion to Littlemill itself, a lightly-peated variant called Dunglass, and the heavily-peated Dumbuck. Littlemill was mothballed again in 1984, 1989 saw Littlemill reopen after renovation under the Barton Brands’ Scottish arm Gibson International. It was shut down again in 1992 and sold to Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse (Loch Lomond Distillery). Although Loch Lomond contemplated running Littlemill as a museum, it was ultimately closed down and a large part of the facilities were dismantled in 1996.

The irreversible end for Littlemill was a fire on On 04.09.2004 that almost destroyed the entire complex. Subsequently, the remains of the building were torn down and houses were built on the site, only the house of the customs and tax official remain to remember the fraught but glorious times of the Littlemill distillery.

Littlemill factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Littlemill Lowlands Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Lost 1772 - 1989 Malt Littlemill Not Available
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group

Littlemill Timeline:

1772: Littlemill distillery is founded

1818: Taken over by Matthew Clark & ​​Co.

1821: Sold to Peter McGregor

1823: After the death of Peter McGregor in 1822, his wife Jean took over

1840: Hector Henderson, the founder of the Caol Ila distillery on Islay purchased the distillery

1846: Duncan McCulloch, when Hector Henderson withdrew

1847: McCulloch & McAlpine went bankrupt

1851: Operating

1852: John McAlpine Harvey & Co.

1853: William Hunter and John F. Sharpe when dissolved

1857: William Hay & Co.

1869: William Hay junior.

1874: William Hay Fairman & Co. dissolved

1875: The distillery is bought by William Hay and rebuilt

1913: Taken over by the Yoker Distillery Co.

1918: Passed to Littlemill Distillery Co.

1923: Owned by Charles Mackinlay & Co. and J.G. Thomson & Co. Ltd.

1931: Acquired by Duncan G. Thomas who ends tripple distillation.

1935: Incorporated as the Littlemill Distillery Co. Ltd.

1959: Barton Brands buys a share in the company

1971: Barton Brands, reorganized as Barton Distilling (Scotland) Ltd buys out Duncan G. Thomas

1984: Littlemill is mothballed

1987: Acquired by Gibson International (the Scottish arm of Barton Brands)

1989: Reopened by Gibson International

1994: Bought by Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse following the liquidation of Gibson International

1996: Sold to developers

Can I tour Littlemill?

No, unfortunately Littlemill distillery is not open to the public for tours