Littlemill Distillery Focus

Littlemill Distillery Focus


It is always a touch poignant writing about lost distilleries that were forced to close through no fault of their own. Sometimes the economic ill winds blow across the landscape and there is no escaping them for certain businesses. This was the fate of distilleries like Port Ellen, Brora, Rosebank, and Littlemill during the 1980s recession. Casks from these distilleries have now become increasingly rare and incredibly sought-after. Littlemill Distillery did have a brief renaissance after its initial 1984 closure when under new ownership the stills were fired up again in 1989, but alas by 1994 the distillery fell silent forever.

We at Cask Trade are very excited to announce that a 1990 Littlemill Hogshead has arrived on our stock list. Before we go into the details of this unique, exceptional offering, we think we should delve into the history of this famous, silent distillery.

Littlemill Distillery was established in 1773 on the banks of the River Clyde just north of Glasgow, and close to Loch Lomond. Two brothers George and Archibald Buchanan already owned a successful brewery but had designs on creating something a little more potent and interesting. So, on November 2nd, 1773, King George III granted them one of the first legal licenses to distil whisky. For the next 220 years, the distillery stayed in operation until its closure.

Littlemill Distillery has played a significant role in the history of Scotch whisky production. In 1931 the then-owner Duncan Thomas (an American entrepreneur and chemist) created a new type of highly-effective Saladin Box for malting. Thomas also installed the first hybrid stills which were essentially a pot still body with tall, rectifying columns that were able to produce a number of different styles of single malt.

Up until its dying days, Littlemill Distillery continued to innovate and was known for making the most exceptional Lowland whisky with a great depth of character. Their water source came from the Kilpatrick Hills, the peat from Stornoway, and their barley from Perthshire to create what the distillery described as a beautiful ‘summer whisky’. When tasting Littlemill, expect characteristics of vanilla and floral notes on the nose, opening up to honey and fudge on the palate, intermingled with pear drops and crisp apple. If you are fortunate enough to taste Littlemill you’ll be perplexed how such a sublime, delicious whisky was allowed to go out of production.

The cask we are offering has recently undergone a regauged health check and is currently sitting at 46.4% ABV. An opportunity to own one of the last casks from one of the great, silent distilleries. This cask is now perfectly matured and now ready for bottling.

Fact File

Littlemill 31-year.

Distilled: 16/10/1990

Cask Type: Hogshead

ABV: 45.6%

Regauged 09/12/90

LOA: 53.9

Est bottles: 169

To find out more about the 1990 Littlemill cask we have in stock, contact The Masters today!

Caol Ila Distillery Focus

Caol Ila Distillery Focus


Translating to ‘Sound of Islay’, Caol Ila Distillery is certainly one of the most loved distilleries by all the peat enthusiasts around the world. Opened in 1846 it was bought out by the DCL company in 1927 (later to morph into Diageo), and ran continuously until the owners decided to demolish the old distillery and build a new one in 1972. This transformation meant that Caol Ila Distillery was the largest whisky producer on Islay.

This was before single malt whisky was widely available and the main purpose of Caol Ila was to make fillings for the Johnnie Walker Blend. Interestingly in the severe 1980s downturn, they started to make an unpeated version for other blenders. This did in fact allow the distillery to survive these rough times (unlike its sister distillery Port Ellen), and a little-known fact is that Caol Ila has actually continued to make a limited amount of unpeated whisky every year since.

In more recent times, Diageo has invested a lot into the single malt brand including in renovating the visitor centre, and thus nowadays Caol Ila Distillery can be considered one of the top-tier distilleries. The future certainly looks very bright.

The character of the whisky undoubtedly has its own uniqueness. Caol Ila has a distinct ripe pear characteristic, combined with smoke and salt, and underpinned by grassy notes. Distillation features tall stills and a higher cut point. The fermentation time is 55 hours and most of the malting is actually done in-house, which is very rare these days.

Maturation mainly occurs in refill bourbon casks. The importance of Caol Ila Distillery Whisky to the Johnnie Walker Blend meant there were very few distillery bottlings until the turn of the century. Today the core range consists of the entry-level NAS, plus the 12-year, 18-year and 25-year. Caol Ila of course also features annually in Diageo’s Special Releases series.

To date, there have been over 4000 independent bottlings of the brand, but casks are becoming increasingly rare as the value of this distillery to its owner increases. Any investor who is fortunate to own a cask should know how much these casks are still sought-after by the bottling companies. The award-winning 25-year expression is evidence that the whisky generally ages very well, so there would be plenty of flexibility in your exit strategy.

 Fact File

Name: Caol Ila

Founded: 1846

Region: Islay

Owner: Diageo

Capacity: 6.5m litres

Stills: 6

Fermentation: 55 hours (short) to 120 hours (long)

Peated/Unpeated: Peated with a limited amount of unpeated.

Casks Used: Bourbon, Sherry.

Current Sales: N/A

Recent significant awards: N/A

Independent bottlings: Around 2000

Core Range: 14 yr, Distillers Edition

Caol Ila 12-year Tasting Notes: 

Nose – Smoke, peppermint, poached pears.

Palate – Stewed Apples, Vanilla, Kiwi fruit.

Finish – Burning coals, Honey, Caramel.

To find out more about investing in Caol Ila casks, contact The Masters today!

Cambus Distillery Focus

Cambus Distillery Focus

The 1820s were a transformative time for the fortunes of Scotch whisky. Firstly in 1823, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Robert Peel passed legislation, greatly reducing the taxation on whisky production. This encouraged the industry to go legal. Before that date, an excessive tax had been introduced to raise money to fight wars with France. The repercussions of this had only caused the opposite effect, with Scottish distillers migrating up to the Highlands and making their ‘water of life’ illegally, away from the prying eyes of the government.

They, of course, did not pay any tax. By reducing this punitive taxation, Sir Robert had kick-started the Single Malt Industry that we know today, with famous distilleries like The Glenlivet & The Macallan both taking out licenses in 1824 and with many others soon following suit. However, it wasn’t till the creation of blends that scotch whisky went truly international and became the success story we know today.

The Scots are great inventors, that is clear, and it was a Scotsman called Robert Stein who invented the Continuous Still. Now before we proceed, much credit should also go to Irishman Aeneas Coffey, who certainly improved Stein’s design. Although the Irish saw no use for this new type of still, the Scots embraced it. Consequently, what became known as Grain Whisky was born. 

Cambus Distillery was one of the first Grain Distilleries to open up in 1836, in the Lowland region of Scotland. In 1877 it became one of the founding distilleries in a company called DCL (which eventually became Diageo), but like many operations times were tough in the 20th century, with not only the two World Wars but also the Great Depression.

Unfortunately for Cambus, they also had a fire that destroyed the facility in 1914. Production was very intermittent until the 1950s, but unfortunately in 1993, the doors closed for the very last time as part of a large cost-cutting exercise. Sadly, the site was demolished, but in 2011 a large cooperage was opened, so at least the whisky legacy continues. 

For investors, it is very clear that whisky enthusiasts have really been warming to Grain Whisky for quite some time. Many independent bottlings have been released, as well as an increasing number of official bottlings by the likes of Diageo, with several from William Grant and Pernod Ricard. It’s clear that the demand is there. With the Cambus 1988’s we recently had in stock, a rare opportunity arose to invest in 33-year whisky from a closed, lost distillery.

Right there you have the rarity factor in your favour. As for your exit strategy, this was a short-term investment as the liquid is ready to drink and be bottled. Pay close attention to the ABV as you want to give yourself a little breathing space, because it will lose most of its value if it drops below 40%.

We should mention the whisky itself, as it’s absolutely delicious! Like all good Grain Whiskies, it is smooth and soft, dominated by notes of vanilla, coconut and hints of custard. It will still age longer, that’s for sure and remember good quality old whisky, from closed lost distilleries, are always in demand.  

 Fact File

Name: Cambus Grain 

Founded: 1806 – Closed 1993 

Region: Grain 

Owner: Diageo 

Capacity: None 

Stills: Column 

Fermentation: Grain 

Peated/Unpeated: Unpeated 

Casks Used: Bourbon barrels and hogsheads 

Current Sales: N/A 

Recent significant awards: None entered 

Independent bottlings: Around 200 

Core Range: None

To find out more about investing in Cambus Grain Whisky casks, contact The Masters today!

A St Andrew’s Day Celebration of Whisky & Art

A St Andrew’s Day Celebration of Whisky & Art

Table of Drams

The Patron Saint of Scotland was honoured in style across two nights of St Andrew’s Day celebrations hosted by Cask Trade at the Alon Zakaim gallery in Mayfair this week (29/30).

An evening of whisky and art was enjoyed by more than 150 customers and their guests who enjoyed a rare opportunity to taste over 40 drams of cask-strength whisky in the stunning surroundings of the fine art gallery on Cork Street.

Colin and the Glassmates

Invited guests were taken on a dram journey with highlights including Tullibardine 13 years old Sherry Hogshead, Royal Brackla 12 years old Bourbon Barrel, Caol Ila 14 years old Bourbon Hogshead and Speyside Distillery 24 years old Bourbon Hogshead.

Tasting under the glow of the gallery’s Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art, the Cask Trade celebrations concluded with an extra special dram of Benromach 40 years old Old Cask, a limited release of just 1,047 bottles.

Benromach 40 YO

Cask Trade is an extraordinary cask business run by passionate experts with over 100 combined years in the industry who have created a moving marketplace for buying and selling casks that is open to all. For further details on our unrivalled inventory of casks click here.

Alon Zakaim Fine Art will be showcasing a range of works by Modern Masters such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Henry Moore as well as iconic photography by Terry O’Neill and Chris Smith until Christmas.


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Benromach 40 YO