SCOTCH WHISKY: Never to be repeated whiskies go under hammer for good causes next month

The men who made the famous Scotch whisky, which is now worth around £30,000 a bottle, in a distillery at Bowling in West Dunbartonshire.

By Bill Heaney

Littlemill Distillery in Bowling may have disappeared along with the Angel’s Share from some of its finer products — but the whisky itself is still extant.

Collectors of rare whisky have a chance to buy “never to be repeated” lots of the tipple to help transform the lives of young Scots. The Distillers’ Charity and Sotheby’s have teamed up to sell 14 one-off, ultra-rare Scotch whiskies and experiences next month.

All proceeds from the auction will go towards the Young Action Fund which transforms the life chances of 16 to 25-year-olds providing them with skills to set them up for life and work. The first One of One auction in 2021 helped over 1,000 youngsters and now 36 companies have donated lots to raise even more money.

Of them, 12 are “member” donor brands and have gifted a unique, never to be repeated lots for the auction appealing to the world’s leading collectors and whisky connoisseurs. The unique lots celebrate the heritage, craftsmanship, artistry and innovation of the world of Scotch whisky.

Among them is the Gordon & MacPhail Recollection Showcase valued between £80,000 and £160,000. It comes with five bespoke 70cl decanters, housed within a handcrafted elm and oak cabinet, cradling ultra-rare whiskies from lost distilleries including a 56-year-old single malt from Glen Mhor. The winner of the lot will also be invited to a tasting at Gordon & MacPhail’s home in Elgin in Moray.

A trio of whiskies form Loch Lomond Group called Littlemill Decennia brings together the final drops from Scotland’s oldest licensed – and now lost – distillery in Bowling with an estimated value of up to £30,000 while Campbeltown Distillery, Glen Scotia, is offering 49-year-old tipple – one of the oldest remaining Glen Scotia reserves with an estimated value of £10,000 to £15,000.

Included in the auction are also whiskies from Tomatin, Glenmorangie, Kilchoman while the Scotch Malt Whisky Society has donated a one-of-a-kind bottle of spirit from a Speyside distillery with an estame of up to £10,000.

Isle of Arran Distilleries, Arbikie, Bruichladdich, Isle of Raasay Distillery, the Borders Distillery have also donating casks for the auction some with distillery experiences thrown in.

Strong social impact

Grant Gordon OBE, chairman of the charity, said: “Our vision, when we created the Youth Action Fund, was to make a strong social impact, transforming lives of disadvantaged young people, supporting them to acquire life skills and confidence needed to achieve employability.

“Since the Youth Action Fund was launched following the first One of One Auction in October 2021, over 1,000 young people have benefited from the funds raised, resulting in 603 young people achieving an employability outcome, helping transform their lives.

“I’m proud to be part of an industry which, through its collective charitable endeavours, is supporting young people to achieve their ambitions. We look forward to this year’s One of One Auction, and its support for this vital work with young people to strengthen the resilience of our communities.”

Celia Tennant, chief executive of Inspiring Scotland, which manages the fund on behalf of the charity, added: “The challenges that young people face are unprecedented. Of all issues revealed by young people, mental health is the most commonly reported with 42% of those who recently engaged with the fund reporting mental health concerns.

“One in four young people are living in poverty, with those living in the most disadvantaged communities among the worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic when vital development was disrupted, and many have disengaged from education. The Youth Action Fund is well placed, and committed, to supporting the needs of this group of young people.”

The Distillers One of One auction begins at 2pm on Thursday, October 5, at Hopetoun House, near Edinburgh. Online bidding is already under way.


The Littlemill Distillery is top left in this picture of Bowling which includes Scott’s shipyard where a number of Clyde ‘Para Handy’ puffers were built.

Ultra -rare whiskies auction

One of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, there is a possibility that whisky was being made at the Littlemill site in Bowling as early as 1772. What is certainly clear is that none of its owners had any success. There were nine of them between 1772 and the arrival of the Hay family in 1857 when some stability ensued.

Its somewhat chequered history was a little surprising given its location in the village of Bowling, where the Forth & Clyde Canal meets the river Clyde. These good transport links would, you might imagine, have given Littlemill a commercial advantage.

The Hays remained in charge, expanding and improving the distillery before selling to near neighbour, grain producer Yoker Distillery Co. A further period of instability followed, with blenders Charles Mackinlay and J&G Thompson owning it briefly before, in 1931, it became the possession of the first of a succession of American owners.

The first of these was Duncan Thomas, one of the forgotten innovators of Scotch whisky. Mr Thomas was well known in Dumbarton, once described in the House of Commons as the whisky capital of the world. The family lived in Cardross and his daughter, Marjory, was a surgeon at Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria.

He stopped triple distillation and installed new hybrid stills with pot still bodies and rectifying heads, allowing a number of different characters to be produced.

In 1959, the Chicago-based Barton Brands took a stake in Thomas’ Littlemill Distillery Co. The injection of capital allowed the firm to build the Loch Lomond distillery – also a forgotten innovator within Scotch whisky – in 1965, thereby easing pressure on supply.

Barton Brands then bought out Thomas in 1971, but continued to try new things such as three different expressions: Littlemill itself, a lightly-peated variant, Dunglass, and a heavily-peated one, Dumbuck. After a brief time in mothballs between 1984 and 1989, the distillery ran until 1992 when what had been Barton’s Scottish arm, now Gibson International, went bankrupt.

Littlemill was bought by Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd, (which in one of those weird twists of fate had bought Loch Lomond in 1986) but never re-distilled. The stills were taken to Loch Lomond.

Its new owner contemplated running Littlemill as a museum, but in 1996 it was closed down and soon after it had been sold to a developer in 2004, it caught on fire.

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