Prior to its legal founding in 1824, Miltonduff had operated illicitly for a quarter of a century. Its home – initially a monk’s prior a few miles south-west of Elgin - possessed ample water sources and sat on fertile land where barley would grow abundantly. Ideal conditions for messing around with tiny pots – and at one point, it was estimated that the area housed no less than 50 illicit stills.
In the 200 years since Miltonduff ‘went legit’ considerable romance has been foisted onto the memories of illicit distillers – those making spirit for no other reason but to feed and clothe their families - thwarted by the ever-watchful eye of the ‘gaugers’, otherwise known as excisemen. But of course, as with most quixotic notions – the reality was more akin to a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
I doubt very few ‘hobbyist’ distillers were motivated by philanthropical ideals – indeed the relationship between general illegal trade and illicit distilling is a strong one. Illicit stills were often sited not only in areas where the physical conditions were ripe for production, but also in or around areas where prohibited trade was focussed. Whisky ‘gangs’ did not simply spring into existence - they were often inheritors of older, well-established criminal networks. However, it should be noted that gang on gang violence was surprisingly rare. Illicit distillers can draw a lineage back to the Civil War where a host of clandestine importation of French brandy, rum, gin and wines took place. A more civilised time compared to the modern drugs trade it seems.
The 1823 Excise Act which laid the foundations for Scotch as we know it today, resulted in the number of licensed distilleries doubling over the subsequent two years – Miltonduff included. From a zenith of some 14,000 reports of illicit distillation in 1823, down to just 6 in 1874.
Door 13 of the 2021 Boutique-y Advent calendar offers up a 10 year old Miltonduff in the form of Batch 7, that is delivered at 50.6%. 1,183 bottles come from a small amalgam of casks – they’re available for £48.95 from Master of Malt.
Both Sorren at OCD Whisky and Brian at Brian's Malt Musings and undertaking the 24 days of Boutique-y this year – so after you’re done here, go check them out for some alternative views.
Nose: Honey spread over flapjack, livened with some rhubarb and custard candy. Toasted coconut and vanilla are lifted with a squeeze of fresh orange juice. Simple, but effective. The addition of water presents nougat alongside apple juice.
Taste: Well-judged ABV here. Golden syrup and honey meet cask char, whilst peaches and apples are slathered in vanilla custard. A short development towards to cereals and grassiness with touches of hard meringue. Water introduced sour fruit salad alongside some white chocolate creaminess.
Finish: Medium with white pepper, char and toasted oak.
Boutique-y’s 7th batch of Miltonduff is a straight-forward summery sipper. There’s no deep story to tell, not wild ride to be taken on. And overall, that’s OK. The ABV is pretty prefect, and the flavours are balanced and supportive. As such, no complains, but no fireworks.