The AnCnoc (pronounced a-nock) single malt whisky range is produced at the Knockdhu distillery. Knockdhu (pronounced nock-doo) lies deep in the rugged countryside of the eastern Highlands, with the closest town being Huntly. The distillery is one of the most traditional in the Scottish whisky industry with no computers to aid production. Everything is controlled by the skills of the distillery workers and Knockdhu produces approximately one million litres of spirit per year. Knockdhu translates as 'black hill' from Gaelic and the name of the single malts were changed to AnCnoc (simply 'the hill' in Gaelic) in the 1990s, so as to avoid consumer confusion with the similarly named Speyside distillery of Knockando. It is currently owned by Inver House Distillers.
We recently visited the Knockdhu distillery and were delighted to be shown around by Gordon Bruce, the Distillery Manager. For more information on the distillery and to read about our visit - click here. At the end of the tour, Gordon took us through some of the AnCnoc single malt range and the tasting notes for these can be found below. Our thanks go to Gordon for his knowledge, insight and hospitality, which made our visit so memorable.
Only around 15% of the whisky produced and matured at Knockdhu is then bottled as single malt, although this figure is increasing as AnCnoc becomes more recognised and popular. The main markets for AnCnoc are Germany, Sweden, the UK and the USA. The rest is used in a wide variety of blended whiskies. The core range consists of the 10 and 16 year olds and these are supplemented by limited edition releases which carry a vintage statement showing the year they were distilled. Independent bottlings are rare and will generally be released under the Knockdhu name.
Knockdhu new make
This new make spirit had only been distilled on the previous day and had an alcoholic strength of 69% ABV. The chance to try new make spirit is a rare one and is interesting as it gives big clues about the characteristics that you will find in the final bottled whiskies. This was a clear liquid with a very fresh nose that was fruity (think of green pears and apples) and peppery. These were also present on the palate and were joined by hints of honey, vanilla essence and lemon zest. It feels slightly oily in the mouth and the hot pepper spice returns for a crisp finish.
AnCnoc 12 years old
This whisky is the cornerstone of the AnCnoc single malt range. It has a golden colour and the nose smells very promising with a pleasant mixture of honey, vanilla, a hint of dried fruit (think of sultanas) and zingy citrus notes (imagine lemon zest). On the palate, this feels thin and is light and fresh with some dried fruitiness (sultanas again), vanilla, honey and that citrus element. These are joined by notes of distinct cereal grains and dried grasses, which add an underlying dryness that tempers the earlier sweetness well. The finish is crisp, refreshing if not a little short. This is easy drinking and would be great as an aperitif but may be a bit light for some palates.
AnCnoc 16 years old
This is the only single malt in the AnCnoc range that is 100% ex-bourbon cask matured. All of the others have differing percentage mixes of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. This is pale lemon in colour with a fresh, aromatic nose - vanilla, cereals and crisp green apple notes are prominent with some citrusy lemon zest, coconut and fresh grass notes joining in. with time a linen-like aroma comes through. On the palate, this is crisp and lighter than the nose suggests with a pleasant mixture of vanilla oakiness, citrus, coconut, grasses and some spiciness (imagine ginger and cinnamon). The finish is short and drying with the vanilla and spices dominating. A lovely, refreshing whisky that was much better than we remembered.
AnCnoc 1995 vintage
This whisky was a very limited edition that was only put in to the German and Russian markets. Gordon fished this one out from his 'special' cupboard, so the chance to try it was easily taken! The colour is golden amber and the nose is distinctly fruity (think of sultanas and raisins). There is also plenty of fudge, vanilla and oak aromas, plus hints of honey and cinnamon spice. More of the sweet fudge and vanilla notes come through on the palate, although this turns slightly bitter and more reminiscent of burnt sugar with time. It feels creamier than most of the other AnCnoc's in the mouth, with the dried fruits and pleasant spice again present. The finish is of good length and is decently dry and oaky.
AnCnoc 1994 vintage
The colour is of this limited edition whisky golden with a hint of amber tone. The 1994 is the latest vintage release in the core range of AnCnoc, following on from a 1993 one. The nose is expressive and obviously sweet to begin with - initial honey and sultana notes are joined by a prominent cereal grain note plus something nutty (think of almonds) and grassy (imagine dry hay or straw). The palate reflects the characteristics of the nose well, although the cereals become more dominant with time. The finish is equally as grainy with an interesting mix of honey, vanilla and some dry wood spices (especially cinnamon). A good and easy drinking dram that offers something sweeter to the AnCnoc range.
AnCnoc 1975 vintage
The oldest AnCnoc single malt that is currently on the market. This whisky is a very different beast to any of the others that we tried. The colour is a dark golden amber and the nose is packed with interesting and intense aromas - vanilla, ginger, candied peel, cinnamon, cereals and orange oil. On the palate, this feels rich and full bodied with an intense woody spice (the cinnamon and ginger again) giving way and incorporating delicious notes of vanilla, cereal grains, coconut and orange. A hint of cocoa powder comes through right at the end. The intensity is fantastic but may be too much for some, so we tried it with a few drops of water - it remains very good with the orange note becoming even stronger and the spiciness dying slightly. The finish is dry and oaky. A great dram.