The AnCnoc single malts are 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 was founded in 1893 by a company called Distillers Company Limited (DCL), with production starting in 1894, and it is currently owned by Inver House Distillers. For more information on the brand, go to www.ancnoc.com.
Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is fresh, vibrant and sweet. There are immediate aromas of crisp green pears and apples, which are quickly joined by strong notes of crumbly brown sugar. With time this obvious sweetness becomes more honey-like and other aromas seem to develop - think of vanilla, malty cereals, cinnamon, some dried fruit (especially sultanas) and a hint of orange zest.
On the palate, this feels initially very soft and velvety, before becoming slightly tangy towards the end - this feeling is driven by the orange zesty note from the nose). There is a combination of elements such as bittersweet, malty cereals, drying wood spices (imagine cinnamon and nutmeg) and sweet vanilla, honey and brown sugar, which all combine and marry together well. There are a number of further characteristics that add some depth and interest - dried fruits (especially some sultanas and raisins, plus dried apple), toasted almonds, toffee, a herbal note which is reminiscent of dried grass and just the faintest, most distant hint of some tobacco-like smoke.
The finish is reasonably long and holds the interest. Firstly, it appears sweet and full of honey, then the tangy, zesty orange note is to the fore, then this becomes increasingly nutty (think of the toasted almonds from the palate again), before it completes its journey with some lovely drying wood spices.
What's the verdict?
This new version of AnCnoc is a lovely single malt and a very good, solid effort from this growing brand. Previous versions have tended to be on the lighter, aperitif side but there is clearly a little more ex-sherry cask influence in this 1998 Vintage which has beefed it up slightly and added some pleasant sweetness. The zesty, tangy notes work particularly well and add complexity. This would be a good choice for a whisky beginner/new single malt drinker, which is one of the audiences that AnCnoc are marketing themselves at.