AnCnoc (pronounced: an-NOK) from Knockdhu (pronounced: nok-DOO) is a charming distillery that for many years was a quiet operator, happy to supply the blenders with excellent quality, robust Speyside make while releasing the occasional bottling. It wasn’t until owners Inver House, who have owned the...
AnCnoc (pronounced: an-NOK) from Knockdhu (pronounced: nok-DOO) is a charming distillery that for many years was a quiet operator, happy to supply the blenders with excellent quality, robust Speyside make while releasing the occasional bottling. It wasn’t until owners Inver House, who have owned the Knockdhu distillery since 1988, made some effort with generous and careful marketing of its AnCnoc malts in 2004 that Knockdhu's long-deserved recognition arrived.
In the process, which was followed a few years later by the Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009, AnCnoc was rebranded as a Highland distillery (no doubt to the disgust of Michael Jackson's ghost). AnCnoc’s success goes to show what can be achieved with a great distillate and some genuine belief and efforts on behalf of the owners. It also makes you wonder what other distilleries could be capable of if their stocks and potential were taken seriously.
Founded: 1893 Stills: 1 Wash 1 Spirit Water Source: Knock Hill Capacity: 1.7 Million Litres Owners: Inver House
1975-Present: Spice, Fruit, Polish And Smoke.
Knockdhu was owned by United Distillers up until 1983 when the distillery was closed. While still in mothballs the distillery was sold to Inver House, who restarted production in 1989. Throughout the 1990s they took their first tentative step towards marketing Knockdhu as a single malt. Bottlings at 12-year-old and 15-year-old were released, though these initial whiskies were not quite as distinctively spicy and fulsome as late bottlings would be, instead showing a more heathery, soft, and frankly MOR profile. However, there was also a cask strength 21-year-old ceramic bottling released in the late 90s that was a fantastic oily, citrusy, delicately smoky, and powerfully complex example of the make. This is quite a rare bottling these days, undoubtedly due to its high drinkability.
The name on the bottlings was changed from Knockdhu to AnCnoc sometime in the mid-nineties but then changed back to Knockdhu again around the turn of the millennium. This confusion wasn't great for Knockdhu, but it seems like it was all practice for Inver House because in 2003 they undertook a massive rethink of the brand.
Knockdhu's whisky was finally released in 2004 as AnCnoc, with a new striking white packaging that was both unpretentious and distinctive. The first release was a 12-year-old closely followed by a 1990 vintage 14-year-old. These new bottlings obviously had much more care taken with their construction in terms of cask selection and packaging. The whisky inside was warm, spicy, and fruity with a great balance between classic Speyside characteristics and some much stronger, smoky Highland aspects that lent it great distinction.
In 2005 a 30-year-old 1975 AnCnoc was launched, the first of only a handful of long-aged expressions of Knockdhu. It was a fantastic bottling that can still be found occasionally at auction. This AnCnoc 1975 benefitted from careful cask selection that focused on a fine balance between bourbon and sherry casks. The result was a big, spicy, resinous, polished, highly concentrated dram that was full of Christmas cake, vanilla, honey, and spicy/smoky notes.
Bottlings of AnCnoc continue today with the same consistency of quality and full-flavoured profile. The core range presently consists of a 12-year-old bottled at 40% and 18 and 24-year-old editions at 46%. These are supplemented by single cask editions, regular vintage bottlings at 13-15 years old and, since 2014, a variety of peated versions, the most current of which is known as AnCnoc Peatheart.
Hopefully, this streak of excellent, honest, and unpretentious whisky making will continue at Knockdhu for a long time. They have managed to build a reputable and strong brand without the use of gimmicks, silly finishings, or shock value, overpriced bottlings. It has been done on the basis of good quality whisky, appealing and simple marketing, and careful cask selection and stock management. Let's hope it’s a trend that is here to stay.
AnCnoc’s success goes to show what can be achieved with a great distillate and some genuine belief and efforts on behalf of the owners. It also makes you wonder what other distilleries could be capable of if their stocks and potential were taken seriously