Knockando (pronounced: nok-AN-doo) is not one of the best-regarded distilleries by the malt nerderati but this largely due to snobbishness. It is a modest distillery that was one of the first to provide official examples of its distillate. It has always bottled them with a ‘vintage’...
Knockando (pronounced: nok-AN-doo) is not one of the best-regarded distilleries by the malt nerderati but this largely due to snobbishness. It is a modest distillery that was one of the first to provide official examples of its distillate. It has always bottled them with a ‘vintage’ statement, quite a forward-thinking notion when they were first released back in the sixties. The malt is not a big or intensely characterful one, instead, it is a very soft, fulsome, and exemplary Speyside style of whisky. In fact, it is undoubtedly one of the small handful of distilleries that, by releasing regular official examples of its makeover a long period of time, has helped to provide a well-established model in marketers and drinker's minds for all Speyside whisky.
Founded: 1898 Stills: 2 Wash 2 Spirit Water Source: Cardnach Spring Capacity: 1.5 Million Litres Owners: Diageo
1950s-1975: Tentative First Bottlings and Modernisation
There are virtually no independent bottlings of Knockando, the majority is split by Diageo between blends and official bottlings that vary from market to market. The first official examples were bottled as 12yos and were distilled between the mid-late 1950s. These are much peatier, waxier, and resinous s drams that show all the hallmarks of old-style malt whisky. Lots of green notes, camphor, and engine oils aspects abound with quite a bit more complexity. These bottlings can still be found at great prices considering their provenance, although, as will all these old bottlings, how much of their quality is down to bottle aging is always a debatable matter. These qualities are evident in bottlings distilled up until around 1966.
The inevitable expansion and modernization of Knockando took place between 1968 and 1969. The floor maltings were closed in 1968 and all-malt was brought in from external sources from that point onwards, although they continued to specify a lightly peated malt from the commercial maltsters. A year later in 1969 a second pair of stills were added and the worm tubs on all stills were converted to condensers. The stills were also all converted to internal steam heating. These changes are evident in the bottlings that were distilled in mid-seventies and onwards.
Up until around 1974/75 the character of Knockando was pretty waxy, fruity, floral, malty, and oily with plenty of soft fruity and honey aspects, although it often had problems with balance or composition of flavour.
1975-Present: An Easy Speysider
Knockando bottlings from around this era onwards are noticeably greener than earlier examples. Often grassy and light with an oily chlorophyll character and some very classical notes of honey, spice, and cereal, these characteristics appear in the bottle until around the late 1980s.
Knockando bottlings from the 1990s onwards are very much more modern in style with vanilla, delicate sweetness, soft spices, butter, and light grassiness. These aspects have made it as many friends as it has enemies and suffers to an extent from the similar sort of scorn that is heaped upon Glenfiddich simply for being easy drinking. This is unfair as the profile is designed to represent a much lighter, more elegant, and classical style of scotch.
There have been different versions of Knockando made available in recent years, most notably some aged sherried examples for France other European markets. These are heavier in style with rich notes of quince, nuts, dark fruits, muscovado sugar, and dark rums. They make very interesting alternatives. There was also a 25yo 1980 by Duncan Taylor that provides a very rare and fascinating insight into single cask Knockando.
Knockando will continue to produce modern and fairly flawless malt whisky for many years so it seems. If this is not your style then you should check out some of the older bottlings from the late sixties. They are not expensive by comparison to other malts of this provenance and are usually excellent old-style Speysiders that offer a window into the lost past eras of distilling.