Like every bubble
this one had to burst some time. When it did, it turned out that some business practices of the Pattisons were illegal, so the two brothers ended up in prison. Their practices had left victims throughout the whisky industry though - and Knockando was one of them.
Ten months after malt whisky production had started in May 1899, the distillery closed again. In 1904 the gin producers W. & A. Gilbey bought the Knockando distillery for 3,500 GBP and this marked the beginning of a long period of commercial success that lasted until the present day.
The Knockando distillery is located in the village of the same name. The name Knockando is
derived from the Gaelic phrase 'Cnoc-an-dhu', which means 'little black hill'.
Knockando (Pronounced: Nock-AN-doo)
Cardhu, Tamdhu, Glenfarclas, Imperial
2 Wash stills, 2 Spirit stills
1,500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Diageo > UDV
Knockando, Morayshire AB38 7RT, Scotland
There used to be a few, but I haven't seen any recently
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
In 1962 W. & A. Gilbey merged with United Wine Traders; a conglomerate
that included Justerini & Brooks to form IDV; International Distillers and
Vintners. Under the new management Knockando modernised operations;
the traditional floor maltings were closed in 1968 and the number of stills
was expanded from two to four one year later.
Justerini & Brooks launched a 12 years old official bottling of Knockando
in 1978 and their name has appeared on the official bottlings ever since.
Soon after this introduction, official bottlings of Knockando have been
released as vintages (1982, 1984, etc.) without an age statement, just
like the bottlings of sister distillery Glenrothes. This was the case all over
the world, except for the USA where they kept the 12yo age statement
along with the vintage on the label for marketing purposes. In recent
years this practice has been re-introduced on other markets as well.
The range now includes a 12yo, a 18yo and a 21yo expression.
The Knockando distillery is located right next to the famous river Spey. It's a fairly picturesque distillery with quite a few warehouses
on the premises, some of which had been used as floor maltings until 1968. After the maltings were converted to warehouses Knockando bought its (lightly peated) malt from local maltsters. The warehouses on the site contain the casks that are intended for single malts (some of them sherry casks) while casks that are intended for blends are stored elsewhere.
As far as the Knockando single malt whiskies are concerned, the marketing people have changed their stories whenever the circumstances required it. In the UK they emphasized the importance of the vintages and 'seasons', while they sold their whiskies with a regular age statement in the USA. However, the malts often contained older whisky.
This is actually a practice that is fairly common in the Scotch
malt whisky world. In order to achieve some kind of 'uniformity'
between different batches of the same 'brand' of malt whisky
(either in taste or in colour), in some cases older whisky is
added to the vatting of whiskies from the designated age.
After all, the age statement on the bottle is only required to
indicate the age of the youngest whisky in the bottle. So, it's
actually some sort of minimum age that is given.
Although this practice isn't really emphasised by most whisky
makers, they don't lie about it either. However, Knockando
had painted itself into a corner with some previous claims, so
they have been quite vague about this topic in the past. This
sort of wiggling with the truth is something I could potentially
get quite upset about. However, since I don't really like the
malt whisky from Knoackando anyway, I don't care that much.
2003 - In the past, casks were filled directly at the Knockando distillery, but after 2003 tanker trucks are used to transport the spirit to Diageo's filling facilities at the Auchroisk and Glenlossie distilleries.
2005 - Knockando is added to the 'Classic Malts' range of Diageo. This range used to contain only six different single malts - Cragganmore, Dalwinnie, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban & Talisker - when it was introduced in the late 1980's but in 2005 a bunch of other single malts suddenly became classic, including Caol Ila, Cardhu and Clynelish.
Like many other distilleries, Knockando
was founded during the massive
'whisky boom' of the late 19th century. And just like many other distilleries,
Knockando got into problems due to the 'Pattison Crisis'. The brothers
Robert & Walter Pattison started out as dairy traders in Edinburgh. When
demand for Scotch whisky exploded in the 1880's and 1890's the Pattisons
smelled an opportunity and started a blending & retailing company in 1887.
The flamboyant Pattison brothers
were inventive pioneers in advertising.
At one time the brothers distributed no less than 500 grey parrots amongst
grocers. The parrots were trained to shout 'Buy Pattisons Whisky' at the
top of their little bird lungs. Thanks to stunts like these (and massive sums
of borrowed money) the Pattison's whisky empire grew rapidly.
1) Only 8% of the production of Knockando was marketed as single malt in the early noughties.
The rest of the Knockando malt whisky is used for blended whisky like J&B and Spey Royal. Knockando malt whisky is especially an important ingredient for the J&B blend. The single malts are particularly popular in France and Spain.
2) Mr. Giacomo Justerini emigrated from Bologna, Italy to Britain in 1749 to pursue an opera singer named Margherita Bellion. For a while he produced liqueurs and by 1779 he had switched to selling whisky. He later partnered up with Brooks to form the Justerini & Brooks company.
3) According to Ewan Morgan, the distillery is also referred to locally as Gilbey's distillery.
4) I haven't seen any official bottlings of Knockando lately, so it's possible that Diageo has decided to use the malt whisky that is distilled there for their blended whiskies. Nevertheless, in the past the casks that were intended for the single malt were stored at the distillery while casks that would be used in blends were stored at other Diageo sites.
5) Knockando is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries that were founded over a century ago during the 'whisky boom' of the late 19th century and which have managed to survive until this day. The other survivors include Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockdhu, Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
6) Independent bottlings of Knockando are virtually non-existing.
7) Knockando was the first Speyside distillery to use electricity.
8) There are five warehouses on the Knockando distillery grounds.
Knockando 1990/2002 (43%, OB, L45R03210481, 31002133, 5cl)
Nose: A little malty and a little fruity. Hint of gooseberry. Pleasant but fairly MOTR.
Taste: Not very decisive or expressive on the palate either; malty and a tad sweet at first.
It grows more bitter in the centre. Long but fairly subdued finish.
Score: 77 points - good whisky for drinking, but I personally look mainly for individuality, character and diversity.
This Knockando scores just above average (75 points) but just not quite 'special' enough for the 80's.
Knockando 1979/2000 'Master Reserve' (43%, OB, 70cl)
Nose: Malty and quite frankly rather MOTR. A little sweet, a little spicy.
Taste: On the palate it was a tad bitter. Pleasant, but again middle-of-the-road.
The bitterness on the palate keeps the score of this Knockando at a fairly modest 77 points.
Score: 77 points - a good malt for a night of heavy dramming, but not especially interesting.
Knockando 1987/1999 (40%, OB, 70cl)
Nose: It appeared a little restrained at first, but then I got some pleasant nutty notes.
It develops further in a malty direction and eventually picks up some very mild herbs and spices as well.
Nice, but in the end I like my malts a little bit heftier than this particular Knockando expression.
Taste: It's pretty solid on the palate as well and for the first few seconds it seems to take a sweeter direction.
Unfortunately, it grows very bitter (and quite flat) far too soon, dragging the score down to 74 points.
Score: 74 points - but hey, maybe it just needs some time to breathe.
Knockando 1984/1998 (43%, OB, 75cl)
Nose: It seemed a tad dustier than the '87/'99, but the main impression was nutty again.
There were many similarities, but here the nose seemed sweeter and spicier.
This version of Knockando just was a little more expressive than its younger sibling.
Taste: The same is true on the palate, especially in the centre that's positively hot.
It never grows as bitter either, so I'll definitely have to rate this one a few points higher than the '87/'99.
While I was trying to figure out the score I caught a sudden whiff of subtle smoke and organics in the nose.
Score: 78 points - the organics that popped up that made me decide on a score of 78 points.
Knockando 14yo 1979/1994 (43%, OB)
Nose: Light with the faintest hint of something farmy. Soft mint. Sweetening out. Best nose on a Knockando?
Taste: Oooh.... Too bad, something soapy / perfumy. Other stuff pops up, but I can't get past the violets.
This really has the same problem as some batches of 'French Whore Perfume' Bowmore's - too perfumy.
Score: 55 points - Based on the nose alone it might have been the 80's, now it's barely above 50 points.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Knockando Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Knockando page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Knockando expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Is the distillery or