1) Independent bottlings of the Knockdhu / An Cnoc whisky are virtually impossible to find.
2) Apparently, the local dialect has changed along with the name changes back and forth. The 'silent K' in the name Knockdhu (pronounced 'Nok-doo') became a silent C when the name changed to An Cnoc (pronounced 'An Nok').
3) The name Knockdhu means 'black hill' - while the name of the An Cnoc whisky just means 'the hill'.
4) The Knockdhu distillery used to produce only unpeated whisky, but these days part of the spirit that is produced at Knockdhu is peated in character - although it is relatively mildly peated (around 20 PPM). This peated whisky is used exclusively for various Inver House blends.
5) Knockdhu distillery uses a cast iron worm tub to cool the freshly distilled spirit.
6) Knocdhu 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, Knockandu, Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
An Cnoc 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Sweetish. Light fruit and some roasted malt. Very pleasant and accessible. Some faint citrus emerges.
Taste: Malty; not nearly as sweet as the nose would suggest. And not nearly as complex either.
Score: 78 points - but I should add that there's a strange disconnect between the nose and the palate.
Given enough time, the nose would score 81 or 82 points - but the palate struggles to reach 75 points.
An Cnoc 16yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Big and sweet. Cheese cake. Pineapple. However, most of the nose vanishes after a minute.
Well, it makes a half-hearted comeback after a few more minutes, showing more spices and some chloride.
Taste: Malty. Sweetish. Faintly bitter finish. Pleasant enough, but not a lot of individuality. In the An Cnoc style.
Score: 75 points - four points below a batch from 2008. Was there a problem with the spirit +/- 1995?
An Cnoc 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Light and slightly dusty. Sweetish and a little floral. Old fashioned sweets. Blackberry marmalade.
Opens up with time. Solid profile, slowly opening up. The nose itself is worthy of a score in the 80's.
Taste: Fits the nose like a glove; a little sweet and dusty too. Surprisingly dry and punchy centre.
I thought about the lower 80's for a while, but the dry finish keeps this An Cnoc bottling in the upper 70's.
Score: 79 points - really a lot better than the batch they submitted for the MM Awards 2007.
An Cnoc 16yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: A little nondescript on the oily side of the spectrum. A little 'sombre' at first, growing fresher.
Faint hints of marzipan. Something vaguely fruity. Pretty potent as well. Could use some mellowing.
Taste: Woody tannins right from the start, sweetening out a little in the centre. Beer?
The tannins return in full force in the finish. During round 1 I kept switching between 79 and 80 points.
Score: 79 points - already quite nice, and this expression should reach the 80's in a few years.
An Cnoc 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007)
Nose: Glue. 'Slime' - the chemical play stuff from the 1970's. Chemical banana (Cardhu?) later on.
Taste: Nothing offensive, but nothing too remarkable either - at least not during a busy 'social' session...
Score: 70 points - still an enjoyable malt whisky, but it has slipped a little down the scale since the 1990's.
Batch variation? An Cnoc used to be a decent and affordable malt whisky for less than 30 Euro's.
An Cnoc 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Ah, that's nice. Barnyard with some leathery notes. But it flattens out relatively quickly.
No, wait - now it makes a comeback. Cardboard? A pretty good An Cnoc. It's hard to find any specifics, though.
Taste: Odd and a little winey. Harsh, flat centre. Becomes nice and chewy later on, though.
Score: 80 points - this whisky definitely has its moments - but quite a few weak spots as well.
Big and malty. Solid, definitely worth more than the 77 points I gave it right after opening the bottle.
An Cnoc 1990/2004 (46%, OB)
Nose: Corny. Some faint organics. Rotting milk powder. That may not sound very nice, but it is.
Taste: Sweet, grainy start, growing much bigger and hotter in the centre. Solid, but not too complex.
Score: 80 points - this is a good whisky, but I couldn't pick out many specifics. Wait for the revision tasting.
Revision: The nose seemed a little lighter, oilier and grainier this time. Not really my style, but a good '80' malt.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Knockdhu 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 Knockdhu page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Knockdhu 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.)
Knockdhu (Pronounced: Nok-DOO)
57°33'49.4352 N, 2°45'42.0768 W
Glenglassaugh, Banff, Macduff, Glendronach
Source on Knock Hill
1 Wash still, 1 Spirit still
1,500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Pacific Spirits > Inver House (since 2001)
Knock, by Huntly, Aberdeenshire AB5 5LI, Scotland, UK
Yes - recently under the name 'An Cnoc'
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2001 - Pacific Spirits (at the time a subsidiary of the Great Oriole Group) acquired the Knockdhu whisky distillery.
2003 - A new packaging for the 12 years old official bottling of the An Cnoc whisky is introduced. That name was first used in 1993 to avoid confusion between the Knockdhu 12yo and bottlings from the Knockandu distillery. In the end it hardly helped to reduce the confusion about these single malt whisky brands. The 'modern' design of the new labels introduced yet another way to spell the name of the distillery; AnCnoc instead of An Cnoc.
2006 - Pacific Spirits and the Knockdhu whisky distillery are sold to International Beverage Holdings.
The An Cnoc brand in included in this deal.
2010 - Heavy snowfall in January damages two of the five warehouses on the Knockdhu distillery grounds.
Both warehouse had to be demolished and only one of them was rebuilt.
The proprietors of the Knockdhu distillery have managed to confuse
their customers by repeatedly switching between the brand names
'An Cnoc' and 'Knockdhu' over the years. I bought my first bottle of An
Cnoc around the year 1995 and wasn't impressed enough to look for
another bottle for circa five years. When I got around to tasting an
official bottling again 5 years later the name had changed to Knockdhu.
So, at the turn of the millennium the name of the official bottlings had
reverted to the old name they used around the year 1990; Knockdhu.
And then, in 2003, they redesigned their 12yo standard official bottling
and changed the name back to 'An Cnoc' yet again. After the relaunch
a number of limited releases and vintages were introduced as well.
As far as the history of the An Cnoc / Knockdhu distillery is concerned: DCL (Distillers Company Limited) started construction in 1893; a few years before 'the whisky boom' of the late 19th century reached its peak. Actual production started in October 1894 and it continued uninterrupted until 1931 when the distillery was closed. One year earlier the management of Knockdhu had been taken over by Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD), who decided to ressume production again in 1933. Knockdhu distillery remained in operation for exactly fifty years until the economic crisis of the early 1980's hit Scotland; United Distillers (the owners at the time) decided to close Knockdhu again in 1983.
Fortunately, the closure wasn't permanent. Inver House bought
Knockdhu distillery from United Distillers in 1988 and resumed
production of whisky on February 6, 1989. An official bottling
under the name Knockdhu was released a year later in 1990.
To avoid confusion with Knockando distillery (located a few miles
south-east of Knockdhu), the name of the official bottlings was
changed to 'An Cnoc' in 1993. As described before, they switched
to the name 'Knockdhu' one more time in the late 1990's or early
noughties (unless I had unwittingly bought an antique bottle)
before they made the final (?) choice for the name 'An Cnoc' in
2003. In this case 'they' are Pacific Spirits - the new owners.
Pacific Spirits bought Inver House Distillers (also owner of the Balblair, Balmenach,
Pulteney and Speyburn distilleries) in 2001 for 85 million dollar - a princely sum...
The owner of Pacific Spirits is the Great Oriole Group (ThaiBev) from Thailand, the
largest alcohol producer in Thailand. This means that Knockdhu distillery is part of
a growing number of malt whisky distilleries in Scotland that are owned by Asian
companies. Tomatin distillery, for example, is owned by Takara Shuzo and the
three distilleries of Morrison Bowmore (Glen Garioch, Auchentoshan & Bowmore
itself) were obtained by Suntory from Japan in the early 1980's when a crisis in
Europe had made the whisky industry vulnerable to foreign take-overs.
Anyway, there's a little more to tell about the early beginning of Knockdhu.
It was the first distillery to be built by DCL, but they didn't discover the source
at the foot of Knock Hill themselves. That was discovered by John Morrison
who had bought the Knock Estate in 1892. When he discovered the water
source not long after obtaining the estate and the farm, he had the water
analysed by an Edinburgh laboratory that belonged to DCL. The spring water
turned out to be of excellent quality for whisky production, so DCL offered to
buy Morrison's property. John Morrison accepted the offer and in May 1893
construction of the Knockdhu distillery started.
Knockdhu distillery is located in the Eastern part of Speyside (some say
Eastern Highlands), North-east of the Isla river, South-east of Knock Hill and
nearby the Knock Farm. Apart from the periods of closure that I mentioned
earlier, Knockdhu was closed during both world wars. In fact, during World
War II the distillery was used to house troops from India. They were in a
relatively comfortable position; unlike the distillery workers before them they
benefited from the electricity that wasn't installed at the distillery until 1940.
There used to be a railway nearby the distillery as well, which was used for
the transportation of whisky and materials; it was closed in the late 1960's.
The relaunch of the 12yo official bottling of An Cnoc in 2003 marked a change in the release strategy of Knockdhu / An Cnoc distillery. One year later the first 'vintage' edition was released, a 14yo that was distilled in 1990. In 2005 two more vintages followed; another 14yo (this time from 1991) and a 30 years old expression that was distilled in 1975. More vintages of a 14 years old expression have been released in recent years and a 16 years old official bottling was added to the line-up in 2008.
Some of the water that is used for the production of the Knockdhu malt whisky still comes from the original water source that inspired the construction of the distillery, but water from five other sources on or near Knock Hill is used as well. The Ternemney brook that flows alongside the distillery supplies the cooling water.
Is the distillery or