By Kurt Maitland
AnCnoc, meaning “the hill,” is a single malt produced by The Knockdhu distillery, a whisky distillery in Knock, Banffshire that is currently part of the Inver House Distillers Limited stable (who also owns Balblair and Old Pulteney). The distillery shouldn’t be confused with Knockando, and the name “AnCnoc” was chosen, at least in part, to avoid cases of mistaken identity.
The Knockdhu distillery was founded in 1893 by John Morrison, who bought the land in order to produce whisky for Haig’s. I’ve actually had the pleasure of having visited the distillery, which I found beautiful, quaint and also hard to find. When the site was originally picked, it was due to the plentiful access to water, easy access to barley and its proximity to the all-important railway. It closed several times over its history, but production resumed in February 1989. At first the distillery’s releases were named Knockdhu after the distillery, but renamed AnCnoc whisky in 1994.
AnCnoc’s Peter Arkle series of limited edition single malts are a bit odd in being named not for a historical or whisky industry figure, but for the illustrator who does the labels. This review covers the 4th edition in the series, bottled at 46% ABV.
Color: Ginger Ale
Nose: To go with the color, there is a hint of ginger and other cooking spices in the nose of this release. There is also lots of fruit, I get citrus and some mango along with the raisin notes that one expects with sherry casks.
Taste: Less sweet than the nose would indicate. There is leather and tobacco that I wouldn’t have expected, and that pairs nicely with the chocolate that makes an appearance as well. The fruit you get in the nose is here but it has to compete with the other flavors that have emerged. The mouthfeel here is semi-dry and juicy with a nice mix of spice.
With Water the chocolate comes to the lead flavor and diminishes the rest of the profile. As a result, I found a little water flattens the taste a bit too much.
Finish: Chocolate, diminished spice that comes off as cinnamon and muted spicy finish.
Even though Old Pulteney and anCnoc are different distilleries, separated by quite few miles, there are still some similarities in their appeal, in that both have a cereal like (Raisin Bran in my mind)/malty favor. It’s stronger in Old Pulteney, but it appears in the AnCnoc as well.
AnCnoc is well priced, as is most of Inver House’s stable is. Stateside, should be able to find this release for less than $50 US. I’ve seen it hover around the mid-$40-dollar range. At that price it is close to the price of the 10 yr. old Glenmorangie and you would be getting 2 extra years of aging to boot. In the UK, expect to pay around £50 a bottle for the 4th Edition, as well as previous editions if you can find them in stock.