This distillery visit will always be very important to me and I will explain further. You won’t find them in a distillery visit guidebook or distillery map. This is because they are still quite small and don’t have a full working visitor center. I wrote to their tour guide manager, Lorraine and asked if there was any way I could swing by and visit. I wanted to see a distillery that wasn’t quite as “prepped” for visitors. I was able to go a few days later and meet with Lorraine in person and get a private tour.
Knockdhu is the distillery name, but their single malt is called “anCnoc”. A few distilleries do this for multiple reasons. I found out they used to use their distillery name, but there is also a distillery in Speyside called Knockando and it was deemed potentially confusing for the two names being similar. They are currently owned by the International Beverage Group (Thai Bev) under a subsidiary called Inver House Distillers. Inver House owns quite a few distilleries in that area including Speyburn, Old Pulteney and Balblair. Inver House headquarters in Scotland is also where bottling takes place in Airdrie, Scotland which is ideally located right between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“anCnoc” means the hill and you can see the hill behind the distillery where their water runs down from. In 2016 alone the brand has won over 80 awards. I have seen them a few times in the states, but their largest markets are Sweden and Scandinavia. I feel this makes sense even just based on their label. They worked with a designer to have a chic, clean labeling system. Many classic single malts fail at having consistent, easy to read labels. As of 2006 after a few additions they now have 8 washbacks and have runs of both peated and unpeated barley. Typically the peated loads will go through in November and December. About 20 mashes are run per week and they receive their malt from Port Gordon Maltings which is part of the Crisp Malt Group. http://www.crispmalt.co/content/locations Knockdhu was also the first distillery that I saw without fans or blades above their washbacks to help with the yeast foam rising. They use a glue like liquid to keep the foaming down. It sounds like this may affect the final product, but all of this is of course then put into the still and distillation takes care of burning any of that out.
I learned a bit about pot ale and spent leeds this visit. You typically hear about how after a mash, there is left over draff. This is then sold to the farmers as cattle feed. Pot ale is what is left over in the wash still and spent leeds is what is left over in the spirit still. The spent leeds is actually like a murky water and they purify it and then put it back into the burn on site. After distillation they have a few dunnage style warehouses on site and then of course will send some to Airdrie. Right now, on site, their oldest barrel is from 1978.
At the end of the visit I went and sat down in the manager’s offices. Lorraine was kind enough to pour me a sample of almost all of their bottling's. It was at this point I met the Distillery Manager and assistant manager. I got to talking with them about distribution, marketing etc. and told them about my travels and upcoming exam for my General Certificate in distillation. They both sat for their Certificate and said if I wanted to ask questions and even come and work with them at the distillery to get a leg up, I could. I was ecstatic. We got it in calendar and I will be working at Knockdhu through the whole whisky making process at the end of September!
Here is the tasting note of my favorite out of the lineup- the 18 Year old single malt.
18 Year anCnoc – 16 years in bourbon/2 years in sherry
Holly's Tasting Note..
Nose: Toffee, butterscotch, some cherries.
Palate: A sherry oak kick, malt, coco, slight pepper finish.
This replaced the 16 year they used to have. This was by far my favorite. Everyone should try it!
Up next is Glenglassaugh..