...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Good news everyone!  It is time for me to review the one distillery for which every single one of you have been waiting breathlessly.  The pride of J&B.  The little black hill.  Knockando.

Photo from scotchwhisky.net
For the next two weeks, I'm going to pile so much Knockando (nock-AN-doo) on you, you'll need a shovel to find sunshine.  Six reviews covering the '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s.  Mostly the '60s though.

You may be asking your screen, "He's talking about AnCnoc, right?"  Nope, that's Knockdhu, another Speyside distillery, which changed its single malt's name to AnCnoc to prevent brand confusion with Knockando, only to create new confusion about how to pronounce AnCnoc.  AnCnoc is owned by Inver House.  Knockando is owned by a wee independent company called Diageo.  I'll be ignoring AnCnoc going forward and lavishing attention on the Diageo distillery.

Knockando Distillery broke ground in the late 1890s by entrepreneurs who wanted to take advantage of what was being hailed as a whisky boom.  By the time the distillery was complete, the boom was revealed to be bupkis and the whisky industry had tanked.  The distillery then closed soon after.  I'm sure there's no lesson to be learned there.

In 1904, W. & A. Gilbey, a London-based wine and spirits producer, bought the distillery and fired up the stills again.  Fifty-eight years later, W. & A. Gilbey merged with United Wine Traders to create International Distillers and Vintners (IDV).  One of the branches of IDV was Justerini & Brooks, or J&B.  Knockando became an ingredient of J&B's blended scotch, later becoming its main malt.  Justerini & Brooks was also responsible for releasing Knockando's first single malt, a decade later.  The distillery did their own floor maltings until 1968.  In 1969 they began purchasing malt (as of 2010 they were doing so from Burghead) and doubled their capacity by increasing their still count from two to four.  In 1972, IDV was bought by Watney Mann who was taken over by Grand Metropolitan who merged with Guinness to create Diageo in 1997.

Today, J&B is one of the world's top five best selling blended scotch brands, and was as high as #3 as recently as 2009.  So, it's popular stuff.  Thus most of Knockando's malt whisky is directed into that vat.  But quite a bit (650,000 bottles worth) still makes its way into a single malt each year, making it (as of 2012) Diageo's 7th best selling single malt.  We don't see those official bottlings here in the US since the sales are focused in Western Europe.  When Knockando was owned by IDV, its single malts always listed a vintage year (and not always an age statement).  Diageo took the unique (for Diageo) step by keeping that practice.  Currently the Knockando single malts list both the vintage and an age statement.

I'm going to begin the reviews with a recent release, then work my way back through the years.  This week's three single malts (two officials and one indie) will be from the time period after the floor maltings had closed.  Next week's three will all be from the floor maltings.  I write this intro having not yet tried the old stuff, but I'm excited to do so!  Stay tuned.