...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Single Malt Report: anCnoc 18 year old (2016)

There are a pair of Scottish distilleries called Knockando and Knockdhu. Both were built in the 1890s. Both have been owned by the companies that later became Diageo. Both have Gaelic names that refer to 'the dark hillock'. Though I've reviewed a number of Knockandos, today's review marks my first for a single malt from Knockdhu.

Knockdhu was built by DCL in 1893, a century before the company became part of Diageo. After 89 years of production, the distillery was amongst those closed in 1983. In 1988 the distillery became one of the very few to be sold off, rather than destroyed, by DCL. The new owners, Inver House Distillers restarted production in 1989. In 1990 they released a Knockdhu single malt that had been distilled by DCL. In 1993, they changed the name of their single malt brand to anCnoc "following a gentleman's agreement ... in order to avoid any possible confusion with Knockando," as per Charlie MacLean's Whiskypedia.

anCnoc ('a hill', pronounced a-nock) has been putting out well-received (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.) whiskies for a number of years now, but really hasn't garnered any sexy cachet amongst whisky fans in the process. And I can be counted amongst that number. As of four weeks ago, I had never tried one of their US bottlings.

[DISCLOSURE: Today's bottle was sent to me by Amy from Ten27 Communications, a PR firm for InterBev, AnCnoc's parent company. Thank you, Amy.]

Distillery: Knockdhu
Owner: Inver House Distillers (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Type: Single Malt
Region: border of Speyside and Western Highlands
Age: minimum 18 years
Maturation: "Spanish oak ex-sherry casks and American oak ex-bourbon barrels"
Bottling year: 2016
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? No
Review taken from just above mid-bottle.

Its color is a medium gold. The nose begins with a toasty, spicy fruitiness that I imagine comes from the Spanish oak. There are orange peels and honeydew. Toffee and fudge. Candied ginger and cherry lollipops. A hint of vanilla gives it a little bit of shortbread note too. A dusty maltiness lingers in the back. More straight up sherry in the palate, though never prune-y or raisin-ed. Toffee, citrus peels and mint. It has a mineral edge to it and solid herbal presence that almost feels peaty. A spicy white pepper note mingles with some thick malt. It finishes sweetly and full of citrus. Woody spices, candy corn and Nutella.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
Thought the liquid doesn't cloud, it does get very oily. The nose is minty and chocolatey. Cherry candy, caramel and some musty cask notes. The palate gets creamier, fragrant. It's simple, but sturdy and spicy. Citrus and nuts. The finish picks up some pepper and earth, and quite a bit of tannins.

This is a very solid, textured malt, with a more interesting European oak angle than most sherried (and much more expensive) 18 year olds. It won't knock (hee) you off your seat, but it's very reliable and tasty. As a totally random comparison, it reminds me more of Arran 14 than Arran 18, which is a good thing because the 14 is my favorite of Arran's range.

The first few pours from the bottle were a bit tight, as I've found with most whiskies. But right here at the bottle's midpoint, it has opened up well. The finish gets too sugary for me at times, but I don't have much of a sweet tooth. On the other hand the whisky swims pretty well, which may be partly due to its good presentation. And that good presentation (46%abv, no chill filtration nor added colorant) demonstrates a company's respect of its products and its customers. I'm glad InterBev understands that. It's too bad that most of the other conglomerates do not.

Availability - 
Many spirits specialists in the US and Europe

Pricing - $90-$120, can also be had for less than $100 in a European shipment
Rating - 87