In 1994, exactly 100 years after the distillery was founded, Knockdhu rebranded itself as anCnoc (pronounced something like ‘a-knock’). Essentially, it was to avoid confusion with another Speyside distillery, Knockando. The distillery where anCnoc is made retains its original name, yet their zealousness to distance themselves from Knockando is more than obvious. Not only do they have a very swish website, but they’ve matched the website’s look with a quite stunning looking box.
Yet judge and jury should never praise a good box if the stuff inside it isn’t worthwhile, and it’s here that anCnoc deliver. They might have very up-to-date packaging, but they’ve wisely decided to let the whisky do the talking. Its taste is almost tart to begin with, yet it takes but a second for it to transform into a wonderfully creamy honey which continues to sweeten. A touch of spice arrives, accompanied with a quite lovely lemon zest, before some fruits come forward and create a satisfyingly rich yet light crescendo of flavours. Similarly, the finish is long, with creamy honey yet again playing a lead role. The pepper lingers, too, and it just threatens to overpower before, once more, the honey returns and echoes around.
I’ve started with the tasting and finishing quite deliberately, for anCnoc’s most impressive feature is its nose, and it’s well worth highlighting. It’s exceptionally well balanced yet as light as a feather. There is not one element that fights against the other; all are happy to interact with each other without ever becoming the star of the show. The honey that runs throughout the whisky is at its best here, as is the lemon essence, which sits alongside it. There, papaya and other fruits wander in, accompanied by a smokey quality so refined and delicate that it takes a moment to realise it’s there.
It’s a super whisky, yet its greatest strength and, in an odd way, its greatest weakness is the nose. I found myself desperately wanting to rate the other three categories higher, yet the taste couldn’t quite offer the complexity that the nose suggested, and it quickly became abundantly clear that the latter was anCnoc’s pièce de résistance. Indeed, it would be an injustice to the quite beautiful aromas if that wasn’t recognised. anCnoc-out whisky? Very nearly. A winner, if you will, on points.
Nose 22 Taste 20 Finish 20 Balance 21