I’ve gone in an unusual direction with Knockdhu distillery and their range of single malts under the anCnoc brand name. My first experience of their whisky was the 24 year old, and now here I am taking a closer look at the 18. The only other whisky in their age stated core range is the 12, which I have plans to cover in a future review, together with a 90’s bottling.
Part of the reason I have gone in this direction is the price, and a sense of getting in while the going is good. The 24 year old sat on shelves at around the £120 mark for a long time, and could occasionally be picked up for less on sale, but with the price of whisky only going in an upward direction, it seemed inevitable that this could not last indefinitely. The same was true of the 18 year old expression, which hovered around in the low-to-mid £70’s for a good while. I took my sweet time to pick up a bottle, but having noticed many retailers jumping the price up to £90+, I knew I had to act quickly if I wanted to get it at a more reasonable price. I picked one of the last ones up at £72. The owners haven’t gone as far as the well reported and much lambasted Talisker 18 did with the price increase, but at around a 30% rise, it still smarts a little when considering making a purchase. Inver House will have their reasons, and there are some that would argue they were underselling their product at the previous price point. We have seen some hefty price increases from their other distilleries Balblair and Pulteney too, so perhaps it is only a matter of time before Speyburn starts getting similar treatment. I keep meaning to pick up a bottle of the 15. I will inevitably leave it too late. Too much whisky to buy!
Going back to anCnoc, the 24 year old had been such a wonderful experience for me when I purchased a bottle and reviewed it last year, and I knew that exploring the rest of the range was something I was keen to do at some point in the near future.
From spending far too much time on social media and looking at other whisky reviews and videos, there is one stand out thing about the 18 year old, and its a lack of consistency. When I say this I am not talking about quality, I am talking about colour, and when we know Knockdhu don’t artificially colour this whisky, we know that they must be embracing batch variation. As a whisky fan that is only ever a good thing. The one I am reviewing here is dated on the bottle as 09/02/2022 and is a darker, more sherry influenced batch than some of the others I have seen. As a bit of an ex-bourbon fan, and having tried the wonderful, but sadly no longer available bourbon matured 16 year old cask strength, I would have probably gone for the lighter batch given the choice, but when you are buying online you usually have to settle with whatever is on the shelf in the warehouse. That’s fine, I was still happy to have picked this one up.
One of the interesting and unusual things about production at Knockdhu is the way the spirit is condensed. The spirit from the wash still first goes through a horizontally positioned shell and tube condenser, and then into a worm tub. The vapours from the spirit still don’t go through a shell and tube condenser, but straight into a worm tub, and rather than being a separate tub, it is the same one the spirit from the wash still is condensed in. However, as this unique way of producing is a more recent change, the whisky in the 18 year old and 24 year old won’t yet be as a result of that production method.
anCnoc 18 Years Old – Review
Nose : Sticky toffee pudding is my first impression. That vanilla-y sponge, dark brown sugar, toffee and dates sum things up rather well, along with marshmallow. There’s orange zest and apple peels providing a freshness to cut through those sweeter notes, along with the balsamic vinegar aroma I get on the 24 year old. Polished mahogany and old leather add even more depth.
Palate : The palate packs more of a sweet, fruity flavour punch than the more delicate nose. A bright, sweet orange and muscavado sugar, with sultana and stewed red fruits. There’s plenty of peppery oak spice coming in a couple of seconds after it hits the palate, along with licorice and clove. It’s slightly drying as it develops, and the flavours begin to mellow rather quickly, leaving a finish of milky tea, apple peels, licorice, oak and the sweet orange we started with.
Conclusions : This is good whisky. It’s not one that you can rush, and it benefits from time in the glass and patience to unlock all it has to offer, which is something I found with the 24 too. It initially disappointed me on the first few pours, but after a month of being open and a third of the bottle gone the sweet spot has been reached. If I was to offer any criticism, I do feel the impact of the fruity flavours dissipate on the palate a little quicker than ideal, but what is left behind is still rather good. The nose is a beauty and can happily sustain me for most of an evening.
I absolutely adore the 24, to the point where I went out and bought a couple of extra bottles for a not insignificant sum. It felt like I needed to while I could, but I don’t think I will be in any hurry to buy the 18 again now it has headed north of £90. If newer batches come out with a greater bourbon influence I will be very keen to try it. I’d recommend you try this and see for yourself given the opportunity.
Score : 7/10 Very Good
(Score descriptions can be found in the About page)
Three Word Review : Sweet. Fruity. Spice.
Related review : anCnoc 24
ABV : 46%
Non-chill filtered : Yes
Natural Colour : Yes
Maturation : A combination of Spanish oak ex-sherry and American oak ex-bourbon casks
Region : Highland
Colour : Bronzed Amber