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anCnoc single malt is produced at the Knockdhu ("black hill" in Gaelic) distillery in Huntly in Aberdeenshire. The distillery was founded in 1893 by DCL (Distillers Company Limited), and production started in 1894. Shortly after the distillery had been taken over by SMD (Scottish Malt Distillers) in 1930, it was closed but production resumed in 1933. During the Second World War Knockdhu was closed again and served to house troops from India. While whisky production resumed after the war, the distillery was closed one more time when United Distillers (the owners at the time) decided to stop production after the economic crisis of the early 1980s had hit Scotland. In 1988 Inver House bought Knockdhu distillery from United Distillers and restarted production at the beginning of 1989. The distillery changed ownership again in 2001 when Inver House were acquired by Pacific Spirits, a subsidiary of Thailand-based Great Oriole Group – who in 2006 sold Pacific Spirits including Knockdhu distillery to International Beverage Holdings, the international arm of ThaiBev, Thailand's largest beverage company (they are the current owners). Over the years the proprietors of the distillery switched a number of times between 'An Cnoc' ("the hill" in Gaelic) and 'Knockdhu'. The last change happened in 2003 when that name changed back to 'An Cnoc' from 'Knockdhu'. The current 12-year old version was introduced in 2003 and belongs to the distillery's core range.
The nose starts with a soft maltiness that is immediately followed by a load of lemon flavours. Later on there is vanilla, dough, breakfast cereal, and honey. What a lovely nose – very clean and fresh!
The palate is light-bodied and just a tad spicy. Flavours of lemon and vanilla are at the forefront, together with a light beer-like maltiness, followed by a hint of coffee. Overall very well balanced and a joy to sample.
The finish is of medium length and pleasantly warming. Soft wood spice mingles with notes of honey and cereal.
This was my first anCnoc bottle ever, bought at the insistence of a fellow malt maniac, and I must say that my modest expectations were massively exceeded. This might be an entry level single malt but one that is clean, fresh, and very well balanced. Probably a bit underrated and just perfect for the current hot summer weather. I now look forward to tasting the 16-year and 18-year old expressions.