Knockdhu (pronounced nock-doo) is a single malt distillery located in the east Highlands of Scotland. The name translates as 'black hill' from Gaelic and refers to an imposing hill that sits behind the distillery. The single malts from Knockdhu appear under the AnCnoc name (pronounced a-nock). This simply translates as 'the hill' and was introduced in the late 1980s to avoid confusion with malts from the Speyside distillery of Knockando.
Knockdhu produces a sweet and floral style with expressive tasting notes of crisp green fruits, such as apple and pear, and underlying malt evidence. This style of spirit matures well in ex-bourbon whiskey barrels. For around one month each year, a peated spirit is produced. This uses barley peated to a level of around 45ppm, which is similar to a heavier Islay whisky.
Knockdhu is equipped with a Porteus mill, installed in 1964. The five-tonne mash tun currently operates 20 mashes per week. There are eight Oregon pine wooden washbacks and these run a fermentation time of 65 hours.
The distillery has a single pair of stills that are connected to worm tub condensers. This traditional piece of equipment is now rarely seen in Scotland. It involves a coiled copper pipe, that resembles a worm, spiralling down through a vat of cold water. This creates the conditions for alcohol vapour to condense back to a spirit.
The annual capacity of Knockdhu is two million litres. For part of each year, they also produced a peated malt. This is created using local Highland peat and currently counts for around 10% of production.
Knockdhu was founded in 1893 by Distillers Company Limited (DCL). The location in the Aberdeenshire countryside was chosen due to an abundance of local spring water. The village of Knock grew around the distillery and was occupied by workers. DCL began production in 1894 and maintained ownership until they were taken over by Scottish Malt Distillers in 1930.
SMD operated Knockdhu for over 50 years. However, the distillery hit difficult times in the early 1980s and was forced to close in 1983 - the company citing its remote location as the main issue. This made it difficult and expensive to regularly transport barley to the distillery. There would be no production for six years. Inver House Distillers purchased Knockdhu in 1988 and restarted distillation in February the following year. Knockdhu was their first distillery and has since been joined by Balblair, Balmenach, Old Pulteney and Speyburn.
Inver House Distillers purchased Knockdhu so as to secure consistent stock of its single malt for use in their blended Scotch ranges. Much of the production remains allocated to this and it features heavily in the award-winning blend Hankey Bannister and blended malt Barrogill.
The company reintroduced the distillery's single malt in 2003. Prior to that only a handful of Knockdhu bottlings had been put to market and seen the name changed to AnCnoc for legal and marketing reasons.
The core range is varied and features both styles of malt produced at the distillery. This includes age statements at 12, 18 and 24 years old and Peatheart, a smoky no age statement. They are complemented by numerous limited-edition whiskies included a peated range with each named after a traditional malting tool and vintage bottlings. There are also travel retail exclusives including the unpeated Black Hill and peated Rudhan.