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anCnoc 12 Year old Single Malt Whisky

Review: anCnoc 12 Year old Single Malt Whisky  92/100
a Review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on October 16, 2012

Inver House Distillers own five Scottish distilleries, Pulteney, Balblair, Knockdhu, Speyburn, and Balmenach. The company produces a diverse portfolio of brands which includes not only Scotch Whisky (Single Malt, Blended Malt, and Blended), but also Vodka, Gin, liqueurs, and premixes. The subject of this review, the anCnoc 12 Year is a Single Malt Whisky produced at the Knockdhu Distillery (which is located under the dark ‘Knock Hill’, known to the local villagers by its Gaelic name of ‘Cnoc Dubh’). Production of anCnoc began at the Distillery in 1894 following the discovery of several springs of clear water on the southern slopes of the aforementioned Knock Hill.

The  anCnoc whisky is produced on the distillery’s original style copper pot stills and worms (which condense the vapourized alcohol), and it has been produced that way for over 100 years. The resulting whisky is aged in American oak and Spanish oak barrels (which were previously used to age either bourbon or sherry). These casks are stored in dunnage warehouses where the thick granite walls ensure a stable ambient temperature which results in a consistent (or predictable) aging regimen.

I was sent a sample of the anCnoc 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky by Woodman Wine and Spirits, who are the Ontario distributors for the anCnoc brand. The Whisky has recently been released in Ontario, Canada and is available through the Whisky Shop at the LCBO.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

We have here a typical bottle presentation for a Scottish Single Malt Whisky. A tall slender bottle which is housed in a cardboard canister. The labeling is rather simple, but the illustration of the Knockdhu Distillery sitting beside Knock Hill serves to catch the eye. I appreciate the brief tasting notes on the canister (and the bottle label) as I have maintained in previous reviews that tasting notes are a good way to let the potential consumer know whether or not the Single Malt Whisky might be appealing to him or her.

In the Glass 9.0/10

When I poured a sample of the anCoc 12 Year Old into my glencairn glass and gave it a good sniff, I was quite delighted by the complex aroma that greeted my nose. There is so much going on that it is hard to start. Smells of sweet lowland grasses, willow thicket, and almost ripe barley are I guess, as good of a place to begin as any other. Wondering in and out of the breezes above the glass are scents of fresh honey, tart green apples, and lemongrass as well. Finally, the glass has a bit of an herbal flair with heather, wetland ferns and a touches of lowland peat residing in those breezes too. Rounding things off are dabbles of butterscotch and vanilla, and the overall effect is very nice.

In the Mouth 55/60

The whisky translates very well from nose to mouth although the herbal/peaty flavours are perhaps a little stronger upon the palate than the breezes would have indicated. Everything is very well-balanced though, as just enough honey and butterscotch push through to temper the more bitter flavours of willow bark and oak sap. Fruit flavours abound, tart green apples and grapes, some gooseberry, and even a little rhubarb (which actually isn’t fruit at all). And some darker drier fruits like currants and blackberries can be found if you look for them. The whisky has a nice push of oak spice which pulses through the delivery and stays with you all the way to the exit. Flavours of almond, vanilla, and malted barley (lightly beer-like) seems to lie underneath which help to soften whisky making each mouthful a delight.

The whisky has character! The rich diversity of flavours which I encounter give the dram a flamboyance which appeals to me a lot.

In the Throat 14/15

All of the flavours rush down the throat full of oak spice and white pepper. I sense hints of charcoal, lemon grass, willow thicket, and a nice soft punch of peat at the end. When all is said and done the flavours of butterscotch and honey linger on and on….

Did I mention how wonderfully smooth that exit is in spite of the rush of oak spice and white pepper… delightful.

The Afterburn  9.5/10

It is time for a bit of a confession. I received my sample of this whisky quite a while back, but something kept me from pouring a dram. The name of the distillery, Knockdhu, and the name of the whisky, anCnoc, both seemed just a bit odd to me. Subconsciously, I guess I thought the whisky would be odd too. This past summer was an odd summer for me full strange occurrences and unpleasant surprises. I think subconsciously I felt I was tempting the fates just a little too strongly by drinking something called anCnoc from a distillery called Knockdhu.

I think I should have fought off my subconscious a little sooner as there certainly were times this summer when the anCnoc 12 Year Old would really have cheered me up.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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