Knockando 12yo

For my next review I am taking a trip back up to Speyside, that glorious region that provides us with so many quality drams. From the world renowned Glenfarclas and Macallan to the hidden gems like Craigellachie and Tormore. This review will be of one of those more obscure ones that most people probably haven’t heard of, though it is fairly available as a malt whisky, it’s the Knockando 12yo.

Knockando distillery is another of those distilleries that were built towards the end of the 19th century, following a boom in the demand for whisky. Designed by the famous architect Charles Doig, whom designed over 50 malt distilleries in his day, Knockando was built in 1898. Then like many at that time closed shortly after, a result of the Pattison crash, not to reopen until 1904. It changed hands several times since then and is now one of the many distilleries that is part of Diageo’s portfolio. Like a lot of Diageo’s distilleries it’s not a common name you would see on the shop shelves, mainly because it is used extensively within the blends, especially J. and B. Rare, for which it is used as the heart malt.

The 12yo bottling that I will be tasting today is the standard official release from the distillery. Knockando bottle their malts as seasons, or vintages, as they want to allow for yearly variations within their spirit, which is likely more of a marketing point than anything else, but it is still nice to know. The bottle that I have is from the 2000 season, meaning that it was distilled in 2000 then left to mature for 12 years and it states on the packaging that the maturation took place in refill Bourbon casks, then presented in the bottle at 43%. Anyway, let’s get on with the tasting!

Nose

There are a lot of notes here that you would associate with bourbon cask maturation – though being matured solely in former American Bourbon barrels that’s obviously what you would expect. There is a big vanilla sweetness coming through, with honey, golden syrup and a good dusting of icing sugar. It’s very fresh and estery on the nose. Fresh herbs – mainly coriander- as well as lime zest, candied orange peel, baked apples and a slight pineapple-like aroma. There is also a big malty-breakfast cereal type character, with lots of fresh almonds and walnuts. Its almost like a nutty granola cereal with mix of fresh berries and dried fruits in their too.

Palate

It’s quite fizzy on the palate; there is a kick of peppery spirit that is actually quite bitter, possibly even slightly sulphury. There is a sweet cereal character here too, with toasted oats and a syrupy sweetness, kind of flapjack-like. With time the oaty taste becomes much richer and more nutty; again almonds and walnuts. After a while the bitterness fades and more sweetness comes through, mainly caramel and honey with a woody vanilla custard – mmm, woody vanilla custard, yum! A faint wisp of wood smoke comes through with the sweetness in a very decent development.

Finish

The finish is short-medium in length, a little higher alcohol would definitely lift this. The finish is alright, it isn’t anything special. There is a honeyed sweetness, again nuts and a curl of smoke as it fades away.

This is just an all-round classic Bourbon cask matured Speyside dram. Lots of sweetness, some wood spice and nuts and an undertone of fruitiness. It is a really, really great drinking whisky, by that I mean it’s not overly complex or unique in anyway but it is a real joy to just sit down, relax and sip on a dram or two of this and just enjoy it. It’s good that this is presented higher than minimum strength but if it was just a bit higher then I feel it would completely change this whisky for the better, especially in the finish. I actually got this bottle as a present from my girlfriend and I must confess it isn’t one that I had tried before she got me it. I am very glad she did though because it is just an excellent whisky to drink, and being priced at usually around £30 if you can get your hands on some I would probably recommend doing so, it’s a nice change from the bottles you can usually pick up for a similar price.

Sláinte

Gary

 

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Deanston Distillery Tour

About two weeks ago now I stopped by the Deanston distillery for a tour, located in Doune, near Stirling. As always with these distillery tours it seems I was again joined by my Girlfriend, and I again was the designated driver – this arrangement really has to be addressed! Deanston, as some of you may already know, if one of the few distilleries in Scotland that was built inside of an existing building. The building itself was an old cotton mill, built back in 1785, though closed as a result of changing times and in the mid 60’s renovation began to turn the old building into a distillery – a far better use of the space if you ask me!

I’ve always loved Deanston as a whisky, and the history behind it is very interesting and so it’s a distillery that I have been planning on visiting for quite some time. As we arrived I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful and picturesque it was. It’s not picturesque like most distilleries with the Doig ventilators (Pagoda roofs) and the brickwork chimneys, but it’s just a beautiful old building with bags of character set in stunning surroundings.

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We arrived at the distillery just a few minutes before the next tour was going out, so we were taken through to watch a short film which introduces you to the distillery with some of its history. Then after that finished it was time to head through to see the production. Our guide for the day was Gerry, and after we had went through the usual health and safety stuff we headed off to start the tour. We went into an outside courtyard behind the distillery to start with, and we were met by a sea of casks, literally hundreds of them. Gerry talked us through the different cask types and gave us an idea of the ratios of casks used; approximately 80:20 Bourbon to sherry, with a few others thrown in as well.

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While here Gerry mentioned that the distillery was the only one in Scotland to be powered solely by hydroelectric, and said that if we were interested then he would take us in to see it. Being the geek that I am I of course wanted to see so he took us into the turbine room. Deanston only use roughly 15% of the power that they produce so the remainder they sell back to the national grid – so they are making money before they even start making whisky! The room used to contain their giant water wheels, which have since been replaced for far more efficient water turbine blades.

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We were then talked through the malting and milling processes then shown through to the mashing. The mash tun at Deanston is open topped, and the smells in that room were just incredible, lots of sweet malty goodness. I’ve been round other distilleries which have open mash tuns, but unfortunately they have been empty at my times of visit, so this experience was a first for me. After this the next stop was the tun room, where the fermentation was explained and also the flavour giving compounds etc. that are developed within the washbacks resulting from fermentation.

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From here we were shown down to the still house, the stills at Deanston are very good looking, four stills that have been well maintained and lacquered to a high sheen. Both wash stills and spirit stills are of boil ball form to increase reflux, and all collection is into one safe after condensing through narrow shell and tube condensers.

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After the distillation we were shown to where the casks are filled, the assortment of different casks and the neat boxes of different sizes of bung (the corks for the casks) and the scales for excise purposes was a nice thing to see, most distilleries will do tasks such as this off site now, or not let you see it. From here we were shown into the warehousing which was just spectacular. The storage space was originally where the spindle machines were housed in the mill and as a result high vaulted ceilings were built in to avoid water vapour collecting above the machines and falling onto the cotton below. The vaulted roof meant that water would collect and run down the curved roof away from the mill, avoiding damage or breaking to the cotton threads. In its current use it makes for one of the most atmospheric warehousing spaces that I have ever visited, it is a real spectacle and definitely worth visiting the distillery to see! The picture below really doesn’t do it justice…it was dark…sorry!

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Tour done we headed back to the visitor centre where we got our dram of the Deanston 12yo, a great characterful dram that is always of consistent quality, and a wander around the shop. We also stopped in at the Bothy café in the distillery which must get an honourable mention for the good food, the haggis and lentil soup was a personal favourite, very interesting combination. After lunch we headed back through to the shop for a wander – as it would be rude not to buy anything – where I got a bottle of the 12yo, to replace the one I had finished a while back. I also managed to get a small try of a few of their other products, including their current self-fill which was delicious and a 7yo single cask sherry-hogshead bottling – an interesting whisky this, quite young but the use of a sherry-hogshead spiked my curiosity.

I had a really great visit to Deanston which I must say I would highly recommend. One of the best tours I’ve had in a long time, so thank you to Gerry for the great tour. And also thank you again to Gerry and Declan for the discussions and tastings in the shop, it was great meeting you both.

Sláinte

Gary