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!
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.
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.
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.