Don’t Cnoc it until you’ve tried it.

Taste Review #18 – An Cnoc 12

Yet again I am resorting to plundering the bargain basement of auctions to grasp miniatures of whisky to review without having to open multiple full size bottles. This one is still in production as part of the core range from Knockdhu distillery in Banffshire, Scotland. I also had plenty of puns to choose from for the title this time, and felt this one was the best.

Old and new style An Cnoc 12

Production started at Knockdhu in 1894 and was the first malt distillery for Distillers Company Limited. It was situated in the shadow of Knock hill, Knock being the anglicised Scots Gaelic word Cnoc, meaning hill. The distillery was called Knockdhu, which translates as Black Hill.

The distillery was built beside the railway station of Knock village, and was within easy reach of some of the best local barley and a good supply of peat. The railway station connected the distillery to the ports on the Moray coast line to Elgin, to Banff, and also to the main Aberdeen – Inverness line at Grange junction. This allowed supplies to be easily delivered and produce to be shipped out. Sadly, like the Speyside line, this was not to survive the Beeching cuts of the 1960’s.

Knock Railway Station was just to the left outside this photo

Knockdhu was connected to the electricity grid in 1947, but sadly closed its doors in 1983. Bought by Inver House in 1988, it resumed production in 1989.

The name was changed to An Cnoc (translated – The Hill) in 1994 to avoid confusion with Knockando distillery in Speyside. An Cnoc is pronounced ah-noc.

It seems that I have managed to accumulate a 1990’s miniature bottle too, but the one I will be tasting will be the up to date version, which is available to purchase. I may to a taste review of the older one later as an extra to my usual weekly review.

Dram and bottle




12 y.o


40% a.b.v


Light gold


Malty. Raisins, Vanilla, Honey


Fresh, light, bit of spice – cinnamon, orchard fruit – apple, herbal grassy notes. More cinnamon taste when water added.


Medium. Light, creamy sweetness, with oak and malt lingering.


For this whisky I was pleasantly surprised. Firstly, I thought given the price point this is sold at (a 70cl bottle costs £30 or so) that this would be insipid at worst. But it isn’t. It’s actually quite engaging despite only being 40%.

And secondly, should wonders never cease, I suspect that it is not coloured nor chill filtered. I added 3ml of water to try and open it up a bit, and I think I did detect a bit of mistyness in the glass, and I could see the oils on the surface of the whisky looking down, but it’s almost impossible to capture using a smart phone and the worst portable photo studio on the planet – courtesy of Amazon. However, looking back to the dram now, the oily patterns on the whisky have disappeared, so I am going to assume my assumption of NCF is correct. And, if they aren’t chill filtering, they also probably aren’t colouring. Disappointingly, it doesn’t say on the sample and I can’t see anything on the packaging of a full size bottle that says anything about colouring or chill filtering.

Apparently this whisky is quite popular in cocktails, and with being so lightly flavoursome and not overwhelming, you can see why. Whilst it won’t set any worlds on fire, it’s a nice, uncomplicated malt that is an easy sipper and a great introduction to whisky.

For me it is a bit unchallenging, and I prefer my whisky a bit stronger and more body, but you can’t have everything. I can’t say I’d buy this other than at auction, but I’d not be unhappy if is given to me. I would however be willing to try their older malts, and possibly purchase them.

My sample was a miniature that came as part of a larger bundle, so cannot give a price. This one was also a bottle like the Bunnahabhain that I reviewed earlier that had been imported to Australia. However as mentioned elsewhere in the review, a bottle will set you back around £30. Despite the dram not being my thing, I’d say while it is on the upper reaches of what I’d pay for a budget whisky, it still represents a good value given the enjoyment I had from it.

It gets a thumbs up from me.

Slainte Mhath!

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Picture Credits – from Creative Commons

Title Picture – Anne Burgess / Knockdhu Distillery / CC BY-SA 2.0

Christopher Gillan / Knockdhu Distillery, Knock. / CC BY-SA 2.0