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AnCnoc 12 and 18, Six Years and a Sherry Cask Apart

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Even as an American to whom names like “Knockdhu” are very funny, I still think I wouldn’t have been confused by the fact that there was a whisky called Knockdhu and another called Knockando. Nevertheless, Knockdhu Distillery decided to rebrand their whisky as “anCnoc” which, despite appearing unpronounceable at first, is apparently pronounced “a-nock” and therefore still kind of has the word “knock” in it but there you have it.

In addition to the new name, everything else about the branding for these whiskies is intentional, simple, and attractive. The label stands out with a crisp, matte white background and neat ink drawings (the same drawings that proliferate their website). They offer nearly a dozen bottlings including 12, 16 (cask strength), 18, and 24 as well a few travel retail and peated offerings. Here in the states, the prices range from $35 or so to over $100 that introductory level.

I recently tasted the 12 and the 18 year old bottles. The 12 runs about $40 and the low end for the 18 is at least $90. I wish I could just compare the difference those six years made for typical anCnoc spirit but cask impact is playing a huge role here. The 12 seems to be all ex-bourbon while the 18 spent at least some of that extra time in Oloroso sherry. So instead of simply adding six years of complexity and esterification, the 18 has also picked up an entire other flavor profile from the sherry. This isn’t a complaint! Just an acknowledgement that what we think of as the benefit of age is sometimes coming from other places (that’s a very long conversation for another day).

The 12 year old is a solid single malt with typical bourbon cask notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel along with some delicate and bright green notes of apple and clover hay. Acidity pops through as lemon bars and sourdough starter. There are some feints, especially on the nose, that I don’t love but that aren’t too surprising on a scotch this age.

Add a few years and some good sherry casks and the 18 becomes an entirely different beast. Rich and funky, the 18 is dominated by dried fruit notes and deeper, more complex spices. Summer hay is gone, replaced by old wood and oak leaf detritus. The lemon notes in the 12 become dried oranges at 18. The feints seem to disappear. It’s a fine whisky and probably warrants the price hike. At this point, I’m very curious to try the 16 and 24. With the caveat that I’d like to know the cask profile first.

anCnoc 12 Years Old

Distillery: Knockdhu

Casks: ex-bourbon (I think)

ABV: 43%

Nose: Vanilla taffy, oak leaves, spring hay, dry and floral. Feints. Green apple skins, sourdough starter, wildflower honey, golden raisins.

Palate: Nice caramel candy sweetness, lemon bars, more hay, wet clover, cloves and spice build into a pretty hot finish.

anCnoc 18 Years Old

Distillery: Knockdhu

Casks: Spanish oak ex-sherry and ex-bourbon

ABV: 46%

Nose: Fruity and funky. Red fruits and rich, dried prunes. Bourbon soaked cherries, orange rind, turbinado sugar, sweet oak and vanilla.

Palate: Still plenty of funky dried fruits, figs, and dates. Tons of spices, especially cloves, cinnamon, and star anise. Cloves persist on the finish but turn into a bit of a phenol bomb.

Aside from some residual feints on the nose, I had almost no hint this was the same distillery that produced the anCnoc 12 I reviewed the other day! That’s sherry casks for you I guess. Lemon on the 12 turned into orange on the 18. Hot cinnamon mellowed into more delicate and sweet cloves. Wood sugar deepened and intensified.


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