Knockando Distillery of Speyside
Knockando Distillery is an old fashioned traditional distillery that has retained its human touch. Located in Morayshire amidst the hills along the River Spey, the distillery is perched on a high wooded bank between present day villages of Knockando and Archiestown in Speyside. The name Knockando originates from the Gaelic phrase "cnoc an dhu" which means "little black hill".
The distillery was founded in 1898 by John Thomson at an inopportune time, just before the whisky crash. The owners were forced to shut it within two years of starting. It was acquired by W&A Gilbey Ltd, the famous gin producers from London in 1904. They were the forerunners of IDV who still own Knockando. In the early 1900s, Knockando was the first Speyside distillery to use electricity. The distillery has been functioning ever since, except during the Second World War.
Water for the distillery comes from the Cardnach Spring which rises from granite and flows over peat. Knockando had a railway station till 1968, and when it was discontinued so were the floor maltings. The space was converted into warehouses. The lightly peated malt now comes from local malters or is sourced from Port Gordon using Aberdeenshire barley.
Originally Knockando had two copper stills with bulbous bases and fairly long necks. The capacity was doubled when the distillery was rebuilt in 1969 and two more stills were added. The two pairs of stills are responsible for the elegance and softness to the final spirit. The spirit is condensed in open wormtubs outdoors. The spirit is largely used in the blended J & B Whisky, one of the largest selling brands in the world, and Spey Royal. The whisky used is aged at any distillery in the group where there is room to store it.
Only 8% of the production is marketed as single malt and this is stored in warehouses at the Knockando Distillery. It is aged partly in sherry wood but mostly in Bourbon casks. Jack Daniels and Makers Mark are preferred because of their air-dried characteristics. There are five warehouses here with 7500 casks.
A unique feature of Knockando Single Malt is that each bottle states the year of distillation on the label rather than its age, making each bottle a vintage one. The whisky is bottled when it is mature, rather than at a specific age. The vintages range from 12 to 15 years, from the ‘standard’ Rare to the older Deluxe. The bottle states both its year of distillation and date of bottling.
One vintage does not differ dramatically from another, though there are very subtle differences. Knockando is invariably a light and elegant drink with smooth, soft flavors. There is also an independent bottling of the whisky known as Duncan Taylor Cask Strength.