Located near Huntly in the Scottish Highlands, the Knock estate was purchased in 1892 by John Morrison from the Duke of Fife. Morrison saw the fields of peat and barley, pure spring water, and nearby Great North of Scotland Railway line as the ideal components for a successful whisky distillery. Morrison approached John Haig & Sons (who had merged with other grain distillers to become Distillers Company Limited) in 1893, and work began on Knockdhu distillery, the company’s first move into malt whisky production. Opened in October 1894, Knockdhu was regarded as the embodiment of a modern distillery.
The distillery was in continuous operation until 1931, when the economic depression forced Knockdhu to close for a few years. The distillery re-opened but fell silent a second time during the Second World War due to restrictions on barley. In 1945 the distillery production resumed and electricity was brought to Knockdhu in 1947. By 1983, demand for the malt whisky had fallen and the owners decided to close the distillery for a third time. In 1988 the distillery was purchased by Inver House Distillers and production resumed the following year.
A distinctive malt
After the acquisition by Inver House Distillers, the single malt produced at Knockdhu was rebranded to avoid confusion with the nearby and well-established Knockando distillery. In 1994 the spirit produced at the distillery was renamed ‘anCnoc’ after the local hill, itself named from the very literal Gaelic description, translated simply as ‘the hill’. The core range includes a 12-year-old matured in ex-bourbon casks and an 18-year-old expression matured in both Spanish oak ex-sherry casks and ex-bourbon barrels. The distillery also produces limited annual releases and a NAS expression, named Peatheart, which uses malt barley peated to 40ppm.