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Peaty Whisky Returns To Knockdhu

by Sam Smith     27. March 2014 15:46

Knockdhu Distillery

Considering that the Knockdhu distillery was founded over 100 years ago in a land brimming with peat, they’ve certainly taken their sweet time bringing out some peated whisky in the shape of the anCnoc Peaty collection. What have they been doing with all that peat all this time? Hoarding it in case Islay ever runs out? Using it to run some very slow trains? Dirt clod fights?

In actual fact, back in 1894 when Mr. John Morrison and his cohorts first started producing whisky at the Knockdhu distillery up near Aberdeen, a location chosen for its proximity to the Great North Railway line and the abundance of barley, peat and springs of Highland water, the malted barley was indeed dried using peat-fired kilns. They were making peated whisky all the way back in the 1800s!

Knockdhu workers

They also had quite a strict uniform of white, grey and black shirts in those days.

So what happened? Technology happened. Production methods advanced as the demand for whisky got bigger and bigger in the 1900s. Soon enough, more effective ways of drying malted barley were invented and this gave rise to the light, non-peated style of anCnoc whisky that we have today. Technology, with all it’s advanced drying systems, laptop computers and sneakers that have flashing lights in the heels, took the peat out of anCnoc.

Sneakers with lights on

The beginning of the end for peat.

However, over the years, the Knockdhu distillery has actually been making peated spirit but not using it in their expressions. That’s right, they haven’t been having any dirt clod fights at all! Their peated spirit has ended up in a number of blends that were looking for that smoky edge, but the anCnoc style of whisky hasn’t called for such a flavour profile.

Until now.

Ancnoc Rutter, Flaughter, Tushkar

The anCnoc Peaty collection is a range of peated expressions, made in homage to the days of Knockdhu yore. Their first batch contains three single malts, all with a different parts per million (PPM) level and named after different peat cutting tools (here in Britain we’ll only be able to get our hands on two of them, as the Tushkar has been bottled exclusively for Sweden).

Naming the whiskies after the tools is a nice nod to the tradition of harvesting and using peat for whisky production. While technology has advanced how some distilleries dry their barley, these trusty tools have been always been in a peat cutter’s arsenal. Their history stretches back hundreds of years, even when they weren’t used for cutting peat to be burnt in the name of whisky. To the tushkar, the flaughter and the rutter, we salute you!

Peat Tools

The Tushkar, the Flaughter and the Rutter. The gang’s all here.

So what does this homage actually taste like then?

The Rutter is the whisky with the lowest PPM in the first batch of releases, sitting at 11.0 PPM. It’s named after the rutter spade, which looks sort of like a shovel except that it’s flat and has an extra little bit coming off one of the corners. These were used to size and separate peat blocks, resulting in peat that burns slowly and makes less of an intense reek. That mellow peatiness is interpreted through the Rutter single malt.

Rutter

anCnoc Rutter – 70cl – 46%

Tasting Note for anCnoc Rutter:

Nose: Yep, there's peat in there alright. Soon though, we're into lemon and nuttiness, then spice, Earl Gray tea, oat biscuits, and yes, pineapple chunks. Vanilla develops, as do green apple slices.

Palate: The apple now becomes fruity boiled sweets, and on into bubblegum, all sat on a cloud of smoke. Slightly chocolatey too.

Finish: Still relatively light but now there are notes of tobacco and leather too.

Overall: An interesting coming together of classic, light anCnoc and smoky peat.

The Flaughter is the bigger, stronger brother to the Rutter, boasting a 14.8 PPM level and much more dangerous looking tool on its label. With its small, thin plate and crooked handle, the flaughter was used to take off the top layer of peat, which is rich and full of roots. This top layer of peat gives whisky a smokier edge, a notion Knockdhu are trying to convey through the peatier Flaughter.

Flaughter

anCnoc Flaughter – 70cl – 46%

Tasting Note for anCnoc Flaughter:

Nose: Oilier and a little fatter than the Rutter, with linseed, peanut skins, coffee and soot. Blackcurrant and then caramel emerge along with a touch of salinity.

Palate: Big and mouth coating with peat, barley, white peach, toffee and a hint of mint.

Finish: Long. Nice and sooty to start with, nutty too, before medicinal iodine and more smoke emerge.

Overall: This flaughter is round and robust. Something that could also be said of this whisky.

Top stuff, then! Always lovely to see distilleries trying something new (even if they’ve actually done it for 100 years and whatnot). Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re just about to head off to Sweden to smuggle back some anCnoc Tus- I mean, smuggle back some some tasty Swedish Fish sweeties.

Smuggling fish sweets

Yep. Just Swedish Fish here. Yummy, peaty Swedish Fish.

Sam

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