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Knockdhu (anCnoc) Distillery

The Gaelic word for "the hill"

History

When John Morrison bought the Knock estate from the Duke of Fife in 1892, he was a man with a vision - to make his investment pay its way.

The discovery shortly afterwards of several springs of pure, clear and highly palatable water on the southern slopes of Knock Hill allowed him to do just that. Samples of the water were sent for analysis and within a month negotiations were under way with The Distillers Company of Edinburgh for the construction of a distillery on Knock Farm.

The location, close to the Great North of Scotland railway line and just a few miles from the peat and barley-rich region of Moray could not have been more suited to such a venture. Foundations were laid the following year and the distillery, built using eye-catching local grey granite, began production in October 1894. Fuelled by a 16 horse power steam engine and deemed capable of turning out 2,500 gallons of spirit a week, Knockdhu was regarded at the time as the embodiment of a modern distillery.

By the end of the century, the number of staff had risen to 19, and photographs from that time depict a workforce which is clearly aware they are producing something special - a whisky that would stand the test of time. The distillery was continuously worked up until 1931 when it was forced to close for a couple of years due to the economic depression. Wartime restrictions on the supply of barley forced a second spell of closure from 1940-45.

A period of modernisation followed the war, with the distillery now connected to the national grid. The steam engine that still worked the malting and mashing machinery was finally retired in 1947, while a new mash house, mechanical stoking, internal heating, and a new cooperage were among the changes introduced over the years.

The closure was a distressing blow for the local community, but help was at hand in the shape of Inver House Distillers, who purchased Knockdhu in 1988 - the first distillery purchased by the company. It was the dawning of a new era, with production recommencing on 6th February 1989.

What has altered, however, is the name of the whisky itself. In order to avoid confusion with a similarly named single malt, Knockando, the decision was made in 2000 to change the brand name to anCnoc, pronounced a-nock.

This is a Gaelic word meaning 'the hill'. This bestowed upon the whisky the rather intriguing distinction of no longer being named after the distillery which produces it.

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