My answer? Impossible.
Which is a bit of a cop out really, since in interviews, I often ask others to name their favourite drams for pieces I’m putting on this site. But, there you go. Such is the privilege of the interviewer.
Instead of having a favourite whisky, I tend to have a range of what I call my ‘go-to’ drams. These include Glenfarclas 15, Yamazaki 12, Balvenie DoubleWood 12, Redbreast 12, Glengoyne 15 and Glenmorangie 10…okay…and a few others. But these tend to be ones that no matter my mood, the time of year or the company I’m in, I’ll happily sit back with and enjoy.
One I came across early on in 2013 that I have since added to this list is anCnoc 16. Produced at the small distillery of Knockdhu near Huntly, the anCnoc range is a Highland single malt that had slipped under my radar for a long time.
Since then, I’ve kept the distillery’s name on my ‘to look out for’ list and in the past few weeks, I was informed of a new set of releases that take on a slightly different slant: three peated versions of this normally non-peated malt.
These have come about due to a decision at the turn of the century to go back to doing a run of peated malt for a few months every year. While the distillery would have produced this style in the past – since peat was the common fuel source before coal for most whisky distilleries – it hadn’t been used for a long time. This throwback has further focused on the historical aspect by naming the three new releases after traditional peat-cutting tools: Rutter, Flaughter and Tushkar. Each also displays the ppm level (or, how peaty it is) at the bottling stage – a rare thing, since most distilleries which produce peated whisky tend to talk about the ppm level at the start of the process (pre-grinding, mashing, fermenting, distilling and maturing).
So, did anCnoc manage to knock(dhu) it out of the park with these three new peated releases? Here are my thoughts on each.
Matured in American oak hogsheads.
(n): Loads of lemony lushness with some berries rolling about in icing sugar underneath, along with vanilla and a sweet smoke.
(p): Chocolate and cinnamon spice lead, helping to cut through some of the sweetness on the nose. Vanilla beans and ash, lemon cake, cigarettes and sea salt flow through after.
(f): Smoky custard
In conclusion: Quite zingy – it’s got a good bit of freshness there so neither the peat or the vanilla influence is too overwhelming. Enjoyable and easy drinking.
Matured in a ‘selection of American oak casks’
(n): Creamy and buttery. The peat comes through but it is still very gentle, akin to Bowmore from first fill casks.
(p): Bit spicier – an oaky note along with some chilli and vanilla. Day at the top of the palate but there’s a big burst of sweetness both before and after this, that’s quite cakey.
(f): Burnt toast
In conclusion: A lot more of that vanilla note came through for me on this one – more sticky and sweet overall. Might be too sweet for some and I’d generally be after some more freshness. Nice, certainly, but not my favourite.
Matured in 1st fill American oak casks
(c): Dried straw
(n): More earthy but there’s also a gentle fruitiness here (peaches) that tones down some of the vanilla notes – the peat lends structure but is still not too intense.
(p): Wow! Great oils, bigger fruits – spicier at tip of the tongue but the extra peat level balances things better. Vanilla ice cream, toffee, strawberries, toasted marshmallows and burnt toast.
(f): Vanilla sugar rolling in ash.
In conclusion: My favourite of the three but unfortunately it’s only available in Sweden – might be one to pick up if I visit there anytime soon. The peat comes into its own but doesn’t feel as raw as the first one nor as sweet as the second. Better balance and more to come back to and find in the glass for me.