Distiller pays homage to its heritage with a series of limited edition peaty expressions
By Alan J. Wax
A distillery in Scotland’s Highlands region, an area largely known for its floral, sweetish, fruity single-malt whiskies, now is offering something for those who enjoy a bit of smoke in their libation.
The Knockdhu Distillery, which more than a century ago began producing whisky with a strong peaty flavor imparted from the turf-fired malts available at the time, now, has recently released a limited edition collection of peaty whiskiess with bolder, smokier flavors under its AnCnoc. (pronounced a-NOCK) brand
The collection includes three expressions, Rutter, Flaughter and Tushkar—named after traditional peat-cutting tools. Rutter and Flaughter currently are available in the U.S., while Tushkar, for now, only is currently available in Sweden.
For many imbibers, peat smoke is a key flavor in whisky and for others it may be the reason they don’t drink whisky. While few whiskies are actually noticeably peaty, peatiness, or smokiness, has become one of the best-known characteristics of Scotch whisky, and it’s through this smoke character that distilleries try to define themselves.
Traditionally, the more peated the barley, the higher the phenol levels in the spirit, and the smokier the whisky will taste. Peatiness is measured in PPM, or phenol parts per million.
The new AnCnoc whiskys display their PPM level on their labels, allowing the drinker to select an expression with a level of smokiness to their liking.
I have to admit, I am not much of a fan of such extreme smokey expressions as Ardberg, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Laphroig and Talikser. I still recall my first sample of Caol Ila, which suggested licking a newly tarred road. No, personally I favor fruity, floral, sweetish whiskies from the Highlands and the Speyside whisky regions.
Playing with the character of their spirits seems to have become de regueur for some producers in recent years. I believe in marketing terms, they’re considered brand extensions.
But, I’m always game to try something new.
AnCnoc Rutter, the first release in the collection, is named for the spade used in sizing and separating peat blocks. Peated to a PPM of 11, this golden-hued whisky initially reeks of burnt wood and earth and then gives way to delicate spices, sweet tones, tropical fruit-like esters, notes of minerals and a hint of vanilla. It’s quite drinkable.
anCnoc Flaughter (pronounced FLAH-ter) is named for the spade used to remove the top layer of peat. Peated to a PPM of 14.8, the pale gold, whisky offers up aromas and flavors of ash mixed with sweet melon notes, hints of vanilla oak and a long-spicy finish. Despite its higher PPM, this seems a more mellow whisky that its companion expression.
The AnCnoc Tushkar is said to be the most peated ot the trio, at 15 ppm, but was not available for tasting.
Both Rutter and Flaugher currently are available at U.S. spirits retailers with a suggested retail price of $85 for a 750 ml bottle.
I have tasted the smoke and I like it.