Foremost among the distilleries along the banks of the chill, clear waters of the Spey stands Knockando. Built by John Thompson in 1898 the Knockando distillery lies in the village of the same name, derived from the Gaelic ‘Cnoc-an-dhu,’ meaning ‘little black hill.’
In 1904 Knockando Distillery was purchased by W & A Gilbey's - the well known gin producers from London. Today Knockando is part of Diageo's Classic Malts Selection.
It is a place of magic. The pagoda-shaped roof, almost hidden by trees, broods above a lonely bend in the river. But Thompson did not choose to site the distillery at Knockando for its romantic position. Instead, he wisely chose it for the remarkable waters of the Cardnach spring – created by rain and melted snow, absorbed deep into the peat and rocky earth, bubbling pure from underground and tapped before they reach the Spey.
At the same time that he built his distillery, Thompson acquired the sole water rights to the spring. No other distillery has access to them. Knockando™ owes its special delicacy and fragrance to the purity of the water drawn from the spring.
Knockando has always been a community. Today a village of around 200 people, the stone houses cluster around two centers – the placid parish church and the distillery.
Although almost a century old, Knockando distillery was considered to be one of the most advanced in all Scotland at the time of its construction. It was in fact the first distillery to be built with electric lighting.
A railway siding into the distillery was built in 1905 linking it to the Great North of Scotland Railway and enabling Knockando™ malt whisky to be transported throughout Great Britain.
Cottages were built for the distillery workers and today they are inhabited by their modern day counterparts. The largest, most imposing house was built for the Customs and Excise Officer, an ever-present figure at all distilleries. Today the house is occupied by Innes Shaw – the distillery manager since 1978.
So, for almost a century, Knockando distillery has continued to produce fine malt whisky with only the briefest of breaks during the two World Wars, when most Scottish distilleries were forced to close.
Only natural ingredients are used - malted barley, yeast and crystal clear spring water from the Cardnach spring, which lies in the hills above the distillery. The quantity of peat used in malting the barley is carefully controlled so as not to overbalance the taste of the final product and the proportion of sherry casks used is restricted so as to not dominate the taste of the whisky. The pale, golden colour of Knockando is entirely natural. It is derived solely from the casks in which it has matured – casks held together without nails or glue. No colouring is ever added – it is for this reason that the depth of the colour in successive bottlings may vary
Time is another key element, as gentle maturation in oak casks slowly reveal the subtle aromas: delicate with a distinctive fresh almond note in its younger versions, it gains weight and depth of flavour over the years. The final result is a subtle, fruity single malt which bears all the hall marks of the finest Speyside malts.
Although distillation continues throughout the year, each year of production is still referred to as a Season at Knockando distillery. In each bottle you will only ever find the produce of one single Season - a practice which continues to distinguish Knockando™ from almost all other single malts. Thus, when the young spirit is brought to the warehouse, the Season of distillation is marked on the end of the cask. And when it is ready to be bottled, it is duly inscribed on the bottle and the gift box together with the year of bottling.