The distillery was founded in 1898 by John Thompson, and administered by the Knockando-Glenlivet Distillery Company. The acclaimed whisky architect Charles Doig designed the site. The name of the distillery comes from the Gaelic 'Cnoc-an-dhu', meaning 'little black hill', quite probably an homage to the hills in-between which the site is located.
Knockando distillery releases new vintages every year. This seasonal approach and the fact, that they do not colour its whisky are the main differentiators to other distilleries. The expressions that are released by the distillery include a 12 year old, 15 year old, 18 year old, 21 year old, and a 25 year old. Very unusually, independent bottlings from Knockando are basically non-existent. Douglas Laing performed a 9-year old bottling in the summer of 2000, but other than that, no other official bottlings have occurred in recent memory.
In the early noughties, only 8% of Knockando's production was marketed as single malt. Today, that percentage has only been increased by 2%. Knockando is a lighter Speyside whisky, and takes the unusual step of declaring the vintage, as well as the age, of the malt on the bottle. The majority of the malt whisky produced at the site is used in blended whiskies, such as J&B, and Spey Royal. Knockando is an especially important ingredient in J&B blended whisky. Although the single malt is relatively unknown in the UK and the US, it is enormously popular in both France and Spain, making it Diageo's fifth top seller.
Knockando has a fairly petite production capacity, particularly when we compare it to its other Speyside neighbours, standing at only 1.3 million litres. The distillery draws the water used in its production from the Cardnach Spring. Knockando also has the distinction of being the first Speyside distillery to use electricity to power its production.
Knockando has four pot stills: two wash and two spirit. The wash stills each have a production capacity of 10'800 litres, with a constricting piece in the intermediate section of the still, which increases the amount of reflux that can occur within the still. The two spirit stills each have a capacity of 7'000 litres, and also have a constricting piece in their intermediate sections. The pot stills have wide, spherical lids, which surge upwards into a narrow constricting section, and tall conical necks, being a slight variation on the traditional 'Speyside' shape.
The malts used at Knockando are very slightly peated. Knockando used to grow its own barley and used its own floor maltings until 1968, when the floor maltings were decommissioned. The distillery now sources its malts from Diageo's central maltings, where they are made specifically to order.
There are five warehouses on site at Knockando, which are a combination of both dunnage and racked. The distillery uses a combination of sherry and oak casks. Knockando has a very strict policy on not ever adding any colouring to the spirit. The distillery also very carefully measures and executes the proportion of sherry and oak casks, as so not to dominate the taste of the spirit. The distillery selects casks that are at their peak, so that they can make the best contribution to the taste of the spirit that they can.
Knockando distillery was founded as part of the 'whisky boom' that occurred at the end of the nineteenth century. The distillery is one of about a dozen distilleries which have managed to survive through the extremely turbulent twentieth century until the modern day. The distillery was founded in 1898 by John Thompson, and administered by the Knockando-Glenlivet Distillery Company. The acclaimed whisky architect Charles Doig designed the site. The name of the distillery comes from the Gaelic 'Cnoc-an-dhu', meaning 'little black hill', quite probably an homage to the hills in-between which the site is located. In 1899, production started at the site. Just ten months later, production was forced to close.
The site lay silent until 1904, when W & A Gilby, the gin producers, bought it. Produced resumed later the same year. Under the management of W & A Gilby, Knockando has enjoyed a great deal of commercial success. The Company maintained direct control of the distillery until 1962, when it merged with United Wine Traders to form International Distillers and Vintners. In 1969, the production capacity of the distillery was doubled, with the number of stills increasing from two to four. In 1972, the distillery changed hands through a merger again, with IDV being taken over by Watney Mann, who in turn, was taken over by Grand Metropolitan. In 1997, Grand Metropolitan themselves merged with Guinness to form Diageo, who own the distillery today.
Unfortunately, Knockando distillery is not open to the public.